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Emerging Technology in the Food and Beverage Industry

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Emerging Technology in the Food and Beverage Industry

Emerging Technology in the Food and Beverage Industry
October 08
09:48 2012

A recent survey by Leatherhead Food Research asked the food and beverage industry what objectives are currently the most important when considering investment in new technology. Over 55% still considered that, despite big moves within the industry to improve sustainability and resource efficiency, the primary technology innovations needed remain focused on the product – either to deliver better quality or new products. ‘Health and wellness’ was considered as less of a priority, maybe indicating a tide of change in the focus of development teams for the coming years. This also suggests that ‘health and wellness’ is no longer the domain of the ‘Innovators’ but is a mainstream trend that is considered the core of any development activity since it is a still a priority agenda item across the industry.

However when asked to consider a range of issues or themes and whether an emerging technology was the only way of achieving a step change in that area, an interesting picture emerges. When asked ‘Which of these objectives are currently the most important when considering investment in new technology?’ – Product Innovation and Quality are where the majority of investment considerations are being made.

Necessity is the mother of invention so it is important to identify where emerging technologies could be most effectively implemented to achieve that all important step change. Two main themes emerged – ‘Efficiency, Productivity and Sustainability’ and ‘Salt and Fat Reduction’. These groupings suggest that it is generally believed that ‘green’ agendas cannot be met by the current manufacturing platforms and that the reductions in salt and fat that are possible by existing strategies are at their maximum, this echoes research conducted by Leatherhead Food Research earlier in 2012 that suggested that maximum salt reductions had been achieved within the current landscape. With ever challenging targets such as salt reduction, it is possible that the industry will have to look at alternatives, such as nano-particles, to achieve new levels of functionality and delivery. 

The implementation of new and emerging technology is not thought to be key in further improvements to taste texture and market share – the product-centred and market-driven innovations. Yet product-centred objectives were at the heart of investment policy.

Around 60% felt that new and emerging technology would be key in the successful delivery of strategic objectives compared to existing technology; only 4% felt this would not be the case. Putting it into context of whether the greatest financial gains would be made from renovation or innovation, the population was evenly split with only 2% difference reflected between the opinions, interestingly falling in favour of renovation. It could be considered that the reasons behind this reflect the need for speed to market and return on investments; two thirds requiring a product to market within two years and 87% needing to launch within three years. The return on investment would need to be realised within three years by 62%.

To achieve success with a fledgling technology, less than 10% considered that their exclusive use was important with 36% rating sole rights as very or extremely important.

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