A Review of the Meat the Future Exhibition

I attended Meat the Future with fellow IFST members in March 2022. This is a review I coauthored with a great colleague, Susan Arkley on behalf of the Institute.

Photo from IFST’s Food Science & Technology magazine June issue

AN IFST REVIEW OF “MEAT THE FUTURE” EXHIBITION AT THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Across the world 90% of people are meat eaters and global consumption of meat is rising. Meat production is already contributing to potentially catastrophic climate change and if nothing changes, future demands will require impossible amounts of land and water.

On Wednesday 30th March 2022, 15 members from IFST’s Midlands branch and from the Food Innovation SIG met, some for the first time, for a guided tour of “Meat the Future” exhibition at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, that ran until May 2022. The exhibition considered some of the key findings of the LEAP (Livestock, Environment and People) project, that studied the health, environmental, social and economic impacts of meat and dairy production and consumption and ran between 2017 and 2021 www.leap.ox.ac.uk .

The exhibition was targeted at the general public and was presented in a very visual, non-judgemental and accessible way. It was a great starting point to consider some of the many factors that contribute to this complex conversation.

This article will give a brief summary of some of the key information from the exhibition, as well as share the implications and considerations from a food science and technology perspective as considered by the IFST members who attended.

The guided tour comprised not only of the exhibits themselves, but also of the behind-the-scenes considerations such as selecting the relevant research information, working with designers to create eye catching exhibits and choosing the correct location within the museum to house the exhibition. The exhibition was designed to look like a high street with the majority of the exhibits displayed in a ‘shopfront’ window. A really eye catching and clever design, as each ‘shopfront’ represented a different aspect of the production, selling and consumption of meat both globally and domestically.

These were the various sections of the exhibition and their key messages:

The Butchers Shop – exploring the public’s understanding of the issues surrounding meat production and consumption and its cultural significance

The display had trays of meat in between rows of fake grass and joints of meat hanging on hooks. There were also quotes from Museum volunteers and visitors who had been asked to complete the sentence: Meat is…

…best as beef in a Sunday lunch

…delicious and best enjoyed in moderation

…too morally fraught to be consumed if other options are available

…bad for my health, bad for the planet, bad for the animals

The answers showed a wide spectrum of perspectives. From highlighting how entrenched meat consumption is in our daily lives to signs that the public are beginning to question its environmental, nutritional and ethical credentials.

Prompted by the this exhibit our group discussed the cultural importance of meat in the diet as another key factor.

Come dine with me – providing the facts around global levels of meat consumption

The second window showed a café front, with tables complete with red gingham tablecloths and plates of ‘burgers.’ Stacks of burgers were used to show how meat consumption had changed in the US, Brazil, UK, China and India between 1961 and 2013. It was a very good, visually impactful way of showing how meat consumption is linked to prosperity growth.

Photo from exhibition

Most notable was the manyfold increase in meat consumption in Brazil (75g per person per day in 1961 to 267g in 2013) and China (10g in 1961 to 69g in 2013) that followed the increase in the populations’ wealth, with the consumption of meat, culturally representing “proof” of personal wealth. Meat consumption in India has remained the same at 10g, 22 times lower than in the UK, due to religious dietary requirements and a less wealthy population. As for the US, it remains top of the meat consumption chart, at a staggering 243g per person per day in 1961 and 316g in 2013.

Living off the land – agricultural practices and how they have changed over the years

This exhibit was presented as a set of shelves, with various toys, pictures and items on display.

40% of the world’s total land area is currently dedicated to agriculture, providing livelihoods to millions. But how did farming develop from a traditional local enterprise to the global industry it is today? And how has science enabled farmers to satisfy the world’s increasing appetite for meat?

In the Middle Ages people farmed strips of land leased from the Lord of the Manor. By rotating the crops, they kept the soil fertile and grazed animals on the areas left fallow. During the 20th Century, farmers used scientific breeding methods to improve their livestock. There are 34 native cattle breeds in the UK, each selectively bred to thrive in different conditions and produce milk, beef or both. Today 14 of the cattle breeds are classed as rare.

