New directions for food and beverage NPD

Wayne MartindaleTom Hollands and Mark Swainson discuss recent advances in newproduct development (NPD) that use digital platforms to analyse a wide variety of datato achieve ‘meta-solutions’ that address all aspects of a product’s performance.

The reality of a 21st century lifestyle is that we work and consume in a globalised food system that has raised living standards and increased longevity in regions where efficient food manufacturing and supply is possible. Improved nutrition is responsible for much of this and innovative manufacturing enables us to revolutionise how we develop new food products for improved quality, price and convenience. The resulting accessibility to food is not without its issues because eating more of what we enjoy means poor dietary choices can be made more often, resulting in increases in diseases, such as diabetes.

Getting new product development (NPD) right can help to tackle these problems by reformulation and the use of tools, such as nutrient profiling. NPD is getting smarter because we can begin to project how products are consumed at the population scale. Where NPD has been focused on the product and marketplace, we can increasingly project its impact in populations. NPD research is also crossing the manufacturing efficiency and consumer choice boundaries so that we can meet more sustainable outcomes at scale to react to consumption trends and at the same time maintain a responsibility to improve health. The result is a new meta- NPD approach, which has been enabled by digital technologies that dramatically scale existing methods. Meta-NPD provides an enhanced understanding of all available data about a product, including consumer preferences as well as quality, nutrition and sustainability……..

Read the full article at

Blockchain or bust for the food industry?

Tom Hollands, Wayne Martindale, Mark Swainson and John G. Keogh explore the benefits and pitfalls of Blockchain. There has recently been a wave of enthusiasm for applying Blockchain technology in the food sector. This article aims to clarify many of the questions surrounding Blockchain technologies, in particular:

is Blockchain the future for the food industry and therefore does my company need a Blockchain?

Traceability has been achieved for many years using systems that connect core business processes with strategic management of product and supply chain data, namely Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms. Companies must determine what Blockchains can offer that is different from existing ERP systems and what is the value of using them. Working within a secure cloud platform is mainstream today but this was not the case five years ago.While ERP systems have significant benefits that can be realised, they are often very expensive to implement, with the cost of implementation linked to the operational complexity. The full costs can range broadly from £150,000 to £1,000,000+ and therefore are prohibitive for many SMEs, which make up 96% of the UK Food industry

Read the assessment here: Blockchain or bust for the food industry? | Food Science and Technology

Shelf life – the essential mix of sprint, hurdle and steeplechase strategy for any foods business

The shelf life of products is more of a sprint at times but it can quickly change to a sprint with hurdles at any given point and a long term strategy is essential.  The ability to go from steeple chase to hurdles to sprint is an asset to any food company in getting shelf life strategies for the business, the customer, the consumer and the regulator right. This is the balance we strive to get right at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing and have demonstrated large scale heating and cooling innovations in this space. However, there are smaller steps in understanding shelf life that can transform business practice and they are described here.

Consumers are concerned with the length of time a food product can be kept in the home before it can no longer be used safely. Conversely, a retailer is focused on the length of time a product can stay on the shelf in order to maximise product quality and availability of sale. This has resulted in the food industry finding ways of objectively determining exactly how long their food products can reasonably be expected to keep without any appreciable change in quality, safety and marketability. This has proven to be an uphill task as shelf life testing on each individual food product is an expensive process to carry out especially for small medium enterprises (SME’s) in the food sector that have limited resources. Experience has shown that many food start-ups always concentrate on determining their product shelf life without looking into operational processes, be it quality of their ingredients or food safety during preparation, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and storage regimes. Furthermore, a sucessful shelf life test entails sensory, chemical, functional, microbiological and physical characteristics to be retained and are assessed with the ‘End of Shelf Life’ (ESOL) parameters’ (See reference).

It is a requirement under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) that a food manufacturer has their own in-house shelf life testing regime and capability. Tests carried out to determine and measure shelf-life of a product are required to be product specific and take into account the ESOL parameters. This is a major barriers to innovating new food products into the market especially for SME’s in the food manufacturing industry especially when expanding their product lines. That is, how will innovations change my shelf life capabilities?

