A flavor enhancer, a food waste reduction program and a non-invasive oxygen sensor are the three nominees for the 2016 Food Valley Award.
The judges’ panel selected Scelta Mushrooms’ Taste Accelerator, Q-Point’s inventory and food waste reduction system for the hospitality industry, and SensorSpot’s non-invasive oxygen sensor for MAP packaging.The independent panel assessed the submissions for their innovativeness, economic feasibility, and degree of cooperation. All submissions were socially responsible and sustainable.
“The innovations came from a variety of sources: multinationals, small and medium-sized businesses, and startups,” said Leo den Hartog, chair of the judges’ panel. “Some of the submissions were highly technological, while others were more consumer-oriented or B2B products,” he added.
Den Hartog is R&D director at Nutreco and professor by special appointment at Wageningen UR. The winner of the prestigious Food Valley Award will be announced during the Food Valley Expo in Papendal Conference Center in Arnhem, the Netherlands, on October 13.
Scelta Mushrooms, based in Venlo, the Netherlands, developed a range of flavor enhancers they call the Scelta Taste Accelerator.
Scelta Taste Accelerator enhances the perception of saltiness in food products while eliminating the need to add sodium. The product range is a “clean label” alternative for monosodium glutamate (MSG; E621) and yeast extract.
By using Scelta Taste Accelerators, manufacturers can develop formulations with 50 percent less salt without compromising taste or functionality. This is Scelta’s answer to the worldwide problem of excessive sodium intake and the cardiovascular disease associated with a high-salt diet. The flavor enhancer is made using waste streams from mushroom processing. These contain glutamate and guanylate: substances that are responsible for a “umami” taste in foods. The flavor enhancer can be used in a wide variety of products, ranging from bread, sauces and processed meats to ready-to-eat meals and potato chips.
“Creating low-sodium products without compromising product quality has proven quite difficult, but Scelta appears to have found an effective solution to the problem,” the judges commented.
Wageningen-based consultancy firm Q-Point has developed a system that reduces food waste in the hospitality industry.
In a pilot, the Q-Point system enabled the restaurants at three big Dutch zoos to cut their waste by 75 percent and reduce inventory by 30 percent without compromising their revenues. Q-Point, Wageningen University and software specialist Nostradamus initially developed the system for one particular zoo, but two other zoos were quick to test it as well.
The project sparked a change of attitude in the people working in the zoos’ restaurants. Employees realized it was not necessary to stock large quantities of food and drink to offer their guests the same level of service. The hospitality industry in the Netherlands alone wastes an estimated 51 million kilos (400 million Euros’ worth) of food annually.
The judges’ panel called Q-Point’s system “a unique initiative with great potential.” The panel also said “Q-Point’s approach appears to be very effective. It is widely applicable and the industry is more than ready to embrace it, as is evident from the fact that two organizations joined the project even in the pilot phase.”
SensorSpot from Wijchen, the Netherlands has developed a cost-efficient and flexible non-invasive system for measuring the oxygen level in individual units of packaged foods. The system consists of a sensor with a special pigment, which is printed on the inside of the packaging material, and a reading device that can quickly check whether the packaging atmosphere is still intact without puncturing the packaging film.
The sensor spot is 5-10 micrometers thick. It contains fluorescent and oxygen-sensitive dyes covered by a thin oxygen-permeable laminate. None of this comes into contact with the food product.
SensorSpot developed this system in collaboration with AFP Holland film suppliers and software supplier Intemo. Worldwide, approximately 400 billion food products are MAP (modified atmosphere) packaged every year to increase their shelf life. In an estimated 15 percent of cases there is something wrong with the sealing or the gas mixture. This can result from damage incurred during transportation and storage or from incorrectly adjusted settings in the packaging process. Traditional checks require packages to be punctured (invasive check). Faulty packaging can cause the rejection of entire batches because of oxygen ingress.
According to judges’ panel, the SensorSpot system is an excellent way to ensure that fewer products end up in the waste bin. “It is a simple, but very effective method that does not cost much.”