During WW2, Britain was forced to produce more food when imports nearly stopped, but this came at a heavy cost to biodiversity as woods were cut down and ancient grasslands dug up to plant crops.

High Stakes – explaining the environmental impact of meat production

Farmers now raise more animals than ever to slaughter for meat. Vast areas of forest are cleared for grazing, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing widespread biodiversity loss and changing ecosystems irreversibly. Crops grown for animal feed require more land, fertiliser and irrigation – competing for water and other resources needed for human food. As ruminant animals digest food they release methane, which is significantly more damaging to the environment than CO2, into the environment contributing to climate change.

The exhibition proposed 5 interventions that could reduce habitat loss considerably:

  • Healthier diets
  • Halving food waste
  • Better yields from agriculture
  • Global sharing of farming
  • New Food Choices

The IFST group noted that there was no mention of the ethics or legislation of meat production, animal welfare or animal husbandry in the exhibition. As scientist we were interested to understand more about current research into methane reduction.

New eco labelling for food – providing consumers with information on the true environmental impact of their food choices

This exhibit was designed to replicate a supermarket chiller cabinet containing packaged food displaying eco labels.

“There is a strong public desire for free choice in what we eat, but in reality, our diet is already shaped by what businesses offer us to buy and how it is labelled and marketed.” Dr Tara Garnett, LEAP project scientist

How can we cut back on meat and eat differently? It will take a global effort to alter the economics of food production – governments, researchers, scientists and citizens are all part of this conversation. Consumer choice is important, too. Researchers are proposing a new system of environmental labelling to give shoppers a clearer picture of the impact of their food – from field to fork. Trials are underway here in Oxford to test the proposed eco labels on canteen-goers. 

Based on the familiar Nutriscore nutrition labels (5 levels of impact), the ecolabels being trialled rate food products according to their positive or negative impact on water scarcity, water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity. As well as giving consumers more choice, researchers hope that food producers will respond with new products with lower environmental impact. Tests to find the most effective design have been underway. 

Our IFST attendees thought that the approach taken for the ecolabelling was clear and informative. Would consumers be willing to pay more for a lower impact food product?

Sowing seeds of a new diet – debugging some of the myths around meat consumption and nutrition

A diet including meat has been the norm for human beings across the world for hundreds of thousands of years. Genetic evidence shows some populations adapted to eating farmed dairy products 5,000 years ago at the dawn of agriculture. Our bodies rely on animal products such as meat, eggs or dairy for supplies of vitamin B12 that we require for survival. We have also evolved to absorb iron much more easily from meat than from any plant we eat.

But are there any health risks involved in a meat-heavy diet? And if we reduce our meat-eating, or cut it out altogether, what are the best strategies to get all the vital nutrients we need?

Planetary health diet – what would an environmentally friendly diet look like?
Our planet has plenty of capacity to feed all of the eight billion people alive today. If we make sensible decisions in the coming year, it can even feed nine – ten billion, which is where experts predict the population is most likely to be by 2050. But the demand for meat is already pushing the environment to its limits.

In the UK, we eat 223g of meat per person per day (2013 figures). This is more than twice the global average.

So how much meat can the planet sustainably produce? The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, and Health tried to answer this and came up with an estimate of 43g per person each day, divided between red meat and poultry – similar to the amount we ate before the age of industrialisation and factory farming. Other approaches have come up with different numbers, but all agree on less meat than we eat today in the UK.

A number of studies including the EAT-Lancet planetary health report have recommended eating more than double our current amount of plant-based foods and less than half the amount of sugars and red meat. This report proposes that if we all did this, we could feed our growing population, live healthier, longer lives and reduce our impact on the environment.

Meat tomorrow – how science and technology can help us follow a planet friendly diet

Our bodies evolved to eat meat and benefit from the nutrients it provides. Now, our diets can evolve to give us the nutrition we need without adding to the climate crisis. Science and technology built the meat industry we thought we needed. But today, research is helping us see why and how we need to do things differently.

