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2011 was again a year in which just-food discussed the key industry issues with the leading lights in the sector. From the creation of meat-free firm Quorn Foods to Ferrero’s ambitions in the UK and from Kraft Foods’ plans in the key emerging market of South Africa to sustainability strategies with Ahold and Kellogg, we interviewed some of the top players in the industry this year. Click on the links for more and check out all our featured interviews for 2011 here.

just the answer – Kevin Brennan, Quorn Foods CEO
Premier Foods plc’s decision to sell its meat-free business was seen as a move to reduce a debt pile at the UK’s largest food group that, last summer, reached over GBP1.3bn (US$2.1bn). The unit, renamed Quorn Foods, is now in the hands of Exponent Private Equity. Dean Best spoke to Kevin Brennan, the former Kellogg executive that Premier appointed to run its meat-free operations, and who is now CEO of the new firm.

Sustainability Watch – Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh, Ahold
Netherlands-based food retail group Ahold has recently committed itself to a range of sustainability targets. Speaking with Ben Cooper for this month’s Sustainability Watch, Ahold’s executive vice president and chief corporate governance counsel, Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh, expands on the company’s approach to sustainability and the need to balance ambition and pragmatism.

The just-food interview – Christian Walter, Ferrero
Ferrero, the Italian confectionery giant, first entered the UK back in 1966 and has steadily built a business generating GBP200m sales a year. However, under local managing director Christian Walter, the group is planning an offensive on this side of the English Channel. For this month’s just-food interview, Dean Best met Walter to discuss Ferrero’s plans.

just the answer – Cargill and ABF’s UK table-top sweetener launch
Brussels has yet to fully clear the use of natural sweetener stevia in the EU but already suppliers are preparing the launch of products including the ingredient. Cargill and Associated British Foods are lining up the introduction of Truvia – a table-top sweetener made with stevia that is already on sale in the US – in the UK and, in this month’s just the answer, Dean Best met with executives from both sides to discuss their plans.

The just-food interview – Sean Murphy, Kraft Foods
As it looks to expand international revenues, Kraft Foods has developed a strategy that focuses on building its business in ten “priority markets” around the world. South Africa was recently added to Kraft’s emerging markets hit list and, in this month’s just-food interview, Katy Humphries spoke to Sean Murphy, MD of Kraft’s operations in southern Africa, about the group’s plans for growth in the region.

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Sustainability Watch – Peter McAllister, Ethical Trading Initiative
Partnerships between industry and non-industry stakeholders should in theory represent the gold standard in terms of providing meaningful solutions to complex problems. But they are not immune from criticism. Ben Cooper met with Peter McAllister, executive director of the Ethical Trading Initiative, to discuss the challenges ahead and how ETI is evolving to meet them.

The just-food interview – Neil Kennedy, Milk Link
The chief executive of Milk Link says the UK dairy co-operative has had a “solid” 12 months and, with sales and profits rising in tough trading conditions, the business has posted impressive results. In this month’s just-food interview, Milk Link CEO Neil Kennedy discusses the company’s performance and its plans over the next year and beyond.

The just-food interview – Matti Rihko, Raisio
A year on from its acquisition of snack and confectionery maker Glisten, Finnish food company Raisio has made another move for a UK firm. The company has snapped up Big Bear Group, the owner of brands from Sugar Puffs cereal to Fox’s confectionery. In this month’s just-food interview, Michelle Russell spoke to Raisio CEO Matti Rihko about his company’s latest acquisition.

BRICs and beyond: Sodiaal’s Candia in the Middle East and Africa
Northern Africa and the Middle East are firmly in the geo-political spotlight, with the political unrest that surfaced in Tunisia last month spreading to the current ongoing protests in Egypt. There are also signs of dissent in Jordan and Yemen. just-food’s Stuart Todd spoke to Jean-Luc Deher, international director of French dairy processor Candia, about the Sodiaal-owned company’s presence in the region and the risks of operating in such an environment.

Sustainability Watch – Celeste Clark, Kellogg
The marketing of breakfast cereals to children has become a delicate issue for food manufacturers like Kellogg. As a result, responsible marketing commitments feature prominently in the company’s sustainability strategy, as Kellogg chief sustainability officer Celeste Clark explains.