From reformulation to revolution 05/12/2022 by Sarah Pursey
Across the world, dietary risk factors are estimated to cause 11 million deaths annually (nearly one-fifth of the total) and the loss of 255 million years – that is, disability-adjusted life-years, due to ill health, disability, or early death. Manifesting in conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension, the negative impacts of poor nutrition were, perhaps unsurprisingly, compounded during the Covid-19 pandemic. A flurry of scientific studies also increasingly point towards nutrition’s inextricable links to brain health (particularly in the arena of cognition, moods and memory).
Beyond the oft-grave health implications of poor nutrition for individuals come the hidden costs associated with diet-related risks: According to ‘Food Systems Summit’ – a UN scientific group – the food system is today valued at US$9 trillion. However, hidden costs within the system are estimated to add up to US$20 trillion, with US$11 trillion of that toll linked to poor health outcomes, followed by US$7 trillion in environmental costs.
Research shows that, now more than ever, consumers want to lead healthier lives – and the rise and rise of functional food and beverage categories (p12) seems to echo such assertions. Yet many consumers across the world – in developed and emerging markets alike – lack access to, and information about, these healthier pathways.
Encouragingly, governments are beginning to acknowledge the need to create systemic solutions that address this often overlooked aspect of the global food crisis. Legislation restricting the marketing and advertising of less-healthy high fat, salt and sugar products (HFSS) came into effect in the UK in October 2022. Elsewhere in Europe, the EU Farm to Fork Strategy – published in May 2020 as part of the European Green Deal – proposes several initiatives that aim to improve the nutritional content of foods sold across the bloc.
Given the arrival of such legislation and guidance – alongside further directives inevitably on the horizon in other geographical markets – there’s little wonder why reformulation is today clearly the name of the game for manufacturers the world over. Accordingly, much of this ingredients-focused issue of Food & Beverage Networker is dedicated to the segment’s multinational powerhouses – including ADM (p32), Givaudan (p38), Ingredion (p56), and Kerry (p44) – who are innovating the future-proofed solutions to facilitate F&B manufacturers’ transition to healthier iterations of old consumer favourites.
Beyond reformulation, rethinking how we source ingredients is another key to cracking the nutrition conundrum. Such is the route pursued by Israel-based start-up Novella, which is leveraging advanced nutrient cultivation technology to grow botanical ingredients outside the field, and in turn boost global accessibility to high-value nutraceuticals (p16).
Undoubtedly, the scale-up of disruptive plant-based innovations is another major focus for the nutri-tech segment, not least through advancements in precision fermentation – a technology with the potential to entirely upend conventional farming practices (and eventually drive down prices). Elsewhere, InnovoPro (p50) – the developer of a proprietary chickpea protein-based platform – has received recognition from the United Nations as one of the 50 leading SMEs to shape the future of our global food systems, on account of its solution’s ability to deliver not only functional benefits and essential nutritional values, but also great texture, bite, mouthfeel and sustainability credentials.
Encouraging preventative and healthier patterns of consumption is clearly a key objective for new legislation that seeks to elevate the role of nutrition as essential to achieving holistic health and wellbeing. Yet nurturing an ecosystem in which this clear abundance of private sector innovation now emerging across the nutri-tech spectrum can continue to thrive will be crucial to the ultimate success and equity of such policies, in order to ensure that nutritious and healthier options become not only appealing but also affordable to all.
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