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Lactalis Health Nutrition: Innovation for new consumption


A major player in the field of nutrition, Lactalis Nutrition Santé strives to provide a nutritional solution specific to each country and consumer through a wide range of infant, clinical and sports nutrition products. Interview with Anca Avasilichioaei, Director of International Business Development, who discusses how LNS uses innovation to adapt to today’s challenges and meet new consumer needs.

What is your role in LNS?

I am the Director of International Business Development for the Nutrition Europe division. I am surrounded by a team of sales, marketing and project management experts. Our mission is to develop the manufacture and marketing of infant and clinical nutrition products in a perimeter of close to 45 countries in Europe and CIS where our division is not currently represented by subsidiaries.

What are the dynamics of the infant and clinical nutrition markets?

Our activities take place in an increasingly ageing continent. The European population is one of the most elderly on the planet. This ageing phenomenon, which particularly affects southern countries such as Italy, Greece and Spain, but also Germany, can be explained on the one hand by longer life expectancy and on the other by the relatively low birth rate in recent years. The recent dynamic in the infant and clinical nutrition markets is above all a reflection of this demographic evolution.

The infant nutrition market in Europe is dependent on innovationthe only real growth driver in such a mature and competitive market.

The clinical nutrition market, on the other hand, is a booming and more recent market. It is supported by major growth factors: the increase in chronic diseases (diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, etc.), growing awareness of nutrition and health issues and, perhaps most significantly of all, ageing. According to Eurostat, one third of the European population will be over 65 years old by 2050.

There is also a new phenomenon linked to population ageing: the so-called active or healthy ageingThis trend is representative of healthy senior citizens who wish to be independent for as long as possible, remain active, and preserve their quality of life and their health for longer. In order to do so, they seek support in specialised nutrition.

What do you think are the biggest changes in your markets?

One of the biggest changes relates to consumer behaviour, their quest for meaning, authenticity and their growing demand for tailor-made experiences. They are increasingly informed and ask from us, the manufacturers, to be transparent, to convey credible and verifiable commitments and, more than ever, to demonstrate a real commitment to sustainable development. This commitment and concern for responsible consumption best describe the transformation of our markets and the evolution of our consumers in recent years. They feel more involved than ever, assume responsibility for themselves and are willing to sanction brands that do not respect the environment.

This expectation goes from supply chain and product manufacturing all the way through to distribution.

We see a keenness for everything produced locally, an interest for made in claims, a real desire to go back to the source. Manufacturers become more and more committed, in line with their consumers, and put a lot of effort into clean productioneco-designthe use of local raw materials and healthy and natural ingredients, as well as recyclable packaging materials. This is a long-term undertaking for the future.

The digital transformation is also under way today. Having an Internet presence allows you to make yourself known, be seen and convey your messages. We have therefore increased our online communication to maintain the link with our clients and partners, and to strengthen the business relationship that unites us. At the same time, the extraordinary growth in e-commerce, accentuated even more by the pandemic, has led to the development of this facet of our activity, which up until now has been somewhat modest.

What are some of the growth and innovation drivers you are working on?

At the heart of our growth strategy lies innovation. We operate in competitive markets where innovation continues to thrive. Although they are governed by very strict regulations, the infant and clinical nutrition markets adopt most of the major trends of adult nutrition: organic, interest in natural and innovative ingredients“FREE FROM” (allergens, additives, GMOs, sugars, etc.), preference for recyclable packaging and, generally, an appetite for healthy, high quality and planet-friendly products.

We work in line with all these market trends.

The organic trend for example doesn’t count as innovation anymore. It stopped being a niche a long time ago and became a well established category with loyal consumers who, too, wish to be seduced by something new: new ingredients, new benefits, new packaging, etc. We know how to respond today to such demands for differentiating offers.

Environmental protection is the new domain where innovation is flourishing today. We are working on the development of “planet-friendly” products, focusing on environmentally friendly ingredients, packaging and processes.

Another driver we rely on is the development of custom-made offersunique by country and by market. We can propose a customised offer based on the identity and specificity of the regions we operate in.

What impact has the health crisis had on your market?

The pandemic has accelerated some already well-developed trends such as an increased CSR(corporate social responsibility) sensitivity, a strong attachment to what is local and tailor-made, as well as the boom of digital communication and e-commerce.

It also caused disruptions in the availability of raw materials and in logistics flows, but we have been able to cope with them. Many macroeconomic developments, such as general inflation or soaring raw material and packaging costs, have created a complex context that we are constantly adapting to.

The uncertainty that permeated every aspect of our lives during the pandemic also affected parenting plans. We have a stagnant or declining birth rate in most European countries.

In contrast, the clinical nutrition market draws a far more interesting post-pandemic picture, with unprecedented awareness rising around the importance of healthy nutrition in general and clinical nutrition in particular. This should come as no surprise: in the group identified as being at high risk of malnutrition, we find the patients recognised as being most affected by the pandemic: the elderly and people suffering from serious or chronic illnesses.

But the pandemic also triggered a new and welcome balance. Thanks to it, people have rediscovered the simple joys of life such as the pleasure of eating… and the pleasure of the taste. It is precisely now that innovation will play a crucial role because this consumer appeal involves flavourings, ingredients and materials that need to surprise and inspire.

What lies ahead for the development of LNS in Europe?

We will continue to grow our business in Europe through opening new markets and distribution channels, by launching new partnerships and developing custom-made products for our B2B customers.

To stay “on top of the game”, we must continue to promote our industrial know-how and our quality advantages. We need to monitor our markets and understand our consumers, make good use of the expertise of our R&D and nutrition centres to better anticipate the needs of our partners, and anticipate trendsThis intelligence will allow us to keep an eagle eye on market dynamics and emerging demands and thus help us to constantly adapt our strategies and provide the best solutions to our customers.

What advice would you give to companies entering the infant and clinical nutrition markets?

Be true to your market! Stay close to your consumer. Listen to your market and get yourself support from industry experts who possess the capacity and the know-how to help you succeed.