Nutritional and climate research is on the move

People in the food industry believe research and development efforts should be put into nutrition, climate, understanding the consumer, innovation and food safety in the years to come. That is the advice they are giving the Research Council and the EU.

Facts

Members of NTP Food for life (altogether 25 companies and organisations) have developed a strategy for research and development areas in the food industry. They have come up with the following priority areas: • Consumer and market • Product quality and innovation • Food and health • Food safety • Effective and responsible food production

About 30 managers from the Norwegian food industry are mobilising to meet future challenges. Companies like Stabburet, Mills, Cerealia, Tine and Kavli gathered in Oslo in January, together with representatives of research and the authorities. The event was the launch of a joint Norwegian research strategy organised by NTP Food for life.

The industry’s own work

Roald Gulbrandsen of NHO Mat og Drikke opened the day:

“This work is driven by the food industry, and it is a pleasure to see that the industry is putting so much work into staking out strategies for food research. The government has cut funding in the Food Programme in 2011. This is a great disappointment, and I have expressed this clearly to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food,” said Gulbrandsen to the assembly.

The work of creating the strategic research agenda started with a workshop in March last year. The work has been led by the industry and ten companies in the industry have taken part. The aim has been to agree on areas that companies in the blue and green sectors especially would like to see more research into.

“Research needs are more complex than they used to be. There is more open global competition, which does not always harmonise with Norway’s small companies and fragmented structure. Open innovation and networks will become ever more important. Many problems are best solved by collaboration right across companies and industries,” said Johanne Brændehaug of Tine.

“Nutrition and climate stand out as two areas that the whole food industry is focusing on today. These two areas were totally absent from strategies just a few years ago, and show that a great deal is happening in the food industry,” said Roald Gulbrandsen.

“I hope that NTP Food for Life will help to encourage increased collaboration between companies, and between companies and R&D centres, and that more of the members will see the benefits of taking part in European R&D collaboration. Companies that have taken part in EU projects say that the experience has been very stimulating. I believe also that Norwegian food companies have a great deal to bring to such a collaboration,” said Marit Risberg Ellekjær of Nofima Mat. She is a member of the Food for life secretariat.

Want to know more about the consumer

Knowledge about consumers and the market will be based on research Even though the lunch box still has a solid following in Norway, a great deal is happening among consumers.

“We can’t entirely rely on the consumer, so we must be innovative,” said Øydis Ueland of Nofima Mat. The industry wants to know more about the significance of the situations in which the product or meal will be eaten. They also want to find out more about the significance the environment, ethics and risk might have for consumer choice and to know more about personal nutrition.

The food industry wishes to use research to help realise the recommendations of the authorities for a more healthy diet. The desire is to develop more healthy products that also taste good. The industry also wishes to know more about the effect of diet on the brain and the immune system.

New and better products

Innovation is an important focus area. Norwegian food companies must position themselves so as to ensure they are chosen ahead of products that are imported. The industry also wishes to know more about the quality of raw materials that are put into the process and about the effect of packaging on the end product.

“Growing conditions change, as do varieties used for making jam, for example. We must also hold to the concept of natural products. What challenges are there in producing naturally. We need research that understands the components in food,” said Edel Anita Westhagen of Stabburet.

Safer food

The food industry intends to minimise infective agents and contaminants. Climate change, production of new products and the use of new production methods are leading to changes in the properties of micro-organisms. Knowledge about survival, contamination and GMOs is still very important. There is broad agreement that Norway should take a leading responsibility for safety in seafood.

“We need research into the challenges involved in primary production, animal feeds, processes and with the consumer,” said Jorunn Vormeland Dalen of NHO Mat og Bio. The aim of research must be to increase our knowledge in both the industry and administration.

The environment and economy are also important research areas. Key areas are the reduction of waste, utilising the whole foodstuff and optimising the production process.

“I hope the Norwegian authorities and the resource apparatus can use this as a guiding basis for their strategic work and annual priorities and be part of financing the joint research and development challenges the industry is now facing. In this way, the industry can help to strengthen innovation and competitiveness in Norway’s second largest industry,” said Ellekjær.

“The food industry’s strategy has been created – now the work begins. This document must be brought to life. We must now make the strategy concrete and devise action plans. And the companies must implement the research we are ourselves setting into motion,” said Brændehaug.

Related content