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Can Reformulation Save Us?: A snapshot of our time at Sustainable Food Forum

Nick had a great discussion with Reneira O’Donnell from Ellen Macarthur Foundation, mainly about how tasty the cricket protein snacks were! [see pictures] Most of the discussion was about their programme to provide support for companies to help redesign their product and production to support soil health. Their upcoming programme focuses on regenerative production systems for all ingredients, including the upcycling, diversifying and including a variety of lower impact ingredients. Over two hundred companies, globally, signed up but she agreed to extend the deadline for applications so UKEIA members can be encouraged to apply.

Talking to other companies working to create alternative sources of protein there are lots of common challenges regarding sourcing substrates. This should be an area where UKEIA could provide practical support to insect farmers. Something to explore with our members.

The panel discussion Can Reformulation Save Us? looked at making the approach to ingredient selection more sustainable. The discussion ranged widely and highlighted that having ambition is fine but the challenge is to connect to realities – and this often translates into sourcing at scale. People expect food to taste the same all year around which is at odds with the reality of how food is produced. A humous maker shared their difficulty with sourcing some ingredients, particularly herbs, from the natural landscape. There was some discussion about ultra-processed food – for which the definition is very wide. The feeling is that they are here to stay but should be reformulated with ingredients from regenerative farming to improve their impact.

Another panel discussion on Innovation in ingredients and processing. Interesting points included that animal agriculture is expected to double by 2050 and in the US the 5 highest years of meat production per person are the last 5. Different views were given on what will make consumption more sustainable – Good Food Institute argue that expecting massive behaviour change is unrealistic and products must provide taste and price parity. However there is significant turnover of companies trying to work on this basis. Food as medicine was discussed given that consumers don’t want pills or medicine - Can they get what they need in their diet? Many companies are increasingly interested in the functionality of their ingredients. A Seaweed company is looking at impact propositions at scale and cooperation across the value chain. They aim to replace 25% of beef in a burger with seaweed, but they cannot do this alone. It was noted that lots of companies have not delivered the expectations of investors. They are too focused on cool tech from science instead of addressing a real problem.

Nick asked: What Regulatory regimes/countries are most supportive of Innovation in food? Responses…

  • US and Singapore – transparent regulations. GFI found the process has gone well but not quick.

  • Singapore and Israel, challenging. Diverse regimes around the world makes it hard for companies, even differences between US states.

  • NL is interesting - can fast-track new Regulations.

  • Switzerland outside of EU can move more quickly than EU

  • Middle east also good.

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