Project shelf life data; to bridge this gap, most SME’s are able to make use of processes that can project product shelf life in response to operational changes. These measures include accelerated shelf life models and/or models that show how to meet required regulations, fit with the business strategy,  adhere to food safety parameters and innovate at the same time. At present, accelerated shelf life models are used as an efficient way of establishing the shelf life of products. This is advantageous as trial periods for determination of shelf life are drastically shortened using these methods by deliberately escalating the rate of deterioration by increasing the storage temperatures. This model uses the ‘Rule of 10’ – known as ‘Q10‘ which is defined as the factor by which the rate of a reaction increases when temperature is raised by 10 degrees (oC). For example, if a food item has a stability of 20 weeks at 20 oC and 10 weeks at 30 oC the Q10 will be 20/10 or 2. This means that the rate of reaction being followed is doubled for the 10 oC temperature rise. Q10 value can be calculated using the data from tests where a product has been stored at two or more temperatures. It is generally used to establish shelf stability for products that have a long shelf life hence reducing costs of carrying out these tests in real time (See reference).

Can we predict shelf life? Of course yes! However the first step would be set up a shelf life study and identify the main degradation reactions which are expected to occur in the product at typical storage temperatures. This can then be measured and used as an index for quality loss. The food industry uses predictive models to determine product shelf life of products with respect to projections of bacterial growth under defined conditions that are used to calculate the approximate shelf life of a food product. Determination of water activity is an excellent example of such models models used to corroborate the shelf life of many a food product. This has led and encouraged food businesses to innovate and reformulate products easily. It is normally expressed as aw and is defined as the vapour pressure of water divided by that of pure water at the same temperature, this means pure water will have a water activity of exactly one. Most people confuse this with moisture content which is the total bound water in a product and is not the aw which refers to free water. A very good example would be honey, which is fluid in nature and can pour easily, hence it has a high moisture content. It has a long shelf life because the aw is very low (See Reference).

The two methods (accelerated and projection models) can be further tested and complimented with a challenge test which involves the storage of food products under selected conditions for a period of time that is longer than expected. Assessments under the direct method are normally done at pre-determined intervals to check on ESOL parameters. This method and model is suitable for short shelf life products because it is time bound and inexpensive as most of the tests are done in real time over a short period of time. A combination of the indirect and direct methods can be formulated to establish a broader database – business intelligence for food products- making shelf life determination accessible at a touch of a button. Computer based models which combine elements of microbiology, mathematics and statistics include ERH Calc TM, which is a cake expert system for the bakery industry, Seafood Predictor (SSP) and MicroFit just to name a few. Bear in mind that each and every food product has its own specific characteristic, hence in the longer term there is need to carry out a challenge test (See reference).

Technological advances in food safety, ingredient quality and marketability, the food industry is enhancing new ways of prolonging product shelf life.  Concentration on improvements in pre and post-harvest technologies is augmenting food safety protocols in terms of improved storage of ingredients and investment in storage facilities and technologies that are assisting in prolonging shelf life of various food products. Some of this include the use of edible coatings and films in fruit and vegetables or use of 1-methylcyclopropene (1MCP) and /or Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) technologies using sustainable inert gases in packaging of ingredients to extend shelf life in food products. Investment in product development, packaging and innovation has massively improved food product shelf life (See Reference).

The really important problem with food waste

Cutting food waste is possible for every meal we eat or prepare or are served (see our published work demonstrating this here). While this sounds so simple to achieve the practicalities of doing it are lost in a cacophony of claims and counterclaims that tend to focus on ‘the conspiracy of supermarket powers’, consumers ‘insistence’ on perfectly formed fruits and most of the food ‘grown’ on farms is wasted anyway. The evidence for all of these things is doubtful at best, impossible to find and it leads consumers into a sense of ‘what difference does it make anyway’. Just when we were beginning to realise positive messaging can change wasteful behaviours, the last resort and the bottom of the barrel for many a futile effort, blaming the younger generation for wasting most food, has been scraped. The actual supply chain data really does lead us away from these very reactive strategies consumers find themselves trying to interpret. So how and why is this misinformation on food waste actually created?

