Ricardo Migueláñez. @rmiguelanez
Wikispanishfood interviews the President of the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN), Marjan Skotnicki-Hoogland.
Ricardo Migueláñez.- What are the European Fruit Juice Association's main objectives?
Marjan Skotnicki-Hoogland.- The AIJN represents the fruit juice industry in the European Union. It represents the entire value chain, from fruit processors through to consumer product packers. The AIJN was founded in 1958 and is headquartered in the center of the European neighborhood in Brussels. It's main objectives are to: represent the interests and promote the image of the European Fruit Juice Industry vis-à-vis EU institutions and other relevant organizations and stakeholders; support and lobby European Union institutions, focusing especially on the policies and legislation affecting the production, marketing, and distribution of fruit juices and nectars in the EU; defend and promote juice as a nutritious product, rebalance the debate, defending juice as an integral part of a healthy diet; encourage and support, through the Fruit Juice CSR Platform, juice companies to integrate corporate social responsibility in all stages in their supply chain; provide, in collaboration with the European Quality Control System (EQCS), mechanisms and instruments securing safe and authentic goods in order to maintain and increase consumer confidence in the good and healthy image of fruit and vegetable juices and nectars; inform and advise the fruit juice industry on all aspects of European legislation likely to affect their businesses; liaise with national, regional and worldwide interests representing the fruit juice industry to foster and achieve overall AIJN objectives.
R. M.- What is the current state of the European fruit juice industry and where do the different countries stand?
M. S.- The situation has changed, and continues to change very quickly. The healthy benefits of fruit juices, which were perceived as being established for some time now, are being publicly questioned. The debate over sugar (not added sugar, fruit's natural sugar) has, unfortunately, intensified in recent years.
This has led to an imbalanced public debate, with different points of view and policies in every member state of the EU. Fortunately, in most European countries, a glass of fruit juice is still part of their national "5 a Day" programs. However, recent events, especially in the UK and The Netherlands, have shown that it's extremely important that we stabilize this debate again, defending the good, natural qualities of fruit juice as a shared responsibility.
R. M.- What opportunities are available to the juice sector?
M. S.- Juice is made from squeezed fruit. I strongly believe that all members of the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN) and stakeholders throughout the value chain are strongly motivated to continue innovating, so as to add value for consumers. Innovation will continue to yield new processes, new packaging formats and new moments every single day when we can enjoy fruit juice-based products.
When an industry faces strong headwinds, new ideas are planted on fertile ground, since the current position is not sufficiently positive. I trust that the sector will find a convincing way to inform the public about the positive qualities of pressed fruit, when it's consumed in a balanced way.
R. M.- What's your relationship like with European institutions?
M .S.- Our main partner, with whom we have an excellent relationship, is the European Commission, in particular the Directorate-General for Agriculture, which is responsible for juice legislation. Other institutions with which we have a strong relationship are the Directorate-General for Health and the Directorate-General for Enterprise. The fact that many of our members have a good relationship with their national agriculture and food ministers also favors the AIJN.
R. M.- How can Asozumos and the AIJN strengthen their cooperation?
M. S.- Asozumos and its European counterpart, the AIJN, have a common goal: to defend and represent the interests of the juice industry vis-à-vis the corresponding authorities.
Spain plays an important role in producing fruit juice. From that standpoint, collaboration between the two associations is vital for addressing sector challenges in the ongoing search to improve the quality and traceability of their products, which are key aspects for improving the industry's image and for meeting the needs of consumers who increasingly want information about production, how those processes affect quality, and the nutritional value of the juices they consume.
Asozumos and AIJN are constantly working together on shared objectives comprising the industry's strategic, operational and commercial lines, as well as on issues related to Corporate Social Responsibility through the CSR Platform, created in 2013, with a view to implementing social, economic and environmental improvements.
Proof of the excellent relationship between the two organizations is the latest AIJN Assembly, held in Madrid in April, and the European association's involvement in the 6th edition of World Juice Day, held on May 30th at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment.