Innovation Challenges 2023
Let’s start from the beginning, who is Dr. Antonio Alcaide?
We are proud to answer that our Director of Project Management. He holds a degree in Food Science and Technology as well as a degree in Biology from the University of Cordoba. He also holds a Master’s degree in Biotechnology and a PhD cum laude in Pharmacology from the University of Seville, obtaining the Extraordinary Doctorate Award.
Dr. Alcaide has been part of Aurora Intelligent Nutrition since 2018, initially at the Technical Office Department, participating in the creation of the Project Management Department and finally leading the department.
What are the biggest challenges facing functional food in 2023?
I believe this is a good time for functional food. Consumers are increasingly aware that good nutrition is fundamental in ways that go far beyond basic nutrition.
The industry has realised about this and the temptation to offer functional products is growing. We must ensure that quality standards are maintained in these products, i.e. that they are safe and address the real needs of the population and steer clear of false healing or miracle messages.
What have been the biggest achievements this 2022 in terms of innovation at Aurora Intelligent Nutrition?
Perhaps the most memorable part of this year will be our Tenebrio molitor bars. It was important for us to be able to show this bar to the rest of the world, as we had been working on Tenebrio products for more than 5 years but it was not yet allowed to be marketed. We took it to the testing zone at the Vitafoods 2022 fair in Geneva and won second prize in the innovation category.
This year we have worked on other novel ingredients, some of which, as in the case mentioned above, are not yet permitted. This allows us to have the products tested when they are approved. In addition, we have developed new product formats such as a protein drink or a 3-gram gummy and other new products that will be launched very soon.
Have we already reached the pinnacle of alternative power supplies?
On the contrary, I think we have probably only just started down that road. Until now, alternative food has been based on substituting one food for another food of a different origin that is healthier or has a lower environmental impact. But the technology is just beginning to be implemented in food production and modification. In vitro protein synthesis has only been in development for a few years and is well on its way to becoming a real revolution. Fascinating years lie ahead!
Probiotics What have been the main advances and their evidence?
We have been consuming probiotics since the dawn of time. Perhaps the best known are the Lactobacillus and Streptococcus in yoghurt, but many studies have linked probiotics to microbiota benefits and their effect on other immune system diseases.
While more evidence is being built to determine the strains and concentrations needed to confer these benefits, there has been a recent legal breakthrough. It is now allowed to indicate the presence of probiotics on the labelling of foods and food supplements, and we are making this known to our customers to give them that competitive advantage.
Let’s talk about adaptogens. Is their effectiveness true and do they make sense in the daily lives of end consumers?
Complicated question. Personally I am not a big fan of terms like “adaptogens” or other terms like “superfoods”. Categorising foods or ingredients into a term that surrounds them with a magical aura I think distances them from reality. We must move towards greater consumer awareness of what they are taking by simplifying information but without falling into reductionism.
Are there adaptogenic foods with interesting effects? I am sure there are, and our elders or traditional medicine could give us lessons on that. At AIN, we are aware of any developments in this regard, but only if they are supported by scientific evidence or EFSA reports. Sorry, my more scientific branch is out! But it is important for us to offer products that meet the needs of our customers and consumers by advising them on the whole process from formulation to packaging printing. Sometimes the effect of a raw material is just as important as the ability to communicate it.
Which natural ingredients will be the most popular in 2023?
There is a lot of movement in the world of algae, more specifically microalgae, as they contain very interesting fatty acid profiles. Then, as we mentioned earlier, probiotics, considering them to be natural, have been on the rise for some time now and growth is not going to stop, quite the contrary.
Our Purchasing Department is in permanent contact with suppliers to detect new trends. Even the suppliers themselves have us as a reference manufacturer to test new ingredients because they know that we have the potential to introduce them in many matrices and make them reach a large number of customers all over the world.
Innovation and sustainability – is it compatible?
Absolutely, they are increasingly linked. Any innovation that does not include sustainability is doomed to failure or to a very short lifespan. Sustainability is the next big concern of our consumers and whoever does not address it in a transversal way, involving all the elements that make up a food, will be out of the game.
Are digitalisation and innovation going hand in hand in ACN?
As in the previous case, they are almost inevitably linked. The way we access, store and even transmit information is becoming increasingly digital. We are constantly investing in new systems for information management, project development and even in manufacturing.
For a company like ours, with so many customers with so many different requirements and more than 10,000 formulations, good information management and control of the entire development and manufacturing process is essential. It’s amazing how much the company has changed in this respect in recent years.
What does Industry 4.0 mean to you?
We look forward to seeing how new technologies can be applied to production systems to provide more efficient and sustainable safe food. Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology may represent a new leap in the production systems we currently know.
The degree of technology and automation in the agri-food industry is very high, and it is a sector that is very accustomed to incorporating technological advances.
What global challenges does innovation at Aurora Intelligent Nutrition face (drought, food supply crisis…)?
We have just overcome the totally unexpected COVID pandemic, which reduced our production capacity by reducing our workforce, we had logistical problems, a rise in raw material prices, our customers’ restraint in innovation, etc., etc. This has shown us that, one, anything can happen and, two, that we are prepared to face big eventualities.
We are used to the wreckage and these kinds of global challenges are the biggest challenges where companies are critically tested. We had to adapt, building closer ties with our customers by offering them almost tailor-made strategies. We also explored new markets that allowed us to offset the sports recession and even continue to grow.