Source: The really important problem with food waste | LinkedIn

Food Nutritionals- great expectations and declarations

The National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM) is currently working with a number small medium enterprises (SME’s) in the food industry supporting them to incorporate nutritional information in their menu items. Our work has assisted in nutritional calculation and provision of nutrition information including allergen information, Ingredient list, daily intake values and the ‘traffic light.’ Nutrition Facts Information (NFI). Such insight into menus and food offers can improve business outlook and stimulate innovations, examples of these are reported here.

Eating a balanced diet is vital for good health and well-being. Food provides the necessary energy, protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals needed by the body to function well. When food is in abundance in terms of variety, quality and availability, it is the choice the consumer makes that determines the nutritional quality of their diets. What you eat maximises your health, reducing risk of disease including chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer. The escalating incidences of overweight and obesity related health problems has established a global imperative for changing nutrition and dietary patterns (see reference). With this in mind, many food manufacturers, policy makers and stakeholders have made meeting nutritional values a very important consideration when advancing food product development protocols and as a consequence nutritional values are now a mandatory requirement on labels of all food products in the UK and Europe under EU Regulation No. 1169/2011.

Consumer product knowledge is paramount because this has impacted on food product choice. It has been suggested that people who read nutritional information on food labels are likely to attach a higher level of importance to nutrition and influence family preferences. New Product Development and reformulation of existing products has been heavily influenced by consumer trends that have veered towards lowering sugar, salt, carbohydrate and fat in food products. This has challenged the typical view of healthy food and prompted the food industry to quickly adapt and produce food items that are focused on health and nutrition promotion using ingredients that have low calorific values to meet consumer demand (See reference).

Menu development and recipe formulation has become a new frontier where nutritionals are influencing consumer choice. This has encouraged chefs and culinary experts to adapt and start using new cooking techniques and novel ingredients in order to stay relevant and also maintain a competitive edge in their food businesses. Calorie count has become a topical issue with governmental bodies, stakeholders and the food arena at large joining hands in ensuring that all food products offered in the market contain nutrition guidelines that help consumers make informed choices when purchasing food items. Additionally, there has been a link between nutrition information and health with governmental bodies encouraging consumers to maintain the daily recommended intake allowances for both children and adults.

The National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM) is currently working with small medium enterprises (SME’s) in the food industry in trying to encourage them to incorporate nutritional information in their menu items. An appropriate software with a wide database has been developed to assist in nutritional calculation and provision of nutrition information including allergen information, Ingredient list, daily intake values and the ‘traffic light.’ Nutrition Facts Information (NFI) outputs include summaries of the calorie content, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibre and salt content of foods or dishes. This offers SME’s the ability to optimise and reformulate their recipes and menu items to meet the required levels in terms of fat (9 Kcal per gram), carbohydrates (4 Kcal per gram) and Proteins 4 Kcal per gram) (See reference).

Since the mid twentieth century, concerns have been raised about dietary fat and cholesterol intake as one of the major stand points for changing consumer expectations and the responsibilities of food manufacturers. This is as the result of interaction of a multitude of social, economic and environmental variables compounded by increased serving sizes which are promoted at the expense of nutritionally balanced food choices. This brings into focus the relationship between the restrictive food labelling regulation and consumer protection whilst simultaneously raising awareness and improving knowledge about diet and health (See Reference).

