Food, glorious food! We all love and require food to survive, so it is no wonder that there are billions of pounds spent keeping up with the latest food trends and trying to stand out from the crowd. Scientific and technological advancements are enabling boundaries to be broken and the food sector to be thriving with new products and trends. Without Research and Development (R&D) our dinner plate would look very different – but what are the main areas of innovation in the food industry?
Key Areas of R&D
- Plant-Based Foods – With the rise in vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians the plant-based market in the UK is worth £1.8 billion with a growth rate of 8%. New products are appearing on the shelves almost daily with plant-based burgers and ‘chicken’ nuggets now being readily available. Companies are utilising everything from oat and pea proteins to chickpeas, mushrooms and cauliflower to come up with new and tantalising recipes. The challenges involved in trying to replicate the taste and eating experience of meat is significant and requires lots of R&D to achieve a product suitable for the consumer. In the past vegan/vegetarian meals had a reputation for being bland, but with so much R&D in this area some consumers now say they don’t even miss meat as the flavours are so good.
- Guilt-Free/On-The-Go Snacks – The consumer today is much more aware of the contents of a product, and knowledge about our health and how to maintain good health is readily available. However, in our fast paced world remembering to pick up those healthy treats and having a supply of fresh fruit at all times is a struggle. This has led to the development of fruit and nut based snack bars/packs, high-protein bars and lower sugar alternatives. There is a high level of innovation involved in producing these products and the marketplace is constantly looking for something to meet the consumer’s needs. People want to be healthy but they are happy for the producers to do the work!
- Reduced Sugar/Salt/Fat – We live in a world dominated by ready meals and added value products that are designed to make life more convenient for the consumer. However, this often equates to products with high fat and sugar content. With improved product labelling it is easier than ever to see exactly what the nutritional values are of a product, and the traffic light system used means the consumer can easily compare products to find the healthiest. The biggest challenge with cutting sugar/salt/fat is that these ingredients are often what helps to give a product its flavour. Producers are constantly researching and looking into new ways to ensure products taste amazing but are as healthy as possible.
- Sustainable Practices – Consumers are more knowledgeable than ever when it comes to production processes, product life cycle and the environment. They want to know that when they buy a product they are doing their best to minimise damage on the environment rather than inflict unnecessary damage. This has led to a significant amount of R&D into all areas of packaging from the tray that the product is placed on to the plastic/cardboard packaging. Innovative technology has enabled some plastic components to be replaced by recyclable or compostable alternatives and for the volumes used to be minimized. However, there is still too much unnecessary plastic in our shops and with the plastic revolution upon us, R&D in this sector is soaring.
- Digestive Wellness – Sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, turmeric, hemp oil and superfoods are all examples of functional foods that have grown in popularity. Increasingly, shoppers are picking what they buy and consume depending on the role it plays. The consumer needs assurance that what they eat could be helping them improve their immunity, gut health and overall health. Functional foods loaded with fibre, probiotics or other beneficial ingredients have grown in part because the technology has been developed to make products that contain them taste better. With there being heightened focus on good health and immunity this sector of the food industry is a hub for R&D.
R&D in the food sector ranges from new product development to recipe adjustments, and changes in packaging to reducing environmental impact. If you carry out any of these activities then you may qualify for R&D tax credits.
The rules around R&D tax relief are complex and require specialist advice – but we can help you with that. We have extensive experience of working with food companies to maximise the benefits from these very generous tax incentives.
If you would like to know more about R&D Tax Credits, please get in touch to arrange a no-obligation discussion.