For Director General of FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) Mella Frewen, the highlight of 2015 was FDE’s week long congress at the Milan EXPO where the industry group also elected its new president.
Meanwhile a personal highlight was acting as a member of the Commission’s Scientific Committee for the EXPO, and then as a member of the jury for the EUCYS prize in the food category. “It is such a stimulating task to work with young people in general - and young scientists in particular. Their passion is contagious!"
She said that while 2016 would bring its challenges, the European food and drink industry is very resilient. “I look especially forward to working with food banks to cut food waste (we have committed to reducing food wastage by half by 2025) and to continuing our work with our social partners on providing more jobs for Europe's young unemployed.”
Bastien Rabastens is co-founder of French start-up Entoma which makes Jimini’s, a range of ‘apéritif’ snacks from whole flavoured crickets and
Jimini’s snacks featured in Mintel’s top ten innovative products of the year.
Rabastens told us: “2015 was a very busy year, The highlight is certainly the launch of new product on the Jimini's range, for example the sweet mango cricket or the paprika grasshopper . We also moved to a bigger workshop - three times bigger than before. The team has also grown positively with extremely talented people but particularly, I’ll remember the success of our crowdfunding for a new product - a bar with dried fruits, almonds and cricket flour. We launched it on Kickstarter and we reached our goal ten days before the end of the campaign.”
“Personally, I had the pleasure to meet a lot of new people who're launching their business and it's very stimulating, it filled me with hope for the future. I also moved back in Paris and adopted a very nice kitten named Luciole ('firefly' in French) who was [abandoned] by her mother.”
Meanwhile after nearly ten years at Leatherhead Food Research as business innovation manager, 2015 was the year Steve Osborn co-founded the Aurora Ceres Partnership with his wife Naomi, a step he describes as challenging, exciting and extremely rewarding.
And although the project has just started, Steve and Naomi have already worked on a diverse range of topics including enhanced nutrition products and food fortification. “The personal highlight is also linked to the formation of The Aurora Ceres Partnership as it is a shared vision and effort with my wife, Naomi, whose strategic, innovation and business process background is the perfect complement to my food industry expertise. We need to get better at shutting the 'office door' when our children, Megan and Joseph get home, but we're enjoying the journey of making it a success together.”
So can Aurora Ceres let us in on a few predictions for the year to come? “I think there will be an increase in products that are formulated and processed in such a way that they deliver a more balanced nutritive profile. We saw the start of this a few years ago with baked crisps and High Pressure Processed drinks and as we enter a new industrial revolution - food manufacturing 4.0 - these new and disruptive alternative technologies will be key to delivering the healthy profile of products the consumer wants.”
For Nathalie Lecocq, director general of FEDIOL, the federation representing the European vegetable oil and protein meal industry in Europe, success came in the form of measurable sustainability.
“Sustainable sourcing has become more and more relevant also in the food and feed area. Hence, it was a real satisfaction to be able to conclude the first monitoring of certified sustainable palm oil used in our industry, and to see that we were reaching over 55% in the 2nd quarter of 2015. Of course, much more needs to be done, but initial data showed that there is a clear upwards trend of the up-take of sustainable palm oil.”
Another highlight was the European Commission’s long-awaited report on trans fats. “The report on trans fatty acids (TFA) was finally published and it does recognize that a TFA maximum limit legislation at EU level is the most efficient option to deal with health concerns; a point we had been advocating since 2014.”
“[In 2016] we are looking forward to provide input to the upcoming European Commission consultation on trans fats and will make a plea for an EU 2% trans fatty acid (TFA) maximum legislation. The point is that there are more options to reformulate and reduce industrial trans fats than on cutting ruminant TFA,” she said.
“It’s going to be a busy and challenging year again!”
For Stephen Jones, founder and director of the British Quinoa Company, the best part of 2015 was breaking into the retail sector. “[We] successfully launched our quinoa within the Waitrose range of prepared salads. This was the culmination of many months work to trial the product and to get it all approved prior to launch.”
“My personal highlight of 2015 was to finally be awarded my PhD degree from The University of Nottingham. I had studied at Nottingham for four years, researching how we can reduce mycotoxin contamination in wheat by breeding new resistant varieties.”
For Dr. V. Krishnakumar, managing director of Swiss-based food business research firm, Giract, the highlight of 2015 was receiving a record number of entries for Giract’s European flavour PhD competition which aims to promote flavour research in Europe.
But 2016 promises even more.
“[We] want to garner large industry support to be able to ask Brussels to review/replace the current ingredient and additive legislation which has been doing a massive disservice to all, and particularly to the European consumer over the last two decades. [We’re] also hoping to mobilise the food and food ingredient players to start a serious programme about addressing the nearly non-existent consumer dialogue and consumer trust in Europe – we simply have to grasp the nettle before it is too late.”
Meanwhile, the year brought family highlights spanning two generations for Krishnakumar:“[It was] surely the birth of my second grandson as well as my son’s PhD article getting accepted for publication by Nature [Journal].”
Per Sundelin, senior consultant at the Healthy Marketing Team, said "the force of co-innovation" was his professional highlight: “This was displayed in a striking way during a range of client projects. We took the participating companies ’through’ the one-way focus group mirror and established direct dialogue with consumers. A true inspiration for co-innovation and the best way to understand how your brand deliver real benefits!
“In 2016 I’m truly looking forward taking the second step in the Healthy Marketing team’s acceleration plan. During 2016 we will expand our team of expert consultants, grow and expand the partnership with our clients and launch new tools and services such as the Fourfactors Academy. 2016 has all ingredients in place to deliver even more benefits and value to our partners and clients.
As for personal highlights, Per has two. “I not only completed my first ever triathlon race, but also managed to beat my target time. And yes, it was so fun that I have signed up for a new race in 2016! The second highlight is our new family member, the dog ’Noxo’. After having lived abroad many years, we could now make this possible. Great fun, even during the very early morning walks!”
Kenny Ewan, founder and CEO of WeFarm, a start-up whose information-sharing platform between farmers in developing countries provides valuable supply-chain information to the food industry, said choosing one highlight for 2015 was difficult as there were so many.
"From presenting to a crowd of thousands of people in Helsinki to picking up a few awards including [mobile innovation awards] the MEFFYs, Best SMS Solution and more - it's been a really
great year for WeFarm. And probably most importantly, we're finishing the year with more than 41,000 farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Peru using our service, which shows that people like it!
“This kind of ties into my professional life so maybe I'm cheating slightly answering like this but... My personal highlight has been seeing this business come to life. I had been working on the idea for WeFarm for around 4 years before we launched in February so it has been amazing to see people actually using a product that I developed!
Ewan says 2016 will be focussed on securing more investment allowing the company to scale up to reach two million farmers and launching in new countries such as India and the Ivory Coast.