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Industry Challenges, Opportunities, and Partnership Across the Americas

September 15, 2015

By: Rufino Hurtado, Director, Latin America and Inter-Regional Issues

It’s a common misconception to think of Latin America as a monolith: a region that shares a common language, boasts nice beaches, and produces (very) entertaining soap operas.  The reality is far more complicated (and interesting): a highly varied region home to more than 600 million people (twice the population of the United States), representing a veritable encyclopedia of inhabitants, cultures, geographies, politics, and, yes, languages (don’t tell anyone from Brazil – population 200 million plus – that Spanish is the region’s lingua franca). 

But the region does share in common what has been, economically speaking, a good start to the 21st century: up until 2012, economies averaged over 5% economic growth, which, according to the World Bank, managed to lift more than 70 million people out of poverty while expanding the middle class by more than 50%.

The boom was so good that by 2012, fully one quarter of U.S. food and beverage exports were destined for Latin America, as demand and purchasing power increased throughout the region.

Increasingly however, many countries in the region also face a new set of challenges related to nutrition and health: whereas malnutrition was a key public health concern in several countries, rates of overweight, obesity and other non-communicable diseases are now rising and governments face pressure to intervene.

In response to these emerging public health issues, GMA is working with a coalition of counterpart associations throughout the region to highlight industry efforts to help consumers achieve healthy, balanced diets and lifestyles, and to share technical expertise and experience with governments as they develop health and wellness-related policies.

GMA hosted this coalition, known as the Latin America Alliance of Food and Beverage Industry Associations, in Washington last week.  The Alliance brings together food and beverage industry associations from 14 countries throughout the region (including GMA) to coordinate and speak with one voice on issues of shared interest, particularly on improving public health and wellbeing.

There is a good story to tell: voluntary commitments to reduce sodium in products in Brazil and Argentina; programs to encourage physical activity in children in Chile; pledges to only advertise healthy foods to children in Colombia; engagement with Mexico’s government to develop a front of package nutrition labeling system.

The list goes on.

In Washington, the Alliance agreed to continue these various efforts in partnership with governments and global health agencies when possible, and voluntarily as needed.  What’s most important is that industry is recognized as a partner and stakeholder in efforts to improve public health, along with the critical role this sector plays in generating economic growth and development throughout the region.

The Alliance, spread across this most diverse and dynamic region, will continue this good work, and GMA will do its part to support these efforts.

 

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