Last Tuesday was a fascinating day for me: my first visit to Campden BRI, a food and drink research facility in Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire, UK.
Just over 450 people from the food and drink industry attended their 82nd open day this year, a record attendance and illustrative of how important it is for companies to keep up with the latest moves in science and technology.
“Sustainability is the biggest challenge facing our generation,” she said. “It's critical to the economic future of our joint businesses, which are all part of a highly complex infrastructure.
"Mars is just celebrating its 80th year in business and we can be assured that the next 80 years will be tougher. At Mars, we ‘buy’ the science of climate change and it is highly relevant that only last week, M&S – through following a strategy of transparency and rigour – was able to announce its carbon neutral status.
"Our main crop, cocoa, is what is regarded as an 'orphan' crop, with yields not increasing and the next generation seeing less reason to farm. There is a growing taste for chocolate, especially in Asia and China, yet we have a prediction of a one million tonne shortfall by 2020. We need to invest in science, increase water and energy management and invoke social change and environmental stewardship if we are to meet this demand.
"Our goal is to produce only certified cocoa by 2020, but that means each farmer producing a further domestic tonne. Collaboration is also key. Last year, we revealed the sequencing of the cocoa genome to help maintain the pace of development. As a private company, we are fortunate and can operate with our principles in mind, and together we can face head-on our biggest challenge: the future of the planet itself.”
Dr Chris Lane of HJ Heinz then presented the Heinz Award for Excellence, open to all staff at the centre.
Dr David Leakes won for his work in food labelling, Craig Ledley for novel processing technologies such as pulsed light and high pressure processing.
Yvette Sowerby, technical manager, M&S desserts, presented the M&S 2012 Millennium Prize to Dr Farina Naseem for her work on microbiology statistics, and to Danielle Sweeney for chemical migration in packaging.
After touring the poster tables in the main tent, I went on to experience four tours:
- On consumer and sensory science.
- The Chorleywood Bakery.
- New technologies and thermal processing.
- Drinks and new product development (of particular interest to me).
I learned that natural plant extracts can be antimicrobial, that there are alternatives to sulphites and of new ways to extend shelf life.
The consumer product testing section was interesting and I saw a number of products such as chocolate-coated raspberries and a Hoi Sin Pizza, which have been on trial recently. I also found the eye-tracking section in 'Sensory Science' fascinating, with the software able to track how my eyes scan a supermarket shelf and the hot spots for displaying products.
So much to see in one day! I had heard of many of these technologies and it was just great to see them in action. You can be sure I'll be back there next year.
Claire Phoenix is managing editor of Beverage Innovation magazine.
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