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Food Innovation makes its debut at TechInnovation 2017

This year’s TechInnovation welcomes leaders and experts in food innovation to share their views on what will drive the food and beverage trends in the near future, as well as novel technologies that will shape the food sector.

Exploring food innovation is a first for the two-day event, now in its sixth year. Held on 19 and 20 September at Marina Bay Sands and organised by IPI Singapore, enterprises and researchers will tackle topics central to the food industry, such as nutrition, food distribution, food security, and automation.

Ensuring food quality

Augustus Alesiunas, CEO of FOODsniffer, will explain in detail the technology and inspiration behind his product. FOODsniffer is the world’s first handheld device that determines the freshness of raw meat, poultry and fish. Farm-to-fork trends ensure food remains safe, and FOODsniffer can help consumers determine how fresh their food really is. Once wirelessly connected to your smartphone via an app, it measures raw meat gas levels, analyses results and within a matter of seconds, tells you the level of its freshness and safeness to eat.

Alesiunas plans to moot the FOODsniffer to home appliance manufacturers. “It adds value when it comes to competing against other home appliance manufacturers in the market, as the refrigerators of today now have smart sensors inside to differentiate themselves,” he said.

The short shelf life of meat means consumers have to be extra careful when consuming it. The amount of bacteria increases once the meat gets processed, and it gets spoiled at a faster rate when it is defrosted outside the refrigerator or in the microwave.

“We have developed a system, which is able to detect signs of food spoilage quickly, and have managed to patent this system in Europe and the US. We are also due to complete our R&D, after which we will be able to offer sensors that can work in low temperatures – a development which should be really interesting for major home appliance manufacturers worldwide,” added Alesiunas.

A deep dive into consumer demand

Jane Barnett, head of insights of ANZ, SE Asia, India of global market intelligence agency, Mintel, will present the latest in food trends and studies at TechInnovation 2017. She noted that the vegan and vegetarian movements are influencing consumer demand. “As reflected in Mintel’s 2017 Global Food and Drink Trend ‘Power to the Plants’, more manufacturers are releasing or promoting formulations that centre on plants and the relative flavours, fortifications and functionalities they can add to food and drink products,” said Barnett.

The trend establishes a growing interest in dairy and meat alternative products, she continued. She also highlighted an interesting trend among lower-income consumers. “The affordability of healthy food and drink is important because many lower-income consumers intend to improve their lifestyles,” said Barnett.

According to Mintel research, 51 per cent of urban Chinese consumers aged 20 to 49 with low household incomes are spending more on healthy food than they had before. “Therefore, more food and drink innovations that make it easier for lower-income consumers to fulfil their healthier eating ambitions will be needed,” she further noted.

Developing healthier options

Witnessing the diabetes epidemic was what led Food Innovation presenter Alan Phua to create Alchemy Foodtech with his co-founder Verleen Goh. Alan, the Master Builder at Alchemy Foodtech was inspired to fight diabetes in his own way, after both his grandmothers and an uncle passed away due to diabetes complications. Presently, 5 out of 6 of his mother’s siblings are suffering from type 2 diabetes. 90 percent of diabetics are type 2 which is caused by insulin resistance, and is preventable.

Alchemy Foodtech’s flagship product is Diabetec®, a glycemic lowering food composition made from natural plant sources. Diabetec® has been clinically proven to lower the Glycemic Index (GI) of everyday carbohydrate staples such as refined white rice, bread and noodles without altering the taste, color and texture of the food. Diabetec® is currently patent pending, said Phua.

“A lower GI diet is often cited by endocrinologists and health care professionals to be the most important control factor when it comes to diabetes management and prevention,” said Phua. But lower GI versions of comfort food carbs such as brown rice and wholemeal bread are not as popular, due to their coarse and fibrous texture and nutty taste.

“Diabetec® will be able to help consumers adopt a lower GI diet without any compromise in taste of their staples and will be the most practical option,” said Phua.

“Your bowl of white rice will remain soft, fragrant and white but your blood glucose will no longer spike dangerously,” he said. Alchemy Foodtech is working with food manufacturers such as the rice traders, noodle, bread and bun manufacturers to incorporate Diabetec® into their products.

Transparency in the food chain

Marco Vitale, founder and CEO of Foodchain, works to make the food supply chain more transparent by using big data. Food innovators at TechInnovation can learn how mining data can empower companies and consumers to make more conscious choices over their diets, just by using the data to track the food source and production chain.

Vitale said Foodchain was established with the aim of providing the food industry with an advanced digital tool able to track and trace assets, monitor transactions and perform optimal quality control operations within the production chain.

“Moreover, Foodchain has been designed to support the final consumers in choosing the products that best represent their values and discourage the proliferation of counterfeited goods, promoting transparency, integrity and security of information,” he said.

Advantages of plant-based proteins

Another food technology firm hoping to tackle health issues is Life3 Biotech. Founder Ricky Lin, who will also be speaking at TechInnovation, said he is looking at developing innovative foods and beverages through the use of natural plant-based ingredients. “Our mission is to address current health issues, especially cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and osteoporosis,” said Lin.

Lin aims to make Life3’s plant-based proteins an alternative to animal protein. He intends to do this through “intense layering of protein structure and binding effect” to achieve the ideal taste profile and texture of meat. As a result, consumers can have an easy option now to incorporate a healthier plant-based protein instead of the usual meat, thus achieving a balanced and healthy diet to alleviate growing concerns of diabetes and heart diseases.

“With advancements in food science and technology, formulation of plant-based protein has undergone a major improvement, giving rise to its superior quality and nutrition content. It is fundamentally different from the traditional gluten-based mock meat and certainly a more ethical and sustainable farming for the future,” said Lin

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