The Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) has now published the findings of its intensive research programme entitled Tailored Technologies for Future Foods (TTFF), which attempted to assess the future direction of food ingredients and better understand consumer food choices.
The programme focused on the exploitation of biosciences in order to tailor specific and increase the safety of food. It was organised in research teams working on enzyme modification of food materials, seed factory, microbial viability technology, encapsulation, structure engineering, physiological functionality and consumers and sensory quality.
For example, the research on cereal technology included enzymatic tailoring of rye, oat and high-fibre wheat bread baking, process-induced increase of rye bioactivity and design of cereal flavour.
Enzymatic structure engineering concepts included search for novel cross-linking enzymes, and their use in proteinaceous food materials.
Enzymatic extraction of berry juice and especially phenolic compounds was developed, and berry phenolics were studied as selective inhibitors of the growth of intestinal pathogens. Methods for assessment of digestibility and gut bioconversions in vitro were also developed.
Starch-based microencapsulation aimed at controlling stability of bioactive components was also examined.
The increasing economic viability of microencapsulation technology has led to significant interest within the food and beverage industry, and according to market analyst Frost & Sullivan, this has opened the door to new ingredients and the development of novel food properties.
"Microencapsulation has the ability to facilitate protected and targeted nutrition in a number of processed food products," said Frost & Sullivan industry manager Kathy Brownlie.
"It is fast becoming the most successful delivery systems that is enabling food ingredient companies to tap into consumer health trends."
Microcapsules are tiny particles that contain an active agent or core material surrounded by a shell or coating, and are now increasingly being used in food ingredients preparation.
New technology was also developed to produce plant-derived compounds in cell cultures, and also to increase and assess viability of probiotic bacteria. Germination was used as a tool to modify seed structure and composition for novel food applications.
Consumer perceptions of functional foods were studied as well as perception of troublesome eating among the elderly.
The €16.2 million TTFF programme involved a wide collaboration network covering 18 Finnish university and institute laboratories and 37 institutions outside Finland. Nearly 60 companies and 10 development associations also participated in the projects of the programme.
The total number of theses published during the programme was 24, while four patents or patent applications were made.