Concerns by consumers about sustainability have impacted food manufacturers to take drastic efforts to address new consumer priorities at a larger scale than simply complying with regulation designed to protect the consumer. Meeting the daily nutritional reference intake has important sustainability outcomes as it improves health, however it has also posed challenges to the consumer which are being mitigated by the food industry through the supply of food products and services that meet consumer expectations (See reference). This has been influenced by the ever changing trends, attitude and behaviours of discerning consumers that has led to development of new technology for food production and information transfer to bridge gaps. In turn food choice has been influenced according to a framework for nutrition facts and nutrition claims use which has been developed and is summarised as below: (See Figure 1)

Figure 1: Conceptual Framework For Nutritional Facts Information And Nutrition Claim Use (Adapted from)

The food industry in the UK has been credited with responding efficiently and effectively to the diverse range of consumer demands across board by aligning the composition and promotion of many products to dietary and nutritional objectives. In retrospect it is important to develop science based recommendations of meal plans to consumers as this is an area gaining prominence at the moment as consumers are using this platform for weight loss purposes or other situational factors such as maintaining a balanced diet or to mitigate health issues. Nutritionals should be an enabler to consumer information, choice and product composition and should be easy to read, understand, easily visible, permanent and not misleading. The food industry as a whole can therefore focus on collaborative work with the research community, consumer groups, competitors, governmental bodies and industry stakeholders to come up with ways and means of applying new technologies with scientific know how about nutrition and labelling parameters. This will ultimately encourage future initiatives which would be consumer based and offer a varied choice of products that would suit the needs of each dietary and nutrition cluster.

Nutrition and NPD Innovations, 1

NCFM at the University of Lincoln are leading a European Regional Development Fund project to support small to medium sized agri-food enterprises in Lincolnshire to enable innovation in our local food industry.

Examples of our current partnerships and research in the nutrition and NPD arenas will be showcased at the first of a number of breakfast meetings that are going to communicate our projects and impact.

Our first is with Scratch Meals Ltd, who have already listed a gluten free pizza range with retailers as a low calorie option with the ‘No Dough’ pizza brand. Scratch also have the ‘Fit Kitchen’ brand of Ready To Eat meals that provide ‘three of your five a day’. The presentations will include product innovation updates in this exciting space of convenience food and health.

Working with NCFM will enable co-creation in NPD and provide opportunities to break the standard approach of mimicking or replacing ingredients that results in ‘health by stealth’ outcomes.

The ideas presented in this first ‘Nutrition and NPD Innovations’ meeting will show how the standard NPD model has been changed and develops completely new categories for consumers.

So, to find out more, please register for the event here.


The rise of Gluten Free – Is it hype, health or lifestyle choice?

The sale of gluten free products has increased globally in the past decade. Until recently, gluten free products went practically unnoticed with the exception of speciality health food stores that were selling gluten free (GF) products. Currently, GF products are now a feature in all major supermarkets, local stores and online shopping. This article considers where trends are going and how NPD will respond to them.

Recent research in the UK has shown a marked increase in the consumption of gluten free products. This has been attributed to the improved diagnosis of coeliac disease which has seen a rise from 24% in 2011 to 30% in 2015 (See Coeliac UK). Furthermore, there has been an increase in people without coeliac disease avoiding products that contain gluten, hence the increase in volume and value of GF products at a rapid rate (See research paper here) . The upturn has been credited to consumption of GF products as part of a healthy lifestyle as opposed to dietary restrictions and has seen retail value sales of GF products on the rise in terms of market value and range of free-from products (see, Figure 1).

Source: Based on IRI/Mintel

Figure 1, UK retail value sales of free-from food and drink with projections, 2012-2022 (See Mintel)

The trends and analysis – health or lifestyle;  it is now a trend rather than a fad with more people using and consuming GF products. Health has had a major influence on the GF category with approximately 48% of people consuming the products for general health reasons such as helping with weight loss or because they see GF products as healthier options than standard consumer products (See research paper here),. This rise has prompted various FMCG companies to incorporate GF products in their manufacturing plan so as to ensure they maintain a competitive edge and are able to meet discerning consumer needs.

