Innovation vs. green: The conflict of new technology investment
Leatherhead Food Research conducted a 100-strong survey in May 2012 across the food and beverage industry (manufacturers, ingredients suppliers and retailers) to find out where priorities lie when investing in new technologies.
‘Product’ centred innovations outweighed ‘greener’ agendas for investment in emerging technology, it found.
Findings showed that 55% consider product innovation and quality are top of the agenda while 29% place priorities on energy and resource efficiency and sustainability.
However, Steve Osborn, business innovation manager at Leatherhead Food Research, told FoodNavigator that a conflict between investment and ideals had been flagged.
“We asked the question of where investment in new technologies is going and it seemed that the significant investments were into product innovation,” Osborn said.
“But when innovation is needed to make step changes, respondents acknowledged that it should probably go towards green agendas,” he said. “It’s almost a dichotomy, a conflict.”
Investing where? A marketing agenda…
Investment is still going into new product development (NPD) and quality, despite a widespread industry acknowledgement that a push is needed for green agendas to be attained, Osborn said.
This is likely due to a lack of return on marketing for green investments, he added.
“If you invest large sums of money into new technologies, there are huge risks involved and if this is just to make processing more efficient or to save costs in energy and water, you can’t put that on the pack,” he said.
“But if you have invested in new technologies to make a product healthier, tastier or even smell better, you can put that on the pack,” he added.
New technology investment was flagged as a solution in the push forward of salt and fat reduction.
“Current salt reduction by stealth or replacement has reached a maximum and can’t go much further. It has got to be new technology that will achieve future step changes in this area,” Osborn said.
Such investments are considered lower risk and can achieve the required product launch and return on investment expectations, he said.