VTT Innovation Program on food, nutrition and eating pattern

This book was also published in the series VTT Tiedotteita - Research Notes lately.

The abstract of the publication:

The objective of this roadmap was to feature the drivers, needs and future potential for various actors involved in the food production and distribution chain, but also for actors developing services offering communication and motivation tools for consumers who wish to improve their nutrition.

The roadmap was divided in two parts: 1) background part, which gives readers a review of the state of art, and 2) the actual roadmap part. In the roadmap process, seven general drivers influencing the challenges and needs of various stakeholders in the area of foods, nutrition and eating patterns were first identified: healthcare costs, sustainability, ubiquitous ICT, information flow, ageing, cultural mixing and individualism. Then five themes, 1) Convenience, 2) Values and communality, 3) Physiological functionality, 4) Communication and 5) Personification, were identified in multidisciplinary workshops. The themes were discussed one by one in a view of nutrition and eating habits in thematic sub-roadmaps, with following outcome.

Convenience includes saving of time, but also saving of psychological energy and effort. Need of convenience is linked to availability and delivery of healthy foods, easiness of understanding and monitoring the impact of food on health. Values and communality guide consumers' food choices and eating habits. The importance of collective and protective values will increase, although food price and taste are still the most important determinants of buying decisions. Generation of new communities will continuously increase fragmentation, and the new consumer sectors will be based more on lifestyle factors than on traditional demographics. Understanding physiological functionality of food is the template of the roadmap, since diet has a major effect on health and quality of life. Based on the new information about health effects of foods, development of functional foods tailored for certain risk groups will continue. Personal risk scores will be utilised in the future to facilitate dietary guidance. Communication is today that consumers use various communication channels, but they are critical to reliability of communication. Personal and entertaining communication not restricted to the place or devices will increase. Personification means that healthy diets are based on personal taste and health needs, as well as on culture and values. Personal guidance solutions direct food choices according to personal risks and physiology.

During the roadmap process, various fields in which there is place and need for new innovations to improve food supply and to facilitate healthy eating were identified. Technologies for the development of the intrinsic properties of the food product itself are the core of the system. Modern bioprocessing, i.e. the exploitation of intrinsic or added enzymes and microbial fermentation, offers plenty of opportunities to design specific product properties, and also for boosting of energy and raw material efficiency. Revealing of the physiological responses in humans and subsequent health effects is facilitated by the rapid developments of nutritional systems biology. Both control and design of the production chain and the research in the area of health effects produce plenty of interesting and relevant information to the consumer. Capitalizing on this information, as well as design of convenient and experience-giving packaging and delivery systems, is another large opportunity. Development of new packaging materials and ubiquitous ICT offer potential for new innovations in this respect. Another opportunity of ICT is to educate the consumer to realise the benefits of healthy eating by diagnostic and monitoring tools.

Taking the visions of the different subareas together, the vision for the whole roadmap was formulated as "Wellbeing through eating". Individual foods make up one's diet, and the diet is the basis of nutrition. Intelligent nutrition is based on choices of foods and meals which bring multiple values to the consumer - pleasure for the senses and for fulfilling one's values, as well as long-term health benefits through minimising risks of diseases. In the modern society, offering intelligent nutrition solutions means, in addition to development of the food production systems, also development of the delivery, communication and personalization services matching the needs of urban consumers. This opens up a range of new business opportunities.

This roadmap will serve as a starting point for the VTT Innovation Programme "Solutions for Intelligent Nutrition", where the aim will be to develop technologies and services enabling to achieve wellbeing through eating.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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