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‘I think that International Women’s Day is not a good symbol: we don’t need a specific day. Men and women are equal’ – Sophie de Reynal [Interview]

Article-‘I think that International Women’s Day is not a good symbol: we don’t need a specific day. Men and women are equal’ – Sophie de Reynal [Interview]

© Vitafoods Insights Women in Nutrition interview - Sophie de Reynal
Trend hunter and food industry consultant Sophie de Reynal has been director of marketing at NutriMarketing for over 25 years. She speaks to us about her career, the role women play in shaping food innovation, and the value of International Women’s Day.

You studied at the French business school ISG. What led you to pursue a career in the food industry?

“In fact, I never asked myself the question – it seemed like the obvious thing to do. During my studies at ISG, I did all my internships in food or food retail companies, so naturally, when I graduated, I look[ed] for a job in the food industry as well.”

NutriMarketing is a nutrition-focused food marketing consultancy based in Paris and you have been director of marketing there for over 25 years. What does this role involve?  

“NutriMarketing is a consulting agency involved in the monitoring of innovation, development of new products, and communication in nutrition. My role is mainly in monitoring innovation. I look for anything new – new ingredients, new products, consumers expectations and awareness, new regulation, new scientific studies… 

“With that work, we conduct market studies, trends presentations, we guide innovation tours at food shows, and we organise workshops to inspire the food industry. Then we help our customers to develop new products that fit the trends we have detected on their market. It could be reformulation with new ingredients or a brand-new concept.”

You lead the Innovation Tours at Vitafoods Europe each year, guiding visitors around the show floor to see innovations that are focused on certain themes: sustainability, nutrition, and healthy ageing, for example. Do you believe there is enough innovation happening within the food and nutrition industries to meet the challenges of today?

“After more than 25 years in this business, I am still amazed by the resilience and the ability of the food industry – especially in the ingredient business – to [respond to] and even plan for changes in the market and changes in consumers’ expectations and attitudes.

“I used to say that today's new ingredient will make tomorrow's new product. We saw with Covid-19 the resilience of the food industry with quick launches of products for immunity, stress reduction, [and] sleep. Even products adapted to the lockdown such as the Netflix & Chill’d launched by Ben & Jerry’s!

“With inflation last year, a lot of ingredient companies have launched solutions to reduce the cost of formula and with climate change, we see all the food industry, from farm to fork, finding solutions to reduce waste, reduce their carbon footprint, and protect biodiversity.

“Innovation is everywhere, driven by startups [and] by AI. Darwin said that it's not the strongest or the most intelligent who survive, but those who adapt… I am very confident in human beings’ ability to adapt!”

International Women’s Day took place last month on 8 March. Do you see a concrete value in this occasion or is it mostly symbolic?  

“I think it is more symbolic, and it is not a good symbol. We don’t need a specific day: men and women are equal, and I think that [International] Women’s Day means more that women are inferior to men. NutriMarketing is a family business: we are three sisters working together for more than 25 years now. Our team is 100% female, not by choice but because in France, you find 85% of the students in food engineering schools are female.”

Looking back at your career, what piece of advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

“Don’t be afraid to take all the opportunities that will undoubtedly cross your life, be more adventurous, and enjoy every single minute!”

What is your vision for the future of the food industry, and how do you see women playing a role in shaping it?

“The food industry faces a big challenge: feeding 10 billion people in 2050 while taking care of the planet and every species living on it. It is a huge responsibility but, as mentioned, the food industry is resilient. We already see launches of products adapted to climate change and to climate disasters.

“As in all businesses, women will be more and more at the forefront. At Fi Europe and Vitafoods Europe, I think that we have the same proportion of women and men. [Regarding] the type of food, I think that, as women are more likely to be concerned about health and sustainability, they will influence the future of food in the right way.”