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Meet the finalists for Food Manufacture’s Innovation Award

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Who will take home the Innovation Award at the FMEAs 2024?
Who will take home the Innovation Award at the FMEAs 2024?

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Seven companies are in the running for our new innovation award, with the winner to be revealed at next year’s glamourous ceremony. Here’s more about the line-up and their incredible industry innovations…

Foodify

In the UK we waste over 13 million tonnes of food every year – but imagine a world where no one calls it waste, we just call it food.

Foodify is a smart technology platform for automatically re-distributing food surplus, wherever and whenever it needs to be.

Most food waste occurs in the home (50%), but agricultural (24%) and manufacturing (16%) still remain a key issue to be addressed.  

“Food losses before the point of sale are caused by a combination of overproduction, supply chain inefficiency and consumer preferences. Contract procurement by large food buyers exacerbates the problem, creating unmarketable surpluses, most of which are carried by growers. And this problem is not limited to the UK. McKinsey estimates that over £500 billion (30%) of all food is lost annually during and just after harvest,”​ wrote Foodify in its application.

Foodify is unique because it’s designed to turn waste into something ‘useful and valuable’.  Using smart adaptive technology this technology is able to identify, expose and tracksurplus food, and then connect sellers and buyers.

Powered by machine vision, machine learning and marketing automation, it streamlines the processes of identification, grading, distribution and payment, and generates options for transportation by integrated logistics partners. Sellers use a smartphone to upload their surpluses via app or web, or in bulk by API/EDI. Foodify then promotes the food to buyers based on product longevity, proximity and customer profile. After the latest date for human consumption, the system finds alternative uses including bioenergy, anaerobic digestion or alternative materials, so no food is wasted.

Foodify is aiming to help UK businesses reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing the need for additional resources to be used, unlocking a market worth over £20 billion per year and cutting emissions by up to 6% of the UK's total CO2​e target.

Realistic growth forecasts estimate the direct impact of Foodify at £2.4 billion in economic output, mainly in agricultural regions, with at least 1,000 new jobs.

BioPak

BioPak has launched a range of sustainable products, including innovative coffee cup lids, sushi trays and taco boxes.

Coffee cup lids are predominantly (98%) made from virgin polystyrene plastic, with WRAP estimating that recycling rates for lids is close to 0%. Due to the high heat tolerance required and the necessity for a tight lid fit for safety, finding alternative materials to use is a challenge.

Meanwhile, Sushi restaurants use millions of black plastic trays each year which cannot be recycled, taking up more virgin fossil fuel material.

For coffee cups, the business has created its BioPak Pulp lids, which are made from waste plant material – a sustainable alternative that does not compromise on performance.

The lids provide a secure fit and help to retain heat, but are also plastic-free and can be composted with food waste.

For sushi trays, the company uses a combination of BioCane fiber for the base and plant-based PLA for the lid. It has matched all the popular sizes on the UK market and kept the clear domed lids required for the sector. The BioPak sushi range is made entirely from plants and can be composted through commercial collections.

The company is continuing its material research and will also be introducing a new retail range this year that includes a plant fibre plate selection that is certified home-compostable and does not contain any added PFAS. The retail range will also include certified home compostable cups.

Earth'D Drinks

Earth’D Drinks is on a mission to deliver a more nutritious, sustainable and ultra convenient breakfast.

With cereal hugely popular in the UK, Earth’D has spotted a gap in the market for a new breakfast drink. Containing the equivalent of a 30g bowl of multi-wholegrain cereal, the drink is blended with oat milk, creating a ‘smooth and sustainable’ drink that is good for you.

The drink is high in calcium and fibre, contains 7 B-vitamins, as well as vitamin D, and 100% RDI of prebiotics in a simple 250ml grab pack.

Available in three flavours – vanilla, strawberry and chocolate – the breakfast beverage was developed after the founder’s son was born prematurely, at 28 weeks. Weighing just over 1kg with suspected meningitis, he was missing breakfast and in need of a nutritious replacement.

Using his PhD in food science and nutrition, and his product development expertise (with over 20 internationally granted patents), Earth’D’s founder created his drinks range.

The business was launched in Q2 this year to help others struggling to find time for breakfast every morning, as well as a way to provide a healthy anytime snacking drink, with over 40% of consumers enjoying cereal outside of the traditional breakfast occasion.

FHIRST

The ‘FHIRST of its kind’ worldwide, FHIRST Living Soda combines the benefits of both gut-loving, living probiotic cultures and prebiotic plant fibre, and zinc.

As the consumer demand for functional gut and immunity products began to grow, the company saw a gap in the market for a functional health drink that not only delivered on the health credentials and functional aspects, but also tasted great – all without using sugar or sweeteners.

Each serving of FHIRST offers 2bn live probiotic cultures, which are micro-encapsulated for stability, ensuring that its health benefits are as strong at the end of its shelf life as they are on day one; and for controlled release in the gut.

The product also contains 5g of dietary plant fibre with chicory inulin, which helps to stimulate the growth of good gut bacteria, and zinc to support immune and brain health.

As well as helping to educate on the importance of gut health and evolve our drinking habits, the company says its committed to investing in nature’s biodiversity in the shape of ‘Planet FHIRST’, pledging 1% of turnover to biodiversity and green infrastructure projects via a partnership with SUGi.

The FHIRST range comprises three flavours - Cherry Vanilla, Ginger Mandarin and Passion Fruit.

Perfetti Van Melle

Perfetti Van Melle UK launched the Mentos paperboard bottle last November.

