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News > CAFRE encourages Food Innovation during Covid – 19


CAFRE encourages Food Innovation during Covid – 19

May 11, 2020

Christine Haydock, CAFRE Senior Food Technologist

Covid-19 has impacted the NI food sector, as companies across Northern Ireland have modified production lines to adhere with government guidelines. They have consolidated their product ranges, used online delivery services and extended their use of social media to endorse and promote their products. The rapidly changed market place, caused by the pandemic, has emphasised the importance and market value of original unