A low calorie chocolate that tastes just as good as the real thing and a white bread with high fibre are just two of the projects being funded that could make a difference to your diet and health in the future.
£8.5M is being invested in almost 40 research projects by BBSRC, the Technology Strategy Board and other partners to tackle issues around nutritional values, food safety, specific dietary requirements and food waste.
Other innovations being developed include a project to identify foods that could treat osteoporosis, and studies assessing the potential for using pumpkin and mulberry extracts to help treat diabetes and obesity.
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "The food industry is one of the largest and most important sectors of the UK economy. With an ever growing population, our research base needs to do more than ever to not only improve the nutritional value of our food but also identify new ways to prevent disease.
"Our industrial strategy will ensure we get ahead in the global race by turning our world-beating science and research into world-beating products and services."
Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board said: "Businesses need to put innovation at the heart of product development to stay competitive. The ideas funded today have the potential to improve profitability in the future, as well as enhancing our diet and encouraging healthier lifestyles."
The funding competition, called Nutrition for Life is supporting a total of 39 projects. All of them are business led with additional support from universities and research institutes.
The £8.5M initiative is a Technology Strategy Board competition which received co-funding from: BBSRC, Scottish Enterprise, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).
Notes to editors
Combating the occurrence of osteoporosis
A project led by Scottish AvantiCell Science Ltd, in collaboration with researchers from the Arthritis Research UK Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre at Cardiff University, aims to identify food constituents that can be used to prevent or treat osteoporosis. It will develop a 'cell culture' system which contains human bone cells. The behaviour of cells when exposed to new food materials will be studied, so that constituents which may bring health benefits can be identified. An important feature will be the ability to apply mechanical stress to the bone cells, just as happens constantly in the body. This will encourage bone cells to behave in culture as they do inside the bone, giving more accurate predictions of health benefits. The new laboratory tool will reduce the need for animal testing of new foodstuffs, and make nutritional trials more cost-effective.
High fibre white bread
The aim of this industry-led project is to increase the intake of dietary fibre by the general population, providing Nutrition for Life to consumers of white bread, many of whom are children. Today, almost 55% of all bread consumed in the UK is white bread with low fibre content. A UK plant breeding company, the lead partner in the project, will develop a new wheat variety suitable for UK growing conditions with increased soluble fibre content and good bread-making quality. Using this variety, a leading retailer will investigate the quality and nutritional value of bread made from high soluble fibre wheat, as well as exploit initial market opportunities, with the aim of launching a white bread with increased level of soluble fibre content.
Recovering more food from green plant tissue
Chloroplasts, found in green leaves, convert light energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis. They are, potentially, an untapped source of ingredients for food and animal feed. These specialised materials also contain vitamins A, C and E, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, so their nutrient value is likely to be high. A study, led by Eminate Ltd, with The University of Nottingham as collaborator, will assess the commercial potential for food and feed ingredients to be extracted from green plant tissue, helping to tackle to the challenge of global food sustainability. The project also aims to identify a viable chloroplast-based product that could be launched within a further two years.
About Technology Strategy Board
Technology Strategy Board is the UK's innovation agency. Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit www.innovateuk.org