With representatives from eight Lincolnshire based companies, the inaugural meeting for the NCFM’s ‘Nutrition and NPD Innovations’ breakfast meetings series, took place on the 20th November 2018. The National Centre of Food Manufacturing (NCFM) venue made the perfect start to communicating what is new in the nutrition and NPD arena.

The NCFM at the University of Lincoln are leading a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project to support small to medium sized enterprises in Lincolnshire to enable innovation in our food industry. This project is called the Greater Lincolnshire Agri-Food Innovation Platform (GLAFIP) and it enables us to provide support for short-term projects for Lincolnshire companies. We can help to develop food innovations that can future-proof and support growth of food businesses.

The ‘Nutrition and NPD Innovations’ Breakfast Meetings will continue for the duration of GLAFIP to October 2020 and we expect our next meeting in January 2019 which is not that far away!

Our first meeting showed how the NCFM is supporting the GLAFIP, with the newly formed Food Robotics, Automation and Processing (FRAP); Food Analysis and Microbiology (FAM); and, Food Insights and Sustainability (FIS), Research Clusters.

The meeting was focused on new products and the presentation of the innovative No Dough Pizza and Fit Kitchen products manufactured by Grimsby based Scratch Foods Ltd gave a first-hand view on innovating in this space. The product presentation was delivered first-hand from one of their founders and managing director, Phil Pinnell.

The need for manufacturers to deliver consumers with the fulfilment, indulgence and great nutritional outcomes is challenging. This is the environment that Scratch have made true step changes in, working on meal offers from ‘scratch’ and the NPD insights gained in doing it were discussed. It provided insight into delivering a new type of ‘high density nutrition’ offer to the market.

A major challenge facing us in the Nutrition and NPD arena is the ‘stacking of issues’ which can result in a focus on far more problems than solutions. ‘Stacking’ is where several attributes of nutrition such as salt, sugar, fat, gluten and meat reduction have been combined to provide a noisy mixture of messages that are difficult to decipher when consumers are choosing meals. The resulting drive to identify what is going to be ‘stacked’ next diverts focus on innovating nutrition for whole meals. A far more creative approach is to develop meals that deliver sustainable outcomes for consumers and breaks the high-pressured ‘stacking’ route to market. Placing sustainability thinking into this approach is clearly important to the future food industry!

The discussion was followed by a demonstration of the OAL and NCFM demonstrators of steam infusion and fast cooling of foods by Chris Brooks, OAL’s Development Chef. These demonstrators were established at NCFM in Innovate UK funded projects led by OAL. Examples of this heating and cooling technology are provided for several materials including a Ragu Sauce, which is available to see here. The final demonstration of the day by OAL’s Kyle Constable, who has been recently awarded the PPMA Apprentice of the Year Award, showed how OAL’s steam infusion cooking was placed in-line into factories with robotic and automation technologies. This gave everyone a crystal clear idea of what the term ‘factory of future’ actually means! You can see a version of that demonstration here. Chris also showed how these technologies can tackle issues with challenging materials such as Bechamel Sauces so that consumer experience, nutritional content and manufacturing efficiency are improved.

OAL’s APRIL robotic chef demonstrator in one of the food halls at NCFM

All-in-all, it was a fantastic start to the ‘Nutrition and NPD Innovations’ meetings where the benefit of integrating technology, NPD and sustainability was clear to see. NCFM’s Dr Wayne Martindale, Lead for the Food Insights and Sustainability Research Cluster, facilitates the meetings and he will develop the series. The format will recognise the time given by attendees is valuable, so the 8-10 am delivery is the only thing set in stone.

Ideas for future ‘Nutrition and NPD Innovations’ meetings are very welcome. Please contact Wayne if you would like to be at or know more about the next breakfast meeting.

Break up the stack, start from scratch and build-in sustainability for every meal!