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CIES, the Paris-based independent global food business network, has found that consumer health and nutrition is the number one priority for food businesses in 2007.

‘CIES – The Food Business Forum: Top of Mind 2007’ survey polled the opinions of more than 300 executives from 48 countries. The group found that consumer health and nutrition jumped from third to first place as the food industry’s primary priority in 2007. The change, CIES said, reflects the powerful shift in social trends over obesity and wellness along with retailers’ response to increasing consumer demand for healthier, natural foods.

Corporate social responsibility was the biggest mover on the list, moving up to the number five spot from 11th the previous year, reflecting the increasing importance of environmental and community issues. “Food retailers especially are keen to show they are good neighbours, who act responsibly over issues such as sustainability, fair trade produce and ethical supply chain management,” CIES said.

Driven by another big vote from manufacturers, retailer-supplier relations remain an important issue for 2007, coming in second in the survey. The expansion of private label by retailers has increased tension, but CIES said that it expects to see closer collaberation over supply chain issues in the coming year.

With competition between retailers remaining intense, the retail offer, number three in the survey, is still seen as a top priority in the sector. “Increasingly, grocery retailers are seeking to differentiate themselves from rivals by broadening their range of non-food products and services, from digital music downloads to travel agencies and banks,” CIES commented.