A European Union-wide network to assist smaller foods and ingredients companies to develop functional products will launch in March, when about 120 companies meet in Turku, Finland, to explore ways of developing products and bringing them to market.
The European Functional Food Network has been granted $830,000 by the European Commission to foster technology transfer, innovation, development and co-operation among noncompeting producers in more than 20 European countries.
The network rejected applications from big food companies such as Nestle and Unilever, as well as major ingredients players, in favour of small- to medium-sized businesses, which it believes are more in need of the kind of assistance the network can provide.
Danish-based director Finn Holm said the network was focused on assisting SMEs in four main functional sectors: bakery, dairy, soft drinks and lipids. "We are interested in helping smaller food and ingredients companies move into the functional area," he said. "We were inundated with applications but had to be selective. We didn't want proceedings to be dominated by the multinationals. We tried to include companies with as broad a range of interests as possible so the learning potential would be maximised. It's a very exciting time for these companies, and we are looking forward to Turku."
The scheme will run for two years with participants coming together at intervals to share information in research, formulation, marketing, health claims and other areas. Industry specialists will also attend the meetings, give presentations and offer counsel.
Particular focus will be given to:
- technology transfer employing scientific research in product development;
- working within the EU regulatory and health claims framework;
- networking among noncompeting companies and establishing collaborations and business relations throughout the EU;
- establishing trans-European, product-specific working groups for development of new functional food products.