Biting the Bullet – Final thoughts

What if everyone in the world adopted a ‘flexitarian’ diet with no processed meat, small amounts of red meat (one serving a week), moderate amounts of other animal-source foods (poultry, fish and dairy), and generous amounts of plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts). What effects would this have?

Landuse: We would need 8% less agricultural land, largely because we would need less grain to feed livestock. This freed up land could be used to grow nutritious crops for humans or returned to forest to store more carbon and increase biodiversity.

Water use quality and fertilisers: Agriculture would need 11% less water, allowing more to be used to maintain wetland, rivers and other biodiversity-rich freshwater habitats. We would use up to 24% less nitrogen and 18% less phosphorous in fertiliser applications so less would run off the land to damage drinking water quality and pollute our rivers, lakes and oceans.

Emissions: We could more than halve (55%) the greenhouse gas emissions from the food system – about a 10% reduction in all emissions from human activity.

Biodiversity: We could see up to 40% less species extinction, due to less land converted to agriculture and less pollution.

Health: The number of premature deaths due to diet-related diseases, such as heart disease and some cancers could decrease by 20%; this is due to the benefits of a healthy diet leading to a healthy weight, the positive effects of high-fibre diets as well as reductions in the incidence of diabetes and some vascular diseases and some cancers.

This exhibition generated a lot of discussion between the IFST group both during the guided tour and the coffee that followed. Some of the take outs and discussion points were:

  • How can we as citizens make a positive change by eating differently? Every mouthful we take makes a statement about the future we want for ourselves and our planet.
  • How can we go about changing cultures that see meat as a sign of wealth and prosperity?
  • The claims and declaration space will become a lot more complicated in the future and food scientists and technologists need to stay on top of developments.
  • This exhibition was a good starting point for a conversation with consumers. More needs to be done and at a faster pace and food scientists and technologists have a key role to play in this.
  • Food science and technology professionals and IFST have a pivotal role in creating the future of food.

We would like to thank the team at Oxford University Museum of Natural History for welcoming IFST.

You can find out more about the exhibition on the museum’s website https://oumnh.ox.ac.uk/learn-meat-the-future

About LEAP:

LEAP is supported by the Wellcome Trust’s  Our Planet Our Health Programme and is one of four major interdisciplinary research partnerships in the areas of global food systems and urbanization. 

The four-year project (2017-2021) is directed by Professor Charles Godfray (Hope Professor and Director of the Oxford Martin School and Future of Food Programme) and Professor Susan Jebb (Professor of Diet and Population Health, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences) and project managed by Dr Kelly Reed.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Oxford, the  International Food Policy Research Institute  (IFPRI), the supermarket group Sainsbury’s and  The Nature Conservancy . We also work in partnership with other researchers supported by the Wellcome Trusts Our Planet Our Health programme including  Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS) , led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Mini-livestock: insects as sustainable and healthy food, led by Wageningen University, Netherlands, and the  LSHTM and SOAS Sustainability Health Projects.

https://www.leap.ox.ac.uk/about

Susan Arkley MBA, FIFST is a Product Development and Innovation Specialist, Food Consultant and Lecturer, Chair of the IFST Food Innovation Special Interest Group and Secretary of IFST Midlands Branch

Valia Christidou MSc, FIFST is a mentor and lecturer in New Product Development and an Innovation and Product Development Consultant to the Food Industry

IFE 2022 Review

Highlights from the recent food show at Excel London in March 2022

Arguably, the biggest highlight of the exhibition was the fact there was one ! Face to Face ! After two years of being glued to a computer screen, we could now meet people in the flesh and see and taste product. There was a buzz about the place and I certainly felt that everyone was very friendly and chatty.

Trends :
Not surprising, businesses were eager to showcase their ecological and nutritional credentials. There were a lot of vegan  and meat alternative products, a lot of fruit and nut snack products. Also, there was focus on no added sugar, no palm oil and high protein.

