Jun 08, 2011 • By

The future of food

I had the privilege of attending a food conference that also featured the most famous father-in-law in the world, at least right now.

Fresh from the royal wedding, Prince Charles was one of the keynote speakers at “The Future of Food,” sponsored by The Washington Post and Georgetown University last month.

I had the interesting experience of being the only panelist representing a major food company at the conference.

“The Future of Food” primarily focused on sustainability and healthy food. There were many great moments during the conference, but I want to highlight a few of the discussions from the panel about health and nutrition.

First, when asked by Mary Jordan, editor of Washington Post Live, what General Mills is doing to promote health, I told her we have a “food movement” happening inside our company.

One example is whole grain in our cereals. Many Americans know they need more whole grain in their diets but only 5 percent of us get enough. Our company delivers 36 million 16-gram servings of whole grain every day – equal to 10 percent of all the whole grain eaten in the U.S.

Mary then asked if our panel could name some surprisingly healthy foods that the audience may not have considered. I shared the fact that frozen vegetables are as nutritious as fresh, because vegetables that are frozen soon after they’re picked have the nutrients sealed in.

Our panel also discussed the fact that 60 percent of consumers are very challenged to follow a healthy diet. Some are overwhelmed by all the changes they need to make, many lack knowledge about how to eat healthier, and more than 85 percent aren’t willing to trade taste for healthier food.

I pointed out that the food industry plays an essential role in supplying foods that taste great, are convenient and also deliver nutrients that consumers need.

The panel also featured Debra Eschmeyer, outreach director for the National Farm to School Network; Marion Nestle, a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University; and Mike Taylor, deputy commissioner for Foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

You can see a clip from our discussion on the Washington Post Live website (Panel 3: The growing food movement).

I spend my days identifying ways to improve the nutrition profiles of our products at General Mills. Attending conferences like “The Future of Food” allows me to engage with health professionals and others outside of the food industry in our constant quest to deliver health, taste, value and convenience to our consumers.