Mella Frewen is Director General of FoodDrinkEurope, representing Europe’s largest manufacturing industry.
Her previous positions include Director for Government Affairs EMEA at Monsanto and Director, International Relations for the Eridania Béghin-Say Group.
Ms. Frewen has represented the food industry in numerous Advisory and Standing Committees of the EU Commission; she is member of the Commission’s High-Level Steering Board for the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity, and of the EU Commission’s High-Level Group for Sustainable Development. She is also a member of the Scientific Jury for the EU’s Competition for Young Scientists. Ms. Frewen is Vice President of the FAO/OECD Advisory Group for Responsible Business Conduct along Agricultural Supply Chains and is involved in several food industry-related Boards.
She has worked in the Agri-food sector in Europe for close to 30 years. She has a Master of Science degree from the National University of Ireland, and completed a post-graduate course at the University of Brussels (ULB). She also holds a Harvard certificate on Agribusiness and an INSEAD certificate on International Operations Management.
1. Why are you investing your time & expertise in (an) association(s) and its advancement?
First and foremost, FoodDrinkEurope is not just any association; we represent Europe’s largest manufacturing industry, and it’s hard not to be passionate about food! It is exciting to be in a position to steer ideas and to drive strategies for a sector that is key to people’s lives. It’s a challenging sector, no two days are the same and all the moving pieces certainly keep me on my toes – but I wouldn’t have it any other way! Moreover, coming as I do from a corporate background, it is rewarding to bring in relevant previous business experience and expertise to the associative world; I think it has helped to make the organization more focused. Finally, we are in a privileged position as the “go-to” organization for anything and everything related to European food and drink products, and that is very satisfying.
2. In your experience, what are the 3 success factors for advancing associations?
It is really important to be able to find the right balance between embracing change and ensuring continuity. Associations are not Companies and should not be run like Companies and a lot of diplomatic choreography needs to be done before positioning can be achieved and change can be introduced in the organization.
At FoodDrinkEurope we have three different types of member, covering different European geographies, industrial trade subsectors and companies. Obviously all three membership types need to be fully engaged in discussions and decision making; listening to all the members is crucial. But listening and interacting with other relevant stakeholders is equally important: policy makers and NGOs, up- and down-stream food chain operators, academics and consumers….
Nothing can be achieved without a strong team; enthusiastic colleagues that come to work with a constructive ‘can-do’ attitude. Hugely important therefore in achieving success as an association is the creation of a positive team culture.
3. Has the AM world changed when it comes to diversity and inclusion?
Yes, it has. Change has been slow but we’re getting there – and I’m curious about how it will look in 10 years time! It has been recognized that diversity and inclusion can bring huge benefits. It is not surprising therefore that we see more diverse teams driving associations, as these teams bring more diverse and innovative ideas and approaches to their work. Whether its culture, age, gender, colour, religion, or any other aspect of diversity, inclusion certainly brings advantages!
4. What advice would you give the next generation of association leaders who want to make an impact?
Stay on the ball, try to keep ahead of change, keep challenging yourself, never stop learning and, above all, enjoy!