Another trend was catering for pets as well as humans in the hospitality section. A pub supplies business was offering human and dog snacks in their portfolio.

Dog treats and drinks as well as snacks for humans for the pub trade.

Considering the implications your product and packaging has for the environment, is no longer a “good to have” or simply a “trend”.

Some of the products that I thought were worth sharing :

So what does this mean for a Product Developer and NPD professional? The food industry has never been so lively and so experimental. Considering the implications your product and packaging has for the environment is no longer a “good to have” or simply a “trend”. It is the responsibility of a product developer and of a business. The same goes for the nutritional credentials of a product.

#foodinnovation #foodshow #ife2022 #seaweedcrisps #paperwise #brainfood #mitsuba #yaar #doughlicious #savourycookies #renourish #paperpackaging #ifereview #npd

A year and a half of blogs

“I promise to not set any targets…”

When I exchanged life in the corporate world for life in the world of portfolio careers and “giving back” careers in 2020, I set myself the challenge of collecting as many new experiences as I could possibly manage!

All my “firsts” from June 20 to Oct 21, including my 1st Blog Sept 20

Top of the list was to create a Blog that would share my love for New Product Development, Innovation, Food and stuff that I have learned and experienced in my 30+ years of working in the food and in particularly bakery, confectionary and snacks industry.
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking : “Where all the “bad” foods live!”. I say: “Where all the “good” but sometimes “naughty” foods live”.

I promise to not set any targets* for “It’s Only Biscuits…”. I promise to allow it to remain a joyful experience every time I sit down and write. I promise to share more Oops, points of view and Innovation.

I spent some time creating my website – this was one of the “firsts” – and chosing a name (funny how you can spend hours and days looking for the perfect name and then suddenly, one day, you see it. It’s always been there, looking at you huffing and puffing about a name, from a distance, waiting for you to come full circle and (re)discover it), before my first blog post said hello to the world in September 2020. I blogged regularly for the first year, then the “other” firsts started demanding more of my time, so my blogs slowed down.

So let’s do a quick look back before I make a plan make a promise for 2022.

“It’s Only Biscuits…” in numbers in the last 18 months:
Blogs: 25
Views: 2280
Visits: 798
Countries: 44
Twitter posts: 256
Instagram posts: 67

WoW!
I know these numbers are a tiny drop in the universe of knowledge and communication, but it is my drop and I love it.
I loved making the collection of IdeaGen habits, with the help of my friends (March 21 post ).
I loved sharing some (there’s more where these came from) learnings a.k.a. Oops! moments of my career as a product developer, in the hope that I could save other developers time and embarassment. (see Lessons section)
I loved attending webinars on how to build a website.

So what is my promise for 2022 ?
I promise to not set any targets* for “It’s Only Biscuits…”. I promise to allow it to remain a joyful experience every time I sit down and write. I promise to share more Oops, points of view and Innovation.

  • well maybe a few little ones:
    to issue a second edition of the IdeaGen list
    to create a compilation of “Product Development lessons through Films” (working title)
    to maybe create my first podcast
    to….VALIA STOP!

ONCE UPON A TIME…

The story of nutritional improvements in biscuits.

If we were to write a children’s book about how biscuit recipes evolved over the years, it would start something like this: “Once upon a time, biscuits were made using partially hydrogenated fats with trans fatty acids, artificial colours and flavours and had a lot of salt and sugar…”

This is an article I wrote for June’s edition of Food & Drink Technology where I take a whistle stop tour of nutritional improvement in biscuits, attempt to see what the future holds and the role that food scientists and technologists have to play.

photo of the article in Food and drink technology

The NOVA classification of foods1 mentions artificial flavours and colours, hydrogenated fat and trans fatty acids with negative connotations regarding the role they should (not) have in someone’s diet. Reading it I admit that I feel a sense of pride that as a food technologist I have played my part in removing these ingredients and additives from biscuits produced in the UK.

