Sector News

Kellogg’s and Unilever partner to unlock new talent and boost plant-based and gut health

December 20, 2020
Food & Drink

Future Food-Tech has welcomed a partnership with Kellogg’s and Unilever. As part of the Innovation Challenge 2021, food-technology start-ups have been invited to submit solutions for plant-based alternatives and digestive health in a move that is set to “unlock talent within industry and enable opportunities for collaboration.”

After a shortlisting process, finalists will pitch their solution to the challenge partners and global audience during a live-streamed virtual Future Food-Tech Summit on March 11-12, 2021.

Tailoring their intentions to bolster business, both Unilever and Kellogg’s revealed what it is they are looking for when it comes to partnering with innovative start-ups.

Unilever wants partnerships to transform the food system into one that is better for people and the planet, by expanding its plant-based food offerings. Meanwhile, Kellogg’s is keen to hear from start-ups with microbiome-based solutions targeting gut wellness.

COVID-19 puts trends in the spotlight
According to Oliver Katz, conference producer for the Future Food-Tech series, COVID-19 has “accelerated existing trends, not necessarily created new ones.”

“Movements including plant-based foods, digitization and automation have been growing for some years, but the current crisis has put a rocket under them, and now we are seeing floods of capital and energy focused on scaling them,” he tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“We were live with our Future Food-Tech summit in December when Eat Just made its historic announcement about cell-based meat in Singapore. This milestone can only open doors for further ground-breaking announcements,” he reveals.

Consumer behavior evolves
2020 has been a year of disruption and change, with lasting impact on how business is run and, critically, how consumers buy and consume food, adds Katz.

“We’ve seen a boom in digital technologies from communications to online purchasing, and trends toward both healthier food choices and the convenience and comfort of snacking,” he continues.

As focus remains on immune-boosting foods, Katz believes there will be a convergence of health with convenience, plus a deepening understanding among consumers of their personal nutrition needs and food options.

“Our speakers will explore these priorities at the upcoming Future Food-Tech Summit in March 2021, exploring new collaborations and partnerships to build a stronger, more sustainable food system,” he urges.

Unilever eyes health for people and the planet
Unilever recently set a target of €1 billion (US$1.2 billion) annual sales turnover from the plant-based category.

“This announcement is part of our Future Foods ambition, and has two key objectives: to help people transition toward healthier diets, and to help reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain,” Wendy van Herpen, R&D director Foods & Refreshment at Unilever, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“The transition to healthier eating requires us to reformulate our existing foods to comply with the highest nutritional standards. Lowering the sugar, salt and calorie count in our products is central to this commitment,” she notes.

“If we think we can do it alone – we are not thinking big enough. Future Food-Tech is a key platform to connect and work together toward a food system that is better for people and better for our planet,” adds Manfred Aben, vice president for science and technology, Foods & Refreshment at Unilever.

Repairing a broken food system
“Together, we can come up with solutions to tackle the challenges the world is facing and that our current food system has an impact on. Think about climate change, obesity versus hunger, food waste, and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. As a global foods manufacturer, we have a huge responsibility to tackle these issues,” van Herpen continues.

“We need to work in partnerships to transform the food system into a system that is better for people and the planet. Future Food Tech enables us to form these partnerships,” she comments.

Wellness comes in many forms
Unilever has also committed to halving food waste in its direct global operations from factory to shelf by 2025 and doubling the number of products delivering positive nutrition globally by 2025, and continuing lowering calorie, salt and sugar levels across products.

These areas – plant-based products and alternative protein, food waste, and positive nutrition – are essential for its food innovation.

“We are also committed to producing more fortified foods,” continues van Herpen.

According to the World Health Organization, two billion people are still affected by micronutrient deficiency. “Still, fortifying foods with small, safe doses of essential micronutrients such as vitamins A and D, iodine, iron, and zinc are simple ways to counter this deficiency,” she outlines.

Unlocking the microbiome
Finally, Kellogg prioritizes innovation in new plant fibers, valorized fibers from waste streams, prebiotics, postbiotics, fermented ingredients and non-spore food stable probiotics.

D’Anne Hayman, vice president of global innovation and nutrition at Kellogg, says: “As a global plant-based food company, nourishing with our foods is at the heart of Kellogg’s commitment to well-being.”

By Elizabeth Green


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