Tetra Pak, alongside Sweden’s Lund University, announced the opening of a new research hub aimed at advancing innovation in bioprocessing technologies. At Biotech Heights, the two organization will explore ways to create sustainable foods and materials from living cells or cell components. Working alongside several faculties at the university, the company wants to address the challenges facing producers and brands – from marketing strategies to consumer perception and technical obstacles.
A Tetra Pak spokesperson told us: “According to the World Resources Institute, we need the equivalent of 56% more crop calories in order to feed the project 10 billion global population in 2050. However, with only seven harvest seasons left to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, increasing the strain on our agricultural system is not a sustainable, or realistic, solution.
“Alternative proteins provide an avenue for the monumental challenge of meeting the population’s needs, as they do not rely as heavily on agriculture and are more efficient than many traditional food sources.”
“Bioprocessing-derived proteins, such as biomass and precision fermentation foods, can be used to create a multitude of different food and beverage products. They are among the most exciting alternative protein categories, with the potential to really gain traction in food production.”
Deriving dairy-identical proteins through precision fermentation to create milk without cows has been one of the most dynamic areas of investment and innovation in the dairy industry. According to Research and Markets, the global precision fermentation is projected to grow at a CAGR of 40.9% and reach a valuation of more than $73bn by 2032. Dairy industry majors from Nestlé to the Bel Group are actively exploring the creation of superior proteins to what plant-based alternatives can offer.
Biotech Heights will establish an open innovation environment, in which the organizations will have access to laboratories and equipment for both commercial and academic purposes. “Lund University has advanced lab equipment and test facilities. Tetra Pak has advanced product development centres. These facilities complement each other and build the base for Biotech Heights,” the Tetra Pak spokesperson explained. “Together, we can support research, via lab and pilot scale, to industrial scale. This represents the shared ambition of Tetra Pak and Lund University to provide a world leading centre for bioprocessing.”
Tetra Pak has a decades-long partnership with the university, and many of the company’s executives are Lund University graduates. “We have a long history of collaboration in many disciplines and across many faculties of the university,” the spokesperson said. “Therefore, we knew first-hand of the excellent quality of the research done at the University and the world-class facilities available across the campus. We believe that the combination of the University’s advanced research in many disciplines and Tetra Pak’s extensive industrial scale and customer base is a brilliant mix.”
The hub’s location in North Europe - a region that has earned the moniker ‘Sillicon Valley of Food’ because it is home to many food research institutions, start-ups and industrial-scale R&D facilities – makes it well-suited for fostering cross-industry collaborations. “There are many actors all across the collaboration chain in this region, and we aim for Biotech Heights to act as a hub that brings many of them together to find common solutions,” the spokesperson added.
Tetra Pak also has a close collaboration with Max IV, Sweden’s national synchrotron radiation facility, and the European Spallation Source ERIC, a multi-disciplinary research facility under construction; both are based in Lund. “While these are not part of Biotech Heights, we can leverage these collaborations to further enhance the work undertaken in the hub,” the Tetra Pak representative explained.
The company’s main focus for this project may be food production, but packaging innovation will also be explored, we were told. “Bioprocessing also has potential applications in the packaging materials space,” the spokesperson said. “Research could find new bioprocessing-derived material that can be useful in the future to further improve packaging sustainability.”
This isn’t the only recent foray in alternative protein innovation for Tetra Pak. In 2022, the Swedish packaging and food processing giant partnered with Mycorena to produce mycoprotein-based ingredient for meat alternatives. The move formed part of Tetra Pak’s long-term strategy “to address the challenges around food safety and security through the exploration and advancement of innovative food sources”. Speaking to FoodNavigator Europe, a company spokesperson said: “While this may be Tetra Pak’s first greenfield plant within the new food fermentation category, it has been investing in the development of this technology – including biomass to precision fermentation.”