I was there when…

  • Partially hydrogenated fats were removed
  • Artificial flavours and colours were replaced by natural ones
  • Saturated fat was reduced, especially in savoury biscuits
  • Salt content started to come down
  • Fibre levels were increased across certain brand ranges
  • Sugar reduction and calorie reduction became central to a business’ growth plans

These changes span 25 years and are the result of a lot of hard work, research and development across ingredient suppliers and manufacturers and in some cases, equipment manufacturers. If I were to distil the learnings of this work into three areas of focus for food technologist or scientist, these would be the following:

Follow the Science

A product developer will always have a large number of things to consider, from consumer acceptance of a reformulated product, to its financial viability and from regulatory compliance to project interdependencies. Their starting point though should always be science, especially as there is so much misinformation out there.

A good example here is the removal of partially hydrogenated fats in the ‘90’s. When scientists confirmed the harmful impact of trans fatty acids in these fats, then reformulation and sourcing of alternative fats became an imperative.

However, even a small change in functional ingredients like fats or salt can require significant process changes and sometimes investment in a new process. For example, salt reduction can affect the strength of a biscuit. A more fragile biscuits means that transfer points and packing need a rethink or that mixing and forming need to be modified to strengthen the biscuit in different ways.

Understand the options available to you and chose the most appropriate one for your brand, product, process. For sugar reduction2, there are three approaches that can reduce the overall amount of sugar consumed.

Consider the whole supply chain

A change in one ingredient can often have implications for the whole supply chain. Fried snacks were the first to change from high saturated frying fats to high oleic sunflower oil. The biscuit industry followed by changing spray oil in savoury biscuits from coconut oil c 80% sat fat to palm, sunflower or mixtures of the two. Procurement departments had to identify and audit new suppliers and put new contracts in place whilst coming out of other contracts. In turn, ingredient suppliers had to ensure farmers planted enough crops.

Listen to your consumers

If I have learnt one think in all my years in the industry this is that consumers are extremely precious about their favourite brands and products. A nutritionally improved product that consumers reject by switching to alternatives with poorer credentials, is of no use to anyone.

When it comes to nutritional improvements that affect the sensory characteristics of a product, there can be two approaches: implementing consumer perceivable changes or slight non perceivable changes.

Switching from artificial to natural colours fell in the first category. In the early days of natural colours some could not be replicated using naturally derived ingredients and were therefore taken out of a product’s portfolio.

Salt reduction followed the second route when it started as a voluntary initiative in 2004. PHE later issued targets for 2017 and more recently new targets for sweet biscuits and cake for 20243. The route taken then by most brands was to execute small reductions every 6 to 12 months, thus gradually re calibrating one could say, the palate of the nation.

Follow the science, Consider the whole supply chain and Listen to your consumers. Three key things a product developer must do when reformulating.

The way forward: Research, Prioritisation and Education

We do not need a crystal ball to see that there will be more legislation for products high in fat, salt and sugar4, nor that the industry will continue to make further nutritional improvements whilst trying to maintain great taste. It is also true to say that the low hanging fruit have been picked. I believe that the way forward needs to include:

  • Investing in ingredient technology as well as in developing new processes. Both need to be high on the list of priorities for businesses, research centres and government.
  • Continuing research into the role of nutrition in human health. For example, we have just scratched the surface of understanding the effect of nutrition on our microbiome.
  • Educating consumers from an early age on how to have a balanced diet5 and an active life, finding creative ways to make it easy for people to make better choices.

The pandemic has shown us that when there is clear prioritisation and collaboration, anything can be achieved. Few believed that a vaccine could be created and rolled out within months.

What if for example, all technology that enables reformulation and nutritional improvement was open technology and there were substantial incentives for process improvements so that new technologies could be adopted quickly!

We are not ready to write the end of the story, yet, but my hope and belief is that when we do it will go something like this “…and all the people of the land followed a balanced, healthy diet and the people that baked lovely, tasty biscuits worked hard and collaboratively to make their biscuits as nutritious as possible and the scientists of the land continued their research supported by the all.
To be continued….”

