Encouraging a Healthy Balance

Karl Kramer '82

As president of the Innovation and Commercial Division of Tate & Lyle, Karl Kramer helps to provide ingredients for foods that consumers enjoy.

The availability of these products has enhanced the quality of life for millions of people. Yet as a member of the Board of Governors of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, Kramer is also helping to contend with a serious 21st-century epidemic caused by abundant food being available to so many – the epidemic of obesity.

“The growing incidence of obesity in many countries is truly frightening,” Kramer says. “It impacts longevity, raises the cost of health care, and negatively impacts the overall quality of life. That’s why a broad coalition of food and beverage manufacturers, insurance companies, trade associations, non-governmental organizations, retailers, educators and other groups have stepped up to the challenge of promoting better food choices and healthier lifestyles.”

The overarching goal of the foundation is to promote awareness of ways to achieve and maintain a healthy weight through energy balance – awareness of the calories we consume and the calories we expend. The foundation will work with manufacturers and retailers to give consumers better information with which to make sound food choices, develop programs for the workplace that encourage healthier choices and increased physical activity, and support comparable, age-appropriate initiatives for schools.

The educational background that Kramer brings to the foundation and Tate & Lyle includes his 1982 bachelor’s in chemical engineering from NJIT. A graduate of Passaic Valley High School, Kramer came to Newark College of Engineering after a year and a half of pre-med study at Johns Hopkins. “I decided that I didn’t want to be a doctor and looked for a quality school closer to home,” he says. “NJIT provided an exceptional education and was an exceptional value. I also found that chemical engineering was a good match with my interests and skills.” Kramer is a strong advocate of the work-study experience as well, an experience that he had at the Exxon Bayway Refinery while studying for his degree.

Kramer’s first job after graduation was on the technical side of the food and beverage industry at General Foods, where he worked in research and development. Attracted by broader career horizons, he transitioned to sales and management, with his technical expertise giving him firm footing on this new and promising career path. Subsequent positions with increasing responsibilities took him to a number of other firms – among them Nestle, Quest International and Givaudan – and gave him a valuable international perspective on the food industry through living in South America and Europe.

Kramer joined Tate & Lyle in 2008, returning to the U.S. as president of the Splenda Sucralose Division. Although the company is headquartered in London, Kramer is now based in Illinois, just outside Chicago. In his current post, heading the Innovation and Commercial Development Division, he oversees the identification of new business opportunities and the commercialization of promising new products as quickly as possible. He will be working to achieve the objectives of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation with equal dedication and energy.

Kramer offers a nuanced perspective on the obesity epidemic as both a Board member of the foundation and a food-industry executive. “We’re facing a complicated situation,” he reflects. “A variety of healthy food choices must be available to the consumer, along with the information needed to make the right decisions about what and how much to eat. But the industry also has to make healthy food appealing; it has to taste good. Otherwise people won’t buy it.” Then there’s the challenge of our “easy way out” attitude. “Too many of us don’t want to make the effort to learn about healthy eating, or to be even a bit more physically active. We just want to take a pill.

It’s especially important that we get the right message across to children. Promoting positive behavior early on will lead to healthier lifestyles as adults. It’s not going to be easy, but we will do our best to change things for the better, to encourage a healthy balance.”