“Estimated at £718 million in 2017, the UK free-from market more than doubled its size over 2012-17. This was due mainly to an increase in volume sales, driven by a number of factors including media buzz and increased distribution.(See Mintel)

Young adults between the ages of 20-29 years are expected to seek products that promote wellness, transparency and sustainability. This has contributed to the sharp rise in consumption of GF products by young adults who value nutrition, health benefits and dietary intake. This age group has often shown a preference in pursuing a lifestyle that is mostly moderated and focused on product integrity and sustainability (See research paper here). New products under the GF category have hit the consumer market and investment in food research and product development has drastically increased. GF products have become a mainstream sensation and have been embraced out of necessity and as a personal choice towards achieving a healthy lifestyle. However, the benefits of going GF are still not entirely clear with nutritional concerns being raised due to iron, calcium and fibre deficiencies  (See research paper here).

Food product development; in order to mitigate issues concerning the various deficiencies, food manufacturers are now blending more grains such as quinoa and amaranth into the various products to increase the nutrition value in GF products. Additionally, research into new product development at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM) is focused on fortifying GF flours with freeze dried or dehydrated vegetables. We are developing recipes and products that offer personalised dietary needs and meet consumer expectations.

Socials – ‘Media Buzz’; the social media platform has given an increasingly important voice where the ability to communicate developments using interactive perspectives for consumers has had an impact. The growth of software applications  (e.g. mobile ‘apps’) has probably enhanced the rapid rise in sales of GF products with those such as ‘Gluten free food checker’ and ‘Gluten free on the move’. These are tested and provide information to consumers on-the-go making their shopping experience easier and much more efficient  (See, Coeliac UK).

The regulatory space; the Food Information for Consumer regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 has a role in increasing consumer awareness of ingredients used in producing gluten free products through the prerequisite labelling regulation on food products (See research paper here). Further studies by nutritionists and dietitians will now investigate the underlying reasons for the shift in consumer preference for gluten-free products along with other issues such wider well-being and weight management.

The Nutrition and NPD Innovations series; the whole GF arena is of specific interest to Food Insights and sustainability programmes at NCFM and we are delivering our first Nutrition and NPD Innovations Breakfast seminar on 20th November 2018, it would be great to see you there if you can get there!



The vitally misunderstood food ingredient- consumer choice

Consumer choice should be at the core of getting food sustainability right, it needs to be centre of the plate in our vision of a sustainable food system so that it resonates with consumers at every meal occasion. The reality of our 21st Century lifestyle is that we work and consume in a global food system, this has raised living standards and increased longevity when efficient food manufacturing and supply is made possible. Improved nutrition is responsible for much of this and manufacturing innovation enables it to revolutionise how we develop new food products for quality, price and convenience. The resulting accessibility to food is not without issue because eating more of what we enjoy means poor dietary choices can be made more often…….

Read the full article at : The vitally misunderstood food ingredient- consumer choice | LinkedIn

Sandwiches- a FMCG case study in utilising just-in-time and sustainability metrics more incisively

Wayne Martindale, Mark Swainson, Tom Hollands and Richard Marshall discuss the need to combine healthy choices with reducing carbon footprint in the convenience foods sector.

The sustainability of convenience foods- balancing a national diet has provided public health agencies with many difficult choices and despite dramatic improvements in what we eat, consumers routinely demand more effective action to improve diets. So what is going wrong? The impact of dietary improvement is clearly not going far enough. This article identifies where more incisive actions can deliver positive health and sustainability outcomes. Popular convenience foods are typically targeted by media stories and consumer outcry; solutions will only be found through innovative development of healthier choices. The IFST’s recent ‘Food System Framework……….

read the original at IFST’s September 2018, Issue of Food and Technology Journal here, source: Bread winner | Food Science and Technology

Is a vegetarian diet really more environmentally friendly than eating meat?

It may be meat-free but you can still think more sustainably.

Our article published in The Conversation currently has 195k readers and it calls for a greater understanding of sustainability trade-offs and their communication. Without these it is unlikely that sustainable meals will ever be realised. The article itself clearly struck opinion because it has had over 280 000 readers so far!

Beef from Brazil, avocados from Mexico, lamb from New Zealand, wines from South Africa and green beans from Kenya – food shopping lists have a distinctly international flavour. ………..

read the original article at  The Conversation.