Reference

1 NOVA

2 PHE Sugar reduction progress 2015 – 2019

3 PHE Salt reduction targets 2024 

4 HFSS legislation

5 Eatwell guide

#eatwellguide #nova #biscuits #nutritionalimprovement #foodtechnology #productdevelopment #HFSS

Best Food Films: The Chef

Great food needs love, imagination and an open mind. The rise of street food.

Wow! Where do I start with this film? Do we talk about the great food, the great music (if you love salsa and the cha cha cha, this is the soundtrack for you) or the mouthwatering cooking scenes? Take your pick!
OK…or the sad reality of a kid having to “educate” his dad on how ot use twitter? Some of us, of a certain age, can probably sympathise with this last one…

What I would like to talk about is the reinvention of street food over the last few years. This post can easily sit under my posts on Trends. Just like any other real trend, it comes on the scene, gradually and quietly (sometimes) and before you know it, it is everywhere!

I remember going to a music festival many years ago and seeing a food van that was very different to the usual burger and chips food vans. It was imaginatively decorated, the cooking smells were inviting and the food itself juicy and flavourful with delicate spice notes.
Over the years the casual outdoors food scene has been transformed. Food vans and eating on a park bench have become the preferred thing to do and with good reason. They offer new flavours and textures, are informal and approachable, friendly and fun and of course good value for money. Why have a dry old sandwich for lunch when you can take a walk and enjoy some fabulous freshly cooked food? You can tell the good food trucks because, just like in the film, the queues are long. These are places of inspiration for a product developer.

I would even go as far as saying, why bother with formal restaurants, bookings and time slots when you can walk into a food paradise like say, Seven Dials Market in Covent Garden. The food there can transport you to far away places, from Mexico to Thailand and from New York to Manila!
We are very fortunate in London, with a plethora of greta treet food places, Borough Market, Kerb Campden Market, Maltby Street Market and many more. But if you think that this is a London thing, then think again. Great street food is everywhere. Just check the British Street Food Awards’ list and you’ll find many great places all around the country. https://britishstreetfood.co.uk/

Steet food offers new flavours and textures, is informal and approachable, friendly and fun and of course good value for money. A place of inspiration for any product developer.

#thechef #thechefmovie #innovation #productdevelopment #foodtechnology #bestfoodfilms #streetfood #foodvan

Trends #3: There’s more to snacks than potato crisps

Alternative bases for snacks seem to be growing in popularity in the snacks market.

With the lockdown in the UK easing and the shops opening again, I decided to treat myself to one of my favourite pastimes, a day in London. I knew it would still not be quite the same as the PC (pre COVID) days, but I did anticipate and plan the date with a lot of excitement. I was going to spend my day strolling around Kensington and Knightsbridge. I would start with a bookstore to check out any new cookery books, then move on to Whole Foods for some inspiration, I was also hoping to find this new citrus fruit called Sumo Citrus to try, then lunch in Hyde park and after this maybe a stroll to Harrods’ food hall.

OK, I feel I am losing you now, so I’ll get to the point. I had a look at Whole Foods’ savoury snacks section. There were about 10 shelves with various products. Only 2 had potato crisps and maybe one shelf had corn or rice based snacks. The rest featured snacks with a plethora of other bases. Amongst them were nuts, vegetables, pulses, cereals other than wheat, seaweed even fish skin. Some of them were claiming lower fat, environmentally sustainable, higher protein or lower calories, but all emphasised taste !

Five savoury snack products made with alternative bases like seaweek, fish skin, cheese, pulses
Just a small selection of savoury snacks with alternative bases

Of course with the introduction of new bases, we see new processes. Rather than slicing and frying or sheeting and baking, there is a lot of “popping”, drying, or extruding.
Since the launch of Snack-a-Jacks (early naughties in the UK), probably the first alternative base and technology in a long time and with a healthier message, we have seen the rise of popcorn, the slow but consistent growth of other popped products and more recently the introduction of pulses and vegetables. Sourdough is also one to watch, but we’ll talk about sourdough another day.

