SME involvement crucial to EU poverty project

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

CHANCE: Dedicated to developing nutritious and appealing foods to poverty-stricken EU consumers
CHANCE: Dedicated to developing nutritious and appealing foods to poverty-stricken EU consumers

Related tags Nutrition

A European Commission-funded project will see small-and-medium food industry enterprises play a vital role in translating academic research into foods that will nutritionally benefit consumers at risk of poverty, says the director of European Food Information Council (EUFIC).

The consortium three million euro CHANCE project pulls the power of science and industry together in a bid to develop foods that will both appeal and nourish consumer groups within the EU that are at risk of poverty and thus malnutrition.

It is comprised of 17 partners with five SMEs representing the European food sector; Finland’s largest dairy player Valio, Serbian fruit and vegetable producer Zdravo and meat processor Strand, Hungarian bakery company Lipoti and Baltics packaging firm Lietpak.

Research institutions and Universities form the bulk of the consortium with EUFIC and the Institute of Food Research (IFR) included.

Josephine Wills, director of EUFIC, told that industry involvement is key to a project like this as it is food and drink firms that can translate academic research into something of practical value.

“There is obviously the academic aspect involved in developing such a project; the research and science underpins it but academics can’t develop products that are tasty and that people want to buy,”​ Wills said.

The project will be focused on using low-cost technologies and traditional ingredients to develop end products.

Lower level food industry involvement, important

The five food companies involved are predominantly smaller enterprises but Wills noted that it is important SMEs are involved and represented in such projects.

“A large amount of the food industry in Europe is founded on what these SMEs are doing,”​ she said.

While industry profits mainly arise from the larger players and multinationals, SMEs in Europe’s food and drink sector are a strong force.

SMEs were always a key focus to this project, as the 2010 project outline stated: “It is viewed that the participation of relevant industrial partners from the food and the packaging industry, in particular SMEs, and/or other end-users is essential to achieve the expected impact of the research.”

Professor Francesco Capozzi, coordinator of the CHANCE consortium from the University of Bologna, said that despite major diet-related diseases featuring more heavily in lower income consumer groups, so far there has only been “limited efforts made to develop healthier products in the lower price range.”

“By exploring means to lower the production costs and increasing the knowledge about this particular group of consumers, CHANCE will hopefully stimulate development of food products that can make a difference as well as make them available and attractive to people who really need them,”​ Capozzi added.

The project commenced in February 2011 and will run for three years.

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