New bulking agents to replace sugar or flavour enhancers, novel salad vegetables with a high fibre content, pathogen control methods to replace salt preservation or a different cooking technique that gives a fried texture with less fat – these are all examples of the types of projects that Innovate UK is looking to fund.
Projects must be aimed at improving the nutrition of a consumer good but can be focussed on any part of the food chain. The end result must have an equal or improved calorie content, any new ingredients must be sustainably sourced and the food must remain appealing or increase its consumer appeal.
Lead technologist with agriculture and food team, Helen Munday says the competition was underpinned by a belief that healthier ingredients in packaged and pre-prepared foods had a part to play in improving the nation’s health. “This is not the entire answer to poor dietary habits or the obesity epidemic, but the companies that win funding and the innovations and healthier products that they develop will be part of the solution.”
Applicants could range from food manufacturers and processors to retailers, agricultural producers or ingredient companies. Porjects must be collaborative and business-led, but can include research partners, with possible funding ranging from £250,000 to £1 m per project - although requests for funding that lie outside this range will also be considered.
Successful small businesses could see up to 70% of their project costs covered and applications from small businesses are particularly welcome, says the agency. “The market opportunity is broad, from niche health products to mass markets such as bread. For greatest economic impact, [we] are therefore looking for a breadth of projects, spanning a variety of food types, from improving heavily consumed, comparatively unhealthy foods to developing new, healthier foods to meet increasing consumer demand.”
Applications opened yesterday and the first deadline for interest is the 25 November 2015. For more details see here.
Last month a WHO study collating data over 25 years found that poor diet was the biggest contributor to early death around the world. “At the global level, the most important contributors to the overall burden of diet are low fruit, high sodium, low whole grains, low vegetables, and low nuts and seeds," the authors wrote.