For more than 50 years the Swiss Convenience Food Association (SCFA) has acted as a representative organisation for members of the Swiss canned food, frozen food, and in more recent years, the chilled food and industry sectors. Acting as a service organisation, the SCFA represents and advises its members in legal and economic matters in order to defend the common interests of Swiss convenience food enterprises.
“The SCFA’s origins date back to 1946, when the Swiss Association of Canned Food was first formed,” says Beat Hodler, CEO of the SCFA and secretary for the Federation of the Swiss Food Industries (FIAL). “Later, the Swiss frozen and chilled food sectors joined the canned food association to form one group with the same objectives and aims, and this became the SCFA in 2001. Today the SCFA has some 24 members from the Swiss canned, frozen and chilled food markets. This sector of the food industry still concentrates predominantly on the domestic market, with some 90 to 95 per cent of the turnover resulting from the home market and only five to ten per cent from exports.
“Essentially the SCFA acts as a service organisation that represents its members on all matters related to the food industry, such as legal and economic issues, food, customs and trade laws as well as liaising with the federal governments, the cantonal enforcement authorities and other organisations,” says Beat. “To do this in the best possible way we have various committees within the SCFA to deal with specific issues. These include a technical expert group, which has been very active recently working on regulatory matters such as food labelling, quality management and various issues like migration from packaging materials. Experts from the industry also sit in working groups liaising with farmers and other agricultural organisations on matters of primary production and issues related to the agricultural policy.”
As Beat goes on to explain, the nature of the Swiss domestic food market means that the SCFA has a key role to play. “The main challenge for the SCFA at present is how we progress in terms of international trade and development. For example, in Switzerland canned foods such as vegetables and meat products do not benefit from any free trade solutions with the European community compared to other processed foods such as chocolate or cheese, where the market is far more liberalised. The main problem for us therefore, is that with vegetables and meat it is a very challenging situation.
“Agriculture in Switzerland has been protected for many years, which is one of the reasons it is, at least in some sectors, not actively involved in European trade, and why there are high prices on agricultural products – sometimes double the price of comparable primary products in the rest of Europe. For the food industry the main problem is that we are still very much focused on the domestic market, which means that we don’t have the economies of scale of other European industries.
“This is why, moving forwards we have to look at products that have added value, so that the price factor is not the key variable and Swiss products can really differentiate themselves from others in the market. For the coming years the market really is in a transition period, moving from the relatively simple farming and agricultural products into more sophisticated convenience food with real added value. It will be a very challenging time, and will involve a great deal of change within the Swiss food industry, but we are certain that the SCFA will play a key role in managing these changes.
Beat Hodler is CEO of the SCFA and secretary for the Federation of the Swiss Food Industries
For further information please visit: www.swissconvenience.ch