Health, sustainable production and consumer demand: together they are the driving force behind innovation in the food industry. Wageningen University & Research offers students at every stage of their study programme and companies throughout the entire chain the fundamental and applied knowledge required to develop and improve products and processes in a targeted manner, from raw material to finished product.
How can we continue to deliver sufficient high-quality products in the future at a time when the world's population is growing and energy, water and raw materials are gradually becoming scarce? The food industry must ask themselves this core question if they are going to improve future food security and at the same time respond to the wishes and needs of today’s consumers. These are consumers who want to be healthy, who want to eat well, and who are increasingly demanding personalised products to match their age, health status or lifestyle. It's up to manufacturers to take up the challenge of translating all this into tangible food innovations.
New generation of food technologists
Wageningen is constantly training new food technologists who can help to enhance the national and international development of the food industry. Our students are trained to design new products and to manage production systems based on interdisciplinary, consumer-oriented research. Our teaching and research focuses on the selection of raw materials (primary production), transformation (technological processes) and formulation (with bioactive or other ingredients) and combining this with consumer experience, quality management and human behaviour. As part of our study programmes, students are often asked to form teams and work on assignments given by actors in the business community.
The entire chain
Wageningen University & Research gives companies throughout the entire chain – from raw materials suppliers and food manufacturers to equipment constructors and supermarket chains – the knowledge they need to deliver high-quality products, both now and in the future. Our work is based on a multidisciplinary approach, which enabled experts from different fields to work together closely. Moreover, we ensure that there is a link between the fundamental research conducted at the university and the applied scientific research at the various research institutes. By bringing together researchers and companies in public-private partnerships, we can translate scientific insights into practice.
Product, process and technology
At Wageningen we understand how foods are structured at the molecular level. We also know how ingredients in a product influence each other – during the production process, under the influence of processes such as heat and high pressure and during storage and preparation. Armed with that knowledge, we can work in a targeted manner to develop new textures and flavour profiles and make existing products healthier or tastier, or give them longer shelf lives. If required, we can put products to consumer panels and study relationships between food consumption and health. We also develop smart models that allow manufacturers to predict how salt, sugar or fat reduction or mild preservation will affect the quality and sustainability of a product.
In recent years, research by Wageningen University & Research and its partners has yielded a series of tangible innovations. These include a process (Pulsed Electric Fields, PEF) to extend the storage life of chilled fresh juice to 21 days, new mild separation techniques to increase the quality of ingredients, and a long-life functional protein beverage that helps reduce age-related visual impairment (macular degeneration) in the elderly.
Within the TiFN public-private partnership, we have developed a method that makes sustainability measurable in terms of water, energy and resource consumption. This allows companies to take targeted measures to secure sustainability benefits or to prevent food waste, to name one example. We launched a public-private partnership for research into sources of surface contamination in factories – a problem that all too often results in food spoilage and therefore waste. And within the Plant meat matters public-private partnership we are working on a new generation of meat substitutes: products that are similar to meat in taste and texture but are far more sustainable.