University researchers will work with the retailer and members of its supply chain to explore ways to improve efficiencies in the manufacture of crisps and other snacks, while reducing the take up of oil.
The three-year study will focus on reducing oil use and oil degradation, cutting production costs through increased productivity and efficiency, boosting the shelf-life of crisps and ambient snacks, to cut supply chain waste, reducing oil pick-up during frying and finding options for oil and energy reuse.
Victoria Yell, Sainsbury’s technical manager, said the research team will focus on different ways to achieve the aims. “It could be that we devise a new piece of machinery or a new process on the production line or a different way of preparing the food or a combination of different things,” said Yell.
‘A health impact’
“As well as increased efficiency and productivity, there is also going to be a health impact as there will be less oil used in the manufacture of the foods. I’m very confident that at the end of the three years we will have developed innovative ways to achieve our aims.”
The first year of the research will take place mainly at Teesside University and will involve a range of research and experimentation. The university will provide expertise in food science, chemistry and sustainable technology to optimise the management of oil in the production process.
In the second year, ideas that have been developed in the lab will be tested in the factories of Sainsbury’s suppliers.
During the final year of the project, the results will be analysed and published and process or innovations which have been developed will be patented.
Taste panels will be used throughout the project to test consumers’ reaction to new ideas.
The university research project will be led by Garry Evans, sustainable technologies project manager. “The market for the products we are working on is worth in excess of £2bn,” said Evans. “So, even a small reduction in the cost of the process could have massive impact. The work that we do could also have implications for many other industries as well.”
The project is part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, a public body set up to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.
Evans said there was much competition for these projects. There were only about 30 successful bids out of more than 1,600 applications.
“From a university perspective it proves that we have the capacity and capability for delivering successful results,” said Evans.
Sainsbury chose to team up with Teesside University because of its experience working on similar projects, said the retailer.
The university has also worked with Camerons Brewery to improve its energy efficiency.
It also spearheaded a £2M scheme to help 156 north-east companies improve efficiency and sustainability, make cost savings and reduce carbon production.