The food and beverage manufacturing industry has faced a myriad of challenges this year. Addressing rapidly changing consumer demands, new customer mandates and shifting markets are key focus points for industry leaders as they plan for the new business year.

One issue that is not new, but continues to challenge food and beverage manufacturers, is obesity.

The industry has done much to address the problem, such as reducing the calories and fat in products, emphasizing more natural ingredients and producing more portion packs.

However, a new report from McKinsey Global Institute caught my eye in late November.

The research firm says the global cost of obesity is about the same as smoking or armed conflict and greater than both alcoholism and climate change. While the McKinsey research states the obesity problem has no simple solution, it says it is preventable.

Here are some of its top line findings:

  • Evidence indicates no single intervention is likely to have a significant overall impact. A systemic, sustained portfolio of initiatives is needed to reverse the situation. In addition, no individual sector, such as food and beverage manufacturers, restaurants or governments, for example, can address the issue on its own.
  • Education and personal responsibility are critical elements of any program that aims to reduce obesity, but they are not enough.

The solution may come from cost-effective interventions, according to the report. At the top of that list are portion control and reducing the availability of high-calorie foods and beverages. While this study considers reformulation of high-calorie food and beverages as a giant step in the right direction, it was not seen as the most cost-effective way to battle obesity.

The food and beverage industry has successfully addressed many perplexing issues in the past decade.

For 2015, I hope our industry will become the leader in persuading all sector stakeholders to work in tandem to address obesity on all fronts.