Unlike typical sensory panels and consumer surveys, the Labs do not involve testing of sample products but the creation of innovative, non-yet-existing combinations of product features and benefits. The methodology has been developed by the University of Warsaw, relying on knowledge of specialists in anthropology, psychology, socio-gerontology, consumer behaviour, and innovation management, and has been further validated with academic and industrial partners. It draws on the principles of design thinking and gamification to address challenges of the European food system. The activity contributes to the implementation of EIT Food RIS Strategy, Action Line 2 by strengthening the innovative ecosystems of targeted EIT RIS countries.
In 2019 the Labs were piloted in Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, and Spain, engaging consumers aged 60+. During two intense workshop sessions combined with home assignments, the participants navigated in a dynamic process of analysis of the older adults’ needs and creation of new food product ideas. The goal was to create new, exciting food products that would meet their requirements. The Labs’ methodology encouraged the participants to use their wisdom, nurture creativity and make friends with each other.
The final roundtable focused on the best ideas for new products and gave space for cooperation of consumers, food companies, scientific partners, and non-governmental organisations, jointly delving into the foodways of older adults.
In 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and sanitary restrictions, the interactive methodology of Labs was adapted to the online delivery in 10 other countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia). The follow-up Labs sessions devoted to the cooking and shopping experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and packaging were conducted in the online format in 2021.
New food products introduced to the market
The 2019-2020 Labs outcomes underwent the complex process of further in-house development checking their production potential and feasibility by the companies engaged in the activity. The successful market introductions of 15 products in 14 European countries show the creative potential of consumers as actors of the food sector:
Jerusalem artichoke puree with sweet potato and walnut (Bulgaria)
Healthy vegetable paste, that can be used as a dip, spread, or eaten as a side dish, combines flavours of pureed Jerusalem artichoke, sweet potatoes, and walnuts creating a savoury base for multiple dishes.
CHEERS (Czech Republic)
CHEERS is a dietary supplement that comes in handy “shots” full of vitamins fortified by herbal extracts made to enhance immunity and allow better stress adaptation.
Curd dessert with Jerusalem artichoke and honey (Estonia)
New dairy product high in fiber and inulin gourmet combination of curd, Jerusalem artichoke, honey, and walnuts offers a healthy and locally sourced snack making it a valuable supplement to a daily diet.
Bratwurst mini sausages with traditional Greek flavour (Greece)
Low in fat and nitrates free, but rich in flavour thanks to a unique mix of endogenous Greek herbs and spices obtained from small farmers poultry Bratwurst Mini Sausages offer a healthy and sustainable alternative for popular meat products.
Sliced sweet potato guest bread with spicy crumbs (Hungary)
With soft inside and crispy crust Hungarian loaf combines best qualities of traditional sourdough bread making with innovative flavour of sweet potatoes and variety of savoury toppings.
Carob Snack (Italy)
Carob Snack is an aperitif cracker made of raw vegetables, enriched by a superfood ingredient - carob flour. Low in calories and rich in calcium and fibre, it is a healthy choice for all customers craving for a crispy bite.
Vegetable paste with spirulina (Latvia)
Vegetable paste with spirulina offers a healthy, gluten- and lactose-free gourmet vegetable-based alternative to meat and dairy bread toppings.
Granola made of organic buckwheat (grikis in Lithuanian) coming in different colours from freeze dried vegetable, fruit and berries powders. Grikola produced with innovative technology gives the sensation of crunchiness without having to worry about teeth.
Healthy Beets! (Poland)
A spiced up version of a traditional home-made dish with a healthy supplement. It combines a well-known recipe for a beetroot salad with a touch of exotic taste thanks to the fresh turmeric and ginger, zhuzhed up by collagen.
Balance Biscuits (Portugal)
Balance biscuits offer consumers tasty yet nutritionally responsible, low in fat, sugar and salt whole grain biscuits that will be perfect to enjoy alone or share with the loved ones.
Noble pork ham Gourmeticus Academicum Senior (Romania)
Ham made of high quality pork, sourced locally, with a twist of hot pepper jam, combining the best sweet and spicy flavours.
fit4you Breakfast mash for seniors (Slovakia)
fit4you Breakfast mash for seniors is a rich in collagen and fiber hypoallergenic buckwheat based breakfast idea packed in convenient single-portioned bags.
Lejka zlejvanka (Slovenia)
Lejka zlejvanka is a protein-rich and low cholesterol variation on a well-known, traditional Slovenian dish. Healthy base made of buckwheat and chickpea allows consumers to tailor their dish to their preferences.
Tuna pâté with piquillo peppers & Boletus with truffle pâté (Spain)
Pâtés of original flavours embedded in Extremadura culinary heritage yet difficult to recreate at home, packed in a jar suitable for 1-2 people to be used as tapas, an appetizer or a snack for small households.
The project contributed to the establishment of 14 consortia, involving scientific organisations, food retailers, food producers, start-ups and non-governmental organisations, in 14 European countries. The consortia gained specialist training and advice, access to Labs methodology and toolsets, as well as support for new product commercialisation, and worked with consumers to deliver local Labs sessions. Altogether, 48 organisations from 14 countries covered by the EIT Food Regional Innovation Scheme have benefited from the project.