Innovating in dynamic unpredictable times: how technology affects all parts of the innovation process

Johan Boot, consultant with an extensive background in developing food and food ingredients  in large companies and smaller start-ups, will be sharing his knowledge at the upcoming IFFI event: Food technology, on the 14th of April. This event will be all about the future role of technology in the food industry. Why is technology important and what are its applications? Boot shares with us a tip of the iceberg.

Role of the consumer

Partly driven by Artificial Intelligence technologies, our understanding of how diet affects our physical and mental health is expanding rapidly. That knowledge is increasingly accessible through the digital world. Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about their individual health status through diagnostics, sensor technology and e-health apps. Many companies now offer tailor-made personal dietary advice based on DNA-profiling using individual saliva or blood samples.

Consumer awareness about the composition of their diet, how it is produced and how it impacts the world around us is growing. Impact on personal health and on the environment have become important for purchase decisions. Consumers demand the right to know where products come from. Technology responds to the consumer’s increased desire to know where and how the raw materials have been sourced, how the product is produced and how the environment has been impacted throughout the different stages of the production process.

Impact of Technology

Technology impacts all these elements of the food innovation process. Advancements in technology allow the industry to design and produce ingredients and products that combine taste, texture, nutrition with less impact on the environment. Smart knowledge-based screening methods enable the efficient selection of new ingredients. New process technologies allow for milder processing of these ingredients and thus preserving its intrinsic health-benefiting properties of ingredients, while less energy is needed. Advanced extraction and other downstream processing methods ensure these health-benefiting components can be harvested and will remain bioavailable and functionally active as part of the final food product.

Two rapidly evolving fields are fermentation and cell culture. Traditional fermentation techniques are seeing new applications in which new substrates are combined with traditional microbial strains resulting in unique ingredients or novel fermented foods. Next to microbial fermentation, micro-algae culture and cell-based meat, fish and seafood are fast-developing technologies offering a wide range of new ingredients and food products. These all boost the development of new efficient production and downstream processing technologies. This is an incredibly promising fast-growing segment of the industry.

Specialization & collaboration

Given the speed of exponentially growing knowledge, controlling all steps of the innovation process and all technological developments to respond to changes in customer demand is becoming impossible. Companies need to make choices about what capability to focus on and to collaborate with companies that possess the knowledge they themselves are lacking. The challenge is to find the right partners to assemble the missing pieces of the innovation puzzle. Companies have to collaborate with third party specialists across the value chain, creating ecosystems and alliances. These include teaming up with suppliers, customers, academia, knowledge institutes and industry platforms. Managing these ecosystems requires investing in third party management skills including communication and legal skills which in today’s complex world are critical success factors for food innovation.

During the presentation examples will be given to demonstrate how technology is affecting various aspects of the innovation process in the food and food ingredient industry on both the demand and the delivery side.

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