As the first paper bottle in the confectionery industry, it represents a significant step in the right direction towards Perfetti Van Melle’s wider sustainability goals – this innovation alone will reduce the plastic in Mentos Gum packaging by 93%.

According to the company, the shift from plastic to paper bottle has no adverse effect on the quality of the product, and the Mentos Pure Fresh Gum still possesses its crisp outer shell, liquid centre and a shelf life that matches that of the plastic bottle at two years.

The 50-piece paper bottle has similar dimensions and footprint to that of its plastic bottle predecessor but, after use, it can simply be recycled kerbside along with other household recycling.

Mentos Paperboard bottle Boardio® is a patented packaging system consisting of machinery and packaging, developed and provided by Graphic Packaging International. Perfetti Van Melle collaborated with Graphic Packaging International and invested in a bespoke manufacturing line – which now solely produces the paper bottles.

The bespoke Boardio packaging line efficiently forms, fills and seals the Boardio packaging. The primary material for Mentos Paperboard bottle Boardio® is paperboard made from virgin fibre and is 90% of the total pack. Minimised layers of polyethylene (PE) are used to provide tight and safe seals and provide the required shelf life, thereby reducing product waste and overall greenhouse gas impact.

Its full paperboard outer means the packages can be fully printed on all sides – hence a 360 branding is available for communication to the consumer.

In addition, the recyclable pack, with 90% fibre content, is compact and ergonomic and designed to fit comfortably into the palm as well as into most cup holders and desk tidies for consumer convenience.

Xampla

Xampla’s consumer brand Morro provides a range of plastic-free, plant-based materials that are strong, natural and fully biodegradable.

Sustainably sourced Morro materials break down safely, quickly and fully without leaving behind any harmful pollutants.

“This innovation can be used to eliminate the most polluting plastics but also as a natural material to do things that plastic never could,”​ the application reads.

For example, Morro Nutri, provides ‘superior’ vitamin fortification within beverages. This technology has been developed in partnership with Britvic, to fortify Vitamin D within squash.

“Backed by 15 years of research at the University of Cambridge, these groundbreaking materials make it simple for consumers and brands to make the right choice for the planet,”​ the entry continued.

In August 2022, polling commissioned by Xampla of 2,000 UK adults, found that 49% of respondents believe vitamins are more effective when absorbed through food and drink rather than supplements. These findings are reflected in the fortified food and beverage industry’s estimated CAGR of 7.12% since 2020. However, the fortification consumers want to see presents a significant challenge for brands, as vitamins are highly sensitive to degradation by UV light, pH imbalance and pasteurisation, and often break down by the time they reach the consumer.

Morro Nutri is a world-first plant protein material developed for commercial use that provides a solution to maintain the nutritional value of vitamins in food and beverage products, from production to consumption, without the use of costly overage.

This solution uses plant materials to make microscopic capsules that protect vitamins within liquid, preventing them from degradation by light or pasteurisation. The business’ research has earned the company £1m in funding from the UK Government’s Innovation Agency to scale up its technology and material processing.

Morro Nutri is also unique in that enables enteric release, as it is insoluble yet digestible. This means that the particles remain stable in the product and in the acidic environment of the stomach, before being released in the upper gut.

Modern Baker

Modern Baker’s SUPERLOAF is the culmination of many years of collaboration with human biology scientists, research organisations and industrial partners.

SUPERLOAF has been developed to deliver a range of nutritional benefits without negatively affecting taste or texture.

“The significance of the innovation behind this product is that it provides an opportunity for the food manufacturing industry both to help break the ‘junk food cycle’ without significant additional capital expenditure and to increase the value chain of processed foods,”​ the application reads.

The key to SUPERLOAF is Modern Baker’s long-fermented blend of optimised fibres, bioactive plant compounds and seeds, many of which have never been used in industrial bread-making before. The result is a clean-label loaf made with white flour (with all the consumer acceptability/processability gains this brings), that has higher fibre levels than the UK's leading 100% wholemeal loaves.

The business’ science-backed selection of these fibres and bioactives is based on how they actually perform in-body. In other words, the goal was to create a bread that would positively impact customer health via improving their gut health, immune system and metabolism (e.g. by improving the Glycaemic Index of the product).

It was also important to Modern Baker that the bread should be accessible to consumers, in terms of acceptability and price, and so it embarked on developing a bread that was compatible with existing industrial bread manufacturing processes.

It started with grant-funded research based on a laboratory ‘Model Gut’ system to establish which ingredients would deliver the greatest nutritional impact. It then collaborated with a leading UK bread manufacturer to implement large-scale production of this nutrient-optimised loaf. There were considerable technical challenges in adapting a loaf with such high levels of fibre, including many not typically used in large-scale bread manufacturing, to the high-speed mixing and automatic moulding inherent in this process.

The biggest issue is that high-fibre doughs are often too sticky for automatic processing and the resulting loaves too dense and bitter-tasting to be acceptable to consumers. As a result, commercially produced high-fibre loaves often contain artificial additives to help processability and added sugar for taste.

The company’s first breakthrough was being able to use white bread flour supplemented with a nutritionally optimised range of fibres and bioactive plant compounds in SUPERLOAF without compromising on nutritional impact. The second was using its targeted fermentation expertise to develop a novel fermentation process for our fibres, bioactives and seeds (41% of the loaf volume). This not only enhanced the nutritional impact of SUPERLOAF but made its high-volume processing possible. It also considerably extends shelf-life without using artificial additives.

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