Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead has announced a new £4 million project to help Scottish food and drink companies tap into global opportunities in the rapidly expanding health and nutrition sector.
Scottish Enterprise is funding the Food and Health Innovation Service, which will help 400 Scottish companies over the next five years to access Scotland’s leading research in food and health to develop and launch new or improved products.
The project aims to build on Scotland’s international reputation for quality natural products such as berries, fish, meat and oats, as well as research expertise at institutions such as the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, Queen Margaret University, the Scottish Crop Research Institute (soon to be part of The James Hutton Institute) and Heriot-Watt University.
The centre’s headquarters will be based at the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, which is already renowned for its ground-breaking research on effective weight-loss and their work has shown that diets high in protein result in more effective weight loss as part of a calorie controlled diet.
Speaking at the official launch event today, Richard Lochead, said: “Scotland has a justifiably proud heritage of excellence in research, not least in the food and drink arena. I’m delighted that with this £4 million investment we will be harnessing this expertise to provide the science, innovation and technology which are vital to sustainably growing the industry.
“There is already an excellent story to be told about what is going on behind the scenes in our food and drink sector and the benefits of today’s investment will stretch far beyond Scotland’s borders. It will help 400 companies over the next five years access Scotland’s leading research in food and health to develop and launch new or improved products.
“Enhancing Scotland’s reputation as a land of food and drink with ongoing advances in research will ensure we are well positioned to take advantage of emerging trends and the latest innovations. I want to see more of Scotland's food firms developing new products, capturing new markets and, ultimately, adding to their success."
Research carried out on behalf of Scottish Enterprise has shown that while food and drink companies recognise the potential of the health and nutrition market for their business, they lack the R&D capabilities and food technology expertise to take advantage of new opportunities.
Innovation within the food and drink sector in Scotland has historically been lower than the national average and business expenditure on R&D by the sector accounts for just 1.5% of the Scottish total. The project will help address both these factors and contribute to the industry’s ambition to increase R&D spend from 0.25% to 0.75% of Scotland’s GVA, and ultimately meet the level of the UK’s food processing sector.
Maggie McGinlay, director of Scottish Enterprise’s food and drink team, says: “The global health, nutrition and wellbeing market is expected to be worth around £348 billion by 2012. The UK market is currently worth £20 billion and Scotland’s share is £1 billion of that.
“With the quality of our natural products and the wealth of research available in Scotland, there’s no reason why our companies can’t capture a larger share of both the UK and global markets.
“This project will provide companies with the skills and expertise to create new or improved products that will allow them to target different markets both at home and overseas that could transform their business.”
Paul McLaughlin, Chief Executive of Scotland Food and Drink, said: "The food & drink industry has set ambitious targets for growth and I am delighted that the Food and Health Innovation Service has been launched to help achieve these, as a key delivery mechanism of the Scotland Food & Drink Industry Strategy. It will help Scottish companies increase their share of the ever growing global health market and make a real contribution to our targets for R&D spend, increasing innovation and GVA growth.
"Scotland has a huge amount of world-renowned research, but a poor track record of turning that into products which hit the shelves. This project is our way of helping make that happen so a business is much more likely to get a project through to a commercialisation stage."
By providing companies with access to commercially focused food technology specialists and encouraging greater levels of R&D by individual companies, the project aims to ensure Scotland can become competitive in three distinct markets in the health and nutrition sector:
- Naturally healthy – foods considered naturally high in vitamins, minerals and nutrients, including fruit, vegetables, fruit juices, high fibre cereals and oily fish
- Better-for-you products – foods that have been modified to have reduced fat, sugar or salt content, including low salt ready meals, baked goods and reduced sugar cereals
- Fortified/Functional - foods that have health promotion benefits or disease prevention properties, including probiotic yoghurts, stanol-enriched margarines and folic acid fortified bread
It is estimated that the project will help to grow turnover in the participating companies by a combined £80 million within five years, contributing to the industry’s overall ambition to grow turnover from £10 billion to £12.5 billion by 2017.
Scientists at the Rowett Institute recently worked with Marks & Spencer to develop their “Simply Fuller Longer” range, providing the expert advice that enabled M&S to create a healthy product range with a higher protein content that helps consumers feel fuller longer and reduces the temptation to snack between meals.