Food production can benefit from news in various instances. The innovations can be either from mechanical or technological origin as well as those involving environmental discussions, such as the use of packaging produced in a sustainable way.
Not all innovation is available on the shelves. In fact, much of it starts before, and in many cases, it does not even reach the final consumer before it is widely discussed and feasible.
But let’s start from the beginning, at the initial point of the food industry and discuss the innovations present in the choice of ingredients. The genesis of all food is in its ingredients. But what has the food industry been doing to innovate?
The market demands changes from the industry and its suppliers
If we take a historical look from the last few years, we will see that food has become one of the most discussed subjects in society in recent decades.
According to research firm Nielsen, there is a global demand for fresh, natural and minimally processed products. The explosion of fast-foods and the great growth in the number of people with health problems caused by poor nutrition has started a worldwide warning: People need to eat better.
The worry over nutritional and food issues has resulted in a boom in the healthy food industry. The healthy food industry is expected to have grown by 4.41% a year in 2021, moving more than $ 800 billion a year, according to the Statista website.
With consumers more concerned about what they are eating and requiring from the food industry healthier products, it is clear the need for innovation to present and absorb the new demands of the market.
But where does innovation begin?
Innovation in the food industry is widely discussed. After all, food is essential and precisely because it is something so important, the market is always going through transformations.
It is worth saying that innovating, when it comes to food, is not a simple task. There is a large research and development network that moves high amounts of money. Only this year in the US, the budget for R&D in the areas of food and agriculture exceeds $ 2 billion.
That is, to innovate is necessary. But it takes a lot of money. Within this research universe, some examples of innovation in the food sector are bio simulations, such as the development of animal proteins in laboratories .
There is also the use of machines equipped with artificial intelligence, with cognitive abilities and tools that potentiate the production and reduce the chances of errors/losses due to the application of machine learning concept.
All these changes have consequences in the production chain, or at least point to alternatives for the future. However, one must think of three factors that strongly affect innovation:
- The costs involved in the development of new techniques and products;
- The application of these innovations in the market, both for the food industries and for the retail and the consumers;
- The bureaucratic regulation of certain changes, since the commercialization and production of food has different rules and regulatory bodies.
Considering these three points, it is clear that making changes in the food industry requires effort, investment and market analysis. In this scenario, another point stands out: innovating in ingredients is much more palpable and brings fast and effective changes to formulated products in an industry.
In short: there are thousands of new projects that could change the direction of the food industry, but it all starts with ingredients.
This reality, added to the public’s search for higher quality food and less damage to the body, makes the food industry move in the direction of good suppliers, guaranteeing the origin and quality.
It is almost impossible to speak about food industry without mentioning agriculture and agribusiness. Therefore, let us go to some of the points that relate to this relationship and that directly influence the innovation started by the ingredients:
• The use of agricultural inputs
The ingredients are the inputs of the food industry. However, in the world of agriculture, inputs are also the fertilizers used in planting and the food given to animals. The search for better quality ingredients depends on knowing how to use the agricultural inputs made by the suppliers.
Some farmers are part of the organic creations reality, without the use of any kind of artificial input. Meanwhile, others use and advocate the use of synthetic fertilizers and agricultural pesticides looking for strengthened and pest protected food.
Industries that want to start their innovation process opting for organic ingredients need to know the production chain of their suppliers and team up with producers who have the seal that certifies the organic origin.
• The trend and concept of Clean Label
The concept of Clean Label was born from the need of food companies inform in their labels the presence of genetically modified ingredients with preservatives, with trans fats etc.
When the label is clean, it means that the food values the health of the product and the use of simple ingredients, identifiable and recognizable by the consumer.
The challenge is designing foods with the fewest “mysterious” ingredients that people read on labels, but they have no idea what it’s about. This concept is changing (a lot) the food industry.
Some recent surveys in the United States have pointed out that 75% of consumers surveyed are willing to pay more for a Clean Label product.
The concept of Clean Label still crawls in the Brazilian market, but it is already a huge trend discussed in Europe and the United States, where consumer participation in food regulation processes is more active than in Brazil.
And why does this trend grow every day?
It is simple, the access to information and the advance of scientific research have been able to disseminate information on the quality of the food people consume in various societies.
Just give a little research on Google or Youtube to find documentaries, articles, television shows and books that discuss the quality of food eaten by people on daily basis.
And it is worth mentioning that the search for clean label ingredients and products demands even more innovation.
A good example is the milk we consume. To avoid adding preservatives that could bring harm to the product and to consumers, the UHT pasteurization system and the famous long-life milk boxes were created.
It was thinking about reducing the artificialities and to offer purer milk that the industry had modified the way milk packaging and commercialization was done.
The search for the elimination of “bad fats”
Another innovation greatly intensified with the new demands of the consumer market was the reduction of trans fats and saturated fats.
It is already confirmed that the consumption of trans and saturated fats present health risks, mainly when in excess. The problem is that most foods, especially the highly processed and artificial ones, have high levels of saturated fat.
The fat is used to make various products, such as cookies, cakes, instant noodles, ice creams and many others.
Given its intense use, something that has not yet found a complete substitute, it is crucial that manufacturers seek to use “cleaner” fats, that is, that have a lower presence of saturated and trans fats, for example low sat fats.
This type of innovation is only possible with a lot of research and a good deal of resilience. Designing products with low levels of both fats is a big challenge, since reducing trans fats is something that raises the presence of saturated fats.
But the challenge is worthy and has a noble purpose: to deliver healthier and less harmful products to consumers, especially being a highly necessary input for the design of various products.
Innovation in industry and in the farms: hand in hand and a common goal
There is an intimate relationship between the food industry and the ingredient suppliers. There is no way to be totally innovative only from the factory to the inside, especially when the major market trends involve less processed and more natural foods.
The food industry’s investment in innovation begins with its partnership with the farmers. Large companies seek for the best suppliers and in many cases team up to develop better ingredients and bring technology to farming and creations.
The concept of innovative ingredients needs to balance well some aspects:
- Food safety;
Each of these factors contribute with innovation. After all, the innovation that works is the one that becomes economically viable.
Therefore, the ingredients need to balance these 5 factors, which are important both in the business perspective (cost, functionality and availability) and in the gastronomic issue (food safety and flavor).
Scientific development has enabled the food industry to optimize its products, but this is only possible when you think of food within a cycle, in which innovation is introduced from the beginning and is delivered to the consumer.