Food Innovation Talking Points: Plant-Based Proteins, Personalised Nutrition and Technology Solutions at the Future Food-Tech Summit

Isabelle C.H. Esser, Executive Vice President Research and Development Foods at Unilever

The Future Food-Tech Summit welcomed an international audience of food industry influencers and leaders from the food-tech space to highlight today’s global food challenges and showcase new technologies and innovations which could help transform the sector. (London, 18-19 October).

Unilever set the scene at the summit with Isabelle C.H. Esser, Executive Vice President Research and Development Foods, discussing the need for technology solutions to improve the biggest challenges facing today’s global food system. Isabelle said: “We need to deliver affordable nutrition on a universal scale and this requires consumer engagement at every step and collaboration across multiple verticals within the food industry, the research sector and academia.”

Plant-based proteins are gaining popularity throughout the food industry as sustainable alternatives to meat, fish and dairy, but Derek Sarno, Executive Chef-Director of Plant-Based Innovation at Tesco PLC, highlighted the importance of how plant-based proteins are positioned in the supermarket and the need to make them more appealing to consumers.

Derek revealed: “The reality as I see it, is that consumers are concerned about core principles, first being taste, then cost, clean labels, convenience and health. Ultimately consumers want food that is natural, nutritious, and healthy at least in theory. Sometimes there is a disconnect between the alternative protein products being brought to market and what consumers really want to purchase. That disconnect is the sweet spot for innovation.”

Liz Specht, Senior Scientist at the Good Food Institute (GFI), hosted a roundtable discussion on whether the world is ready for clean, or cultured, meat as an alternative protein. The group concluded that there are considerable benefits to the consumer and the producer, which include longer shelf life, the elimination of food-borne illness, and reduced volatility from infectious disease among farmed animals – all of which are likely to drive consumer acceptance of clean meat.

Another key takeaway at the summit was the trend for personalised nutrition. Andrew Steele, a former Olympic Athlete and Head of Product at DNAFit, discussed the significance of personalisation and understanding your DNA for health and fitness.

Andrew commented: “How can the decision makers in the nutrition industry reframe their approach to not just give one set of ‘average’ advice, and make that advice more effective through personalised data? Our genes make us who we are, so naturally they impact every aspect of our health and wellbeing. Understanding our DNA will help us make the right choices to live a healthier life.”

Jennie Moss, Founder of Rethink Events, said: “The global food supply chain is undergoing a dramatic stage of reinvention. The Future Food-Tech Summit is about bringing together the experts, producers and innovators working to create the next generation of disruptive brands, products, processes and ingredients.

“There has never been a greater need for collaboration across the food supply chain. Over this two-day event, it was fantastic to witness active investors, leading food brands and entrepreneurs get together to share ideas and create new strategic partnerships to ultimately accelerate innovation in this sector – while addressing global food challenges.”

Rethink Events is hosting the next Future Food-Tech Summit in San Francisco on 22-23 March 2018. The two-day event will continue the debate on alternative proteins and personalised nutrition, with additional themes including the application of gene-editing for next gen ingredients, supply chain transparency, and the role of big data, AI and advanced analytics.

The event will also feature technology showcase sessions where a number of early to mid-stage technology entrepreneurs will present a snapshot of their emerging food-tech solutions to a panel of investors. To find out more information, please visit: