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

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!



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

Sustainable food manufacturing- it is time to reboot our view of sustainability


A call to reboot a broken food system does not relate to what many food manufacturers actually do or see when they start developing new products. The wealth of innovation and vision used to tackle world level issues is far more apparent at these build-in stages than a resigned and broken status. Are the calls to ‘reboot the system’ in conflict with how our industry is behaving or is it really a case of rethinking how we measure sustainability?

‘If only we could take a long-term view, step back and take stock of what environmentalism means for consumers and their diet’

This is what product developers will often get asked when food manufacturers try to link the constraints of food product design with high level targets such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The resulting options and trade-offs that emerge will often lose sight of consumer experience. This is in part due to a lack of commercial direction coming from sustainability assessments that more often than not, do not make a lot of sense for many food and beverage businesses. For example, the calls to not eat meat, not use palm oil and not use plastic packaging will never ever work………..

read the original at Sustainable food manufacturing- it is time to reboot our view of sustainability | LinkedIn

Switzerland vote ‘no’ to ethical food standards. really?

‘Its Surprising People Wouldn’t Have Voted For Food Sovereignty’ – Prof. – Sputnik International

Read the original at: ‘Its Surprising People Wouldn’t Have Voted For Food Sovereignty’ – Prof. – Sputnik International

Our recent Radio Sputnik interview on the Food Sovereignty and Fairness vote in Switzerland

Voters in Switzerland have overwhelmingly rejected two proposals on ethical and sustainable food. Final results of the two nationwide polls show that more than 60% of people voted against them. The proposals were aimed at boosting local farming and promoting more sustainable agriculture. The proposals’ opponents, including business leaders and the government — which advised people to vote no — had warned of higher food prices and less choice. The size of the defeat will be a big disappointment to farmers’ groups and ethical food campaigners. The first proposal, called fair food, wanted more government support for sustainable, animal-friendly

Sputnik spoke to Dr Wayne Martindale Principal Lecturer of Food Insights and Sustainability at University of Lincoln on what this vote will mean for sustainable foods.