EIT Food brings together experts from the agrifood sector, researchers and innovation agents in the capital of Bizkaia to address the challenges faced by Europe.
Obtaining healthy and affordable nutrition for all, increasing food safety or generating consumer trust towards the food industry are some of the challenges facing the agrifood sector today, which featured the second edition of the ‘Food Innovation Forum’ held last Friday 4th October at the San Mamés stadium in Bilbao.
The European EIT Food consortium, which has its Southern Europe branch in Zamudio (Bizkaia), has brought together experts from the agrifood sector, researchers and innovation agents. They shared the keys to fulfilling these objectives and several success stories to date with around 200 registered professionals. The specialists gathered in San Mamés stadium included representatives of the members of the EIT Food consortium, such as the University of Turin (UNITO), Danone or AZTI, among others.
The Managing Director of Innobasque, Leire Bilbao, kicked off the forum highlighting the involvement of the Basque Innovation Agency in the food sector, supporting innovation and knowledge, "collaborating with all of the intermediaries that work with SMEs and promoting new business models".
During the presentation of the forum, Begoña Pérez Villarreal, Director of EIT Food for the south of Europe, also highlighted “the importance of the sector moving forward through innovation and knowledge so that we can offer healthier, more sustainable and trustworthy food”.
She also recalled two of the basic challenges of EIT Food: obtain a safe and transparent value chain and healthy and affordable nutrition for all.
"A diet is not healthy if it is not also sustainable and accessible"
A healthy diet, sustainability and personalised nutrition were the central themes of the first conference in which representatives of IMDEA Food, the University of the Basque Country, AZTI, Danone and EIT Food participated.One of the objectives tackled is the need to help ensure that people increasingly follow a healthy diet that is accessible to all sectors of the population.
Eduardo Puértolas, food technologist at AZTI, assured that in order to fulfil this objective, “the crucial factor is education, involving all sectors: schools, families, the media, scientists, communicators… without forgetting the essential role of the agrifood industry to achieve better products”.
In this improvement process, the fact that food stays tasty is another challenge faced by the sector in order to reach the consumer. This requires "significant technological effort and investment so that the products are better and continue to be tasty", remarked Marta Iguacen, Director of R&D in Science and Nutrition at Danone.
“The consumer is becoming increasingly demanding and wants to know what he/she is eating and that it is environmentally friendly", pointed out Carmen Pérez, PDI at the University of the Basque Country. She highlighted that “ a diet is not healthy if it is not also sustainable, accessible each day to the population and affordable”.
With a view to the future, Ana Ramírez Molina, Deputy Director at IMDEA Food, referred to personalised nutrition, a trend that forms part of the "food of the future" as a way to deal with today's problems, such as an increase in obesity levels or other metabolic disorders, and "have a diet that is better suited to each moment of life".
The consumer, at the centre of the food chain
Another challenge for the sector that was addressed is the need to regain consumer trust in the food industry, which has been undermined by several scandals. In this respect, emphasis has been placed on the advisability of creating transparent food chains that offer reliable information on safety and quality.
Luca Cocolin, from the University of Turin highlighted the work of the food industry in this respect. "The European Union is one of the places with the highest safety level", he assured, and "it must be conveyed that we are still advancing".
According to Alejandro Barranco, researcher at AZTI, this progress is not without new challenges. "There is room for innovation. It is necessary to speed response times and continue working to increase food safety", he pointed out.
Improving product labelling to obtain more transparent traceability is one of the most urgent needs of the sector, according to Gemma Trigueros. In this respect, the food coordinator at OCU recalled that "food safety is the responsibility of the entire chain. We must all be involved from start to finish".
Presentation of innovative projects
To conclude the forum, those present were invited to discover some of the innovation and communication projects that are being developed, such as ‘From Japan to West’ by Angulas Aguinaga on the importance of fish protein as the body's activation driver, Foodtress by AZTI on the transparency of the food chain to increase consumer trust, or the virtual reality glasses by Future Kitchen that IMDEA FOOD is promoting with international cases of processes from the food sector.