Research creates value

Research provides a better selection for us consumers and more earnings for producers and the food industry. Trends over the last few years in the tomato and potato markets provide an example.

The food industry makes use of research centres to increase values and to develop its products, and they know what they are doing. Bama/Gartnerhallen is a good example of the companies that have consciously developed a culture of systematically using research and development as measurable tools for future value creation. The companies have entered into binding agreements for collaboration with Nofima Mat and Bioforsk among others and they have made participation in research projects a priority.

According to figures from Bama/Gartnerhallen, they have taken part in 54 research and development projects to a value of NOK 180 million, while 24 projects to a value of NOK 42 million are currently in progress.

According to the Bama/Gartnerhallen figures, value creation since 2000 at the producer end has been 108 per cent with a volume growth of 27 per cent. Research projects have made a huge contribution to this.

Tomato explosion
Nofima Mat has helped Bama to increase its range of tomatoes from 3 to 33 varieties over the last 20 years. A great deal has happened in recent years, especially with trials of new tomato varieties and more professional growing methods. At the same time the consumer researchers at Nofima Mat have studied and segmented consumers and carried out sensory tests on different varieties of tomatoes. And Norwegians appreciate the choice – the average Norwegian now eats almost seven kilos of tomatoes a year.

Potatoes on the way up
In 2000 Bama began to take a closer look at its potato selection. Bioforsk and Nofima Mat have done their part in creating a strong comeback for the potato. From losing out to tough competition from rice and pasta, potatoes are slowly but surely winning back market share. Part of the secret has been to get to know the customers, their buying patterns, how much time they spend making dinner and so on.
Bioforsk has helped with research into growing conditions and choice of variety. Nofima Mat has carried out research into consumers’ choice, attitudes and buying habits. Research in sensory perception has also helped to select varieties that break through in the Norwegian market. Bama has focused strongly on consumer communication and packaging.

The authorities are focusing on innovation
The projects with Bama/Gartnerhallen have been made possible with the aid of part-financing from Innovation Norway, the Value Creation Programme for Food and the Research Council of Norway. The projects involve comprehensive method development and substantial levels of research. It is therefore natural that the companies involved need to offset the risk and seek part-financing. The methodology developed will benefit other companies and projects later.

"If our research did not benefit the industry, then there would be no point in researching," says Gunhild Akervold Dalen, Director, Communication and Product Development at Nofima Mat.
"More companies should make use of all the wonderful competence in raw materials, product development, consumer knowledge, sensory perception, packaging and processing available in the research centres. There is no doubt they would benefit," says Dalen.

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