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Insights From The Food Innovation Summit Brussels 2015

Insights From The Food Innovation Summit Brussels 2015

Food Innov Summit

Last week I was asked to take part in a panel on Meat Consumption Disruption at the inaugural Food Innovation Summit 2015, in Brussels.

It was an amazing and inspiring opportunity to hear about the latest innovations in the food industry, as well the challenges and issues we face concerning food security and more sustainable future in food sourcing and production.

We captured insights and impressions from the summit in this Storify. Below are a few takeaways and ideas from the sessions I attended.

Phil Hogan Tweet

Phil Hogan, EU commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development

Keynote speech: Ensuring sustainable food security despite climate and natural resource scarcity: a call for disruptive innovation from farm to fork.

Phil’s opening speech at the summit was inspirational and spectacular. He published his notes and it is worthwhile taking 10 minutes to read through. He highlights initiatives and thoughts on the future of food and food security. His keynote left me very optimistic about a future for edible insects.

Innovation, food security and Horizon 2020 were top of mind. Many initiatives involving partnerships and collaboration with both private and public were discussed. Exciting times ahead!

Valerio Nannini, Senior VP responsible for Strategies & Performance of Innovation, Technology and R&D, Nestlé

Agri-Food Panel: Implementing open innovation strategies in the food industry: Finding the right model to accelerate the innovation cycle

Valerio shared insight on food production and innovation, highlighting the challenges and opportunities of paving new ways of thinking inside and outside of the organization.

In this panel he was joined by Hans-Christian Ambjerg, President of ELC and Sr. VP Innovation at DSM Nutritional Product (CH) and Sebastian Emig, General Director European Snacks Association (BE). I was intrigued by his thinking on innovation and one thing that stuck in my head — and gave me a lot of encouragement — was the story of the Nespresso machine.

Valerio shared a powerful example of the history of the Nespresso machine, which he calls “Sleeping beauties in the drawers”.  His Surprisingly, the Nespresso machine as we know it today had been ready to market 20 years ago, but it took 10 years for the machine to be perfected and launched.

Valerio NanniniThis is a powerful reminder that success of a product depends on market readiness! You may be on the leading edge of an emerging market for a long time before that market is ready to take your product mainstream.  We need to pursue with patience. You might be ready, but your market might not be.

This is where he believes larger organizations can help smaller companies and inventors innovate better, faster and more effectively. Their insight can help with both consumer and product readiness.

Innovation is not just about inventing. It’s about going out and making it happen.  You learn, you unlearn and you relearn. It’s important for corporations to keep this in mind. We need to convince the old school to jump into new ideas – Valerio Nannini

Another simple, powerful, (scary?!) and important point to remember — always:

It takes years to earn your brand name and respect, but only one mistake for things to fall apart. – Hans-Christian from DNS

Afternoon sessions:

Disruptive Healthy Raw Foods

Panel: Algae future applications as functional food/beverage

Speakers: Grégory Dubourg, General Manager & Founder Nutrikéo (UK), Alvyn Severien, Co-founder Springwave (FR) and Corjan van den Berg, Scientist at TNO

This was a fascinating panel about the future of algae based food and drink products. What struck me were the challenges:

Challenges: what will it take to become consumer acceptable?

  • visual, color: green and blue are not the colors of preference for food. How can we consumers be convinced to look past the aesthetics? And when they do…
  • smell: the smell is too so far extremely strong for general customer acceptance

My take:

Insects have their challenges, but we can work around color and taste.  Take crickets, as an example. If a cricket is off putting, we can grind down. Cricket flour is brown and looks more like brown sugar or roasted flour than it does “ground cricket”.  We see this approach at work already in products such as protein bars or pastas with an insect flour base.

Meat Consumption Alternatives Panel:

Speakers: Céline Laisney, Alimavenir (FR), Dr. Anke Janssen, Like Meat Project Research Partner, Wageningen University, (NE) and myself (CH)

Moderator: Virpi Varjonen, Nutrition and Ingredient Business Strategist, Invenire (FI)

Meat Consumption Alternatives Panel, Food Innovation Summit 2015First of all, I have to say I was extremely proud to take part in the only all female panel at the summit. Our panel was a little different because it wasn’t focused on one specific product such as algae, but instead on various consumption alternatives.
The discussion was lively and I have to admit I was focused on listening and understanding so I can get my opinion voiced, more than note taking. (I am Venezuelan, my mother tongue is not English, so I take my time absorbing what others say!)

My impressions: Insects took over the audience conversation — again!

This came as no surprise. As we’ve seen before, insects really spark an interest in the audience, which is promising for the industry.

It was interesting to see that although researchers claim: “Meat Alternatives need to have the look, taste and texture of meat”, the audience disagreed. The most important factors voiced by participants when it comes to meat alternatives: that the production and rearing was controlled in a manner equal to meat, fish or poultry.

  • reliable and quality sources
  • responsibly produced

Other points I found interesting during the discussion had less to do with alternatives themselves, but instead with how or what can influence progress:

1. Food security: when meat prices go up, insects will have a chance.

We’ve heard this before with oil based fuels vs clean energy. We’ve seen spikes and valley, but oil prices haven’t pushed a major long term bump in clean energy.

2. Food education: Anke Jenssen reminded us that not very long ago a group of children were asked where potato chips came from. Kids responded “from trees”.

We need to pump up the education on food. Our children need to know how it’s grown, or raised and what it looks like raw and processed.  Studies and experiments where children are introduced to insects, and insect tasting, have overwhelmingly positive responses. Let’s steer clear of projecting our “insect ick” fears on our children. Instead, let’s roll up our sleeves and start educating. And not just on insects, but on all forms of food.

3. Food related decisions: Did you know that we unconsciously make more than 300 food related decisions today?

This is a challenge for the food industry, both in a positive and negative way. We are apparently obsessed with food, so why we are making all those decisions, let’s see how we can train our minds to think more responsibly and sustainably.

4. Difficult products:

Not from this session, but it ties in. During a break earlier in the day, Valerio said something about “difficult products to market” that hit a chord. He said ” If we are going to sacrifice in the areas of taste and aesthetics, then we really need to highlight the value of nutrition.”

A Final Word on Insects

Insect TastingI’ve learned that with insects, tasting is believing! I always do my best to bring insect tasting to future consumers, and this event was no different.

At the end of the conference, 4Ento organized a product tasting. Thank you to our below friends for providing tasty treats for the attendees to try during the event.

We were excited that Pat from Chapul happened to be in town so he could be present. His insect based Chapul bars were offered during the coffee breaks.

After our panel we offered an Apéro, featuring:

And all were served with cold beer, which being in Belgium only seems fair, right?

And the reactions? Pass the crickets, please!

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