So, is it the end of the potato crisp ? I don’t think so. The flavour and texture sensation that you get from crisps is well engrained into our memory banks. Plus potato is a genuinely great base for flavours, both when we are cooking and when we are snacking and let’s not forget the economics of it.
If however, the question was “So, is the diversity that we are seeing in snack bases now, going to continue?” then I believe that the answer is a definite YES!
In other words, this is a developer’s dream situation. A market that ready to break with tradition, a consumer that wants to experiment and endless ingredient options.

If however, the question was “So, is the diversity that we are seeing in snack bases now, going to continue?” then I believe that the answer is a definite YES!

NB. If you have been watching any of the cookery programmes, you are bound to have noticed the introduction of crispy fish skin to add texture and interest to a dish. A great shortcut, and I am not suggesting that you take shortcuts, is Seachips. They are also great with a cold beer.

#foodtrends #innovation #productdevelopment #alternativesnacks

Innovation Tools #3: A Development Framework

What are the things that a developer needs to be aware of and develop within so that they can be free to create a fantastic product ?

I’ll keep this simple:


Q: What does a product developer need to consider during the development of a new product?
A: A lot…..The end!

Wow, that’s a bit scary, isn’t it ? But fear not.
A. We’ll break it down into bits (how do you eat an elephant?) and
B. A product developer does not need to know it all, they just need to know who to consult and bring into the team at the right time.

You can now see the link between the photo of the Parthenon at the start of the blog! You can take the girl out of Athens but you cannot take Athens out of the girl !

There are lots of ways to depict the key considerations, you can have them as a beautiful flower with the consumer experience in the centre or a golf course where you need to get to all the holes before you get to the prize… I decided to go for a house frame. It may be inflexible, but once sorted you are free to decorate the house as you like ! (Ok maybe parallels are not my strong point 😂)

Let’s explore each section:

The absolute foundation is of course food safety, legality and financial viability, for the last one I have assumed that you are developing for a food business and therefore if there is no profit, the product is not sustainable. Not much else to add here, other than that by safety you need to think microbes, toxins, contamination, allergies, foreign matter, product use etc. and by legal, think export markets, special dietary groups etc.

The pillars come next.

  • Sustainability of materials – this is key and the responsible thing to do for the planet.
  • Ethical sourcing – how are your materials produced ? This is often a procurement person’s responsibility, but it is worth you asking the question.
  • Consistent Quality – this is a product developer’s “bread & butter”. Defining and setting quality parameters, checks etc is what we do. The trick here is to think the whole supply chain i.e. from having confidence that your materials are consistent at every delivery, to what happens during your manufacturing process, during transport, retailer handling of the product and even in the consumer’s environment. The product may have left your space of jurisdiction, but it is still your “baby”.
  • Shelf life – This is another one of our “bread & butter” activities.
  • Brand Alignment – the example here is designing a recipe with for example, artificial flavours when the brand is all about natural ingredients ⛔️.
  • Waste Proofing – have a look at one of my previous posts Waste Not Want Not
  • Carbon footprint – understanding a product’s footprint and then creating a plan to reduce it is important. We’ve got to do this if we are serious about moving the dial in the race to tackle climate change. Again, this is not the responsibility of the product developer, but you do need to know enough to ask the right questions.

If you stay on top of these questions and you structure your activities to take them into account as you progress through the stages of a project – it can be done, you can build processes and templates for this to happen – then you can avoid bad surprises and put your energy in creating a wonderful consumer experience and a great tasting product. You can focus on creating recipes that deliver on a claim or promise and deliver the brief.

You can build processes and templates that will allow all the right questions to be asked at the right time of a project’s stage, so that you can put your energy in creating a fab consumer experience.

