Co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the facility offers advice and technical support for start-up and SME food and drink businesses in the Greater London area, which are looking into new product development or product reformulation.
During last week’s launch event (December 5), the UWL showcased more than 30 small businesses and their products that had already benefited from the lab’s services, including a rice-based dairy-free yoghurt, a crunchy-roasted cricket snack in three flavours, and a plant-based jerky.
Nurturing British business
Speaking at the opening, Andy Kemp, marketing director of food wholesaler Bidfood, said: “One cannot emphasise enough the importance of growing and nurturing our own fledgling British businesses like these that take the initiative to feed our ever-growing demand for innovation.
“This lab, and the expertise of the team who run it, will be crucial in changing the odds, and reducing the risk for those start-ups and small businesses who push the boundaries with the sort of exciting innovation that really moves the market forwards in the UK.”
UWL vice-chancellor Peter John said the new lab would assist businesses that could not afford research and development to turn food and drink concepts into marketable products, adding value to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Commenting on the university’s vision for the lab, chair in hospitality management at the London Geller College of Hospitality and Tourism and project leader at the Food Innovation Lab Alexandros Paraskevas added: “It’s one thing coming up with an innovative new concept, it is another building a successful new product or business on the back of it.
“Research and development is essential and that’s incredibly difficult and expensive to achieve if you are a small business. Our lab covers this gap.”
Meanwhile, the US-based Almond Board of California (ABC) has announced a $6.8m (£5.3m) investment in 75 independent research projects exploring next-generation farming.