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that I make no mention of nutritional targets or claims. This is simply because, if these are regulatory targets they fall within the foundations, if they are self imposed ones, for example x% of fat because it is in the brand’s DNA, they would sit under the brand pillar.

#innovationtools #productdevelopment #innovation #consumerexperience #innovationframework #innovationtemplates

Best Food Films: Chocolat

Keeping an open mind when it comes to flavour combinations can produce fireworks!

Easter is synonymous with chocolate for a lot of people and the classic chocolate film has to be Chocolat.
Is there anyone who has not seen Chocolat ? A young Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche plus other great actors and lot of chocolate. What more can one ask for ?

“Chilli…in hot chocolate ?”

The film has a wonderful plot that touches on a number of topics, the main one being how much we sometimes restrict ourselves and impose rules on ourselves, even if deep down we do not agree with them, because of what people may think.

But for a product developer and a food lover, the film offers so much more. In fact, I think this is probably the one film that I can watch without sound and still find the chocolate and food scenes mesmerising. I have been very lucky to work with chocolate a lot and I can promise you it is one of the best media to work with.

If I were to chose one scene though, it would be the one where Vianne’s character serves hot chocolate with chilli 🌶. I remember I had not seen this combination before and ran to try it. I was surprised to taste a beautiful, smooth, coco-ey hot drink, where the heat carried on and bridged the sips. It was bright and uplifting.

Not all weird and wonderful flavour and ingredient combinations will work, but our role is to keep an open mind and never stop experimenting.
I wrote about my discovery of fresh bay leaf in brewed tea a while back. This was also an unexpected combination that worked.

Not all weird and wonderful flavour and ingredient combinations will work, but our role is to keep an open mind and never stop experimenting.

#flavour #innovation #productdevelopment #chocolat #bestfoodfilm

Trend #2: Waste not Want not

Is designing product, process and packaging where nothing is wasted, the new North Star ?

This week I read about fashion designers in Japan (and I am sure in lots of other places) creating “mottainai” fashion, CNN article. Last week I spoke with a colleague, expert in sustainability, who said the one thing product developers need to be designing into everything they do is total consumption of all the energy that is used to create a product. Only last week it was Food waste action week. The food people have identified getting thrifty as one of the top 10 trends.
I think we all get the picture aa well as the importance and the urgency of the situation.

So what does this mean for a developer ? Yes it is more things to think about, yes it is more restrictions on top of the usual (regulatory, safety, cost etc) … or rather, this is one way of seeing it. The other way is that this is your opportunity to make a difference. Besides you already know that us product developers are super humans, so no problem !

On the face of it it may seem like a mammoth task, but take a step at a time. It is true what they say that the journey starts with a step. The sooner in your creative and development journey you consider these aspects, the better the product you’ll design. Before long all these considerations will become second nature.
Before you ask, I appreciate that waste reduction is not the only thing that needs to be considered. There is carbon footprint, nutritional value, ethical sourcing. These are for another post !

Once upon a time it was enough to have a great idea, create a great tasting recipe on bench and then scale it up. So long as it was legal, safe, great tasting and financially viable you were good to go. Thank goodness those days are long gone and I am glad for this.

The sooner in your creative and development journey you consider these aspects, the better the product you’ll design. Before long all these considerations will become second nature.

#innovation #wastereduction #productdevelopment #sustainability #thefoodpeople

Innovation tools #2: Idea Generation Tips

Last January I wrote about idea generation and whether this was a skill that could be learned (BTW the answer you are looking here is YES).

I then thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to put together all the ways I know about coming up with ideas”. “Why not share it with everyone!” was my next thought. “Why not ask friends and colleagues to contribute” was the one that followed.

At that point I stopped thinking and got to work and with the help of good friends I curated this edition of 20 tips plus some resources.

Big thank you to all the contributors and especially to Muryel Boulay and Riccardo Weber for their suggestions and builds.

I hope you find it useful.

I hope you find it useful. If you have any ideation tips to share, I’d be glad to have them and add to the next edition.

#ideation #ideageneration #innovation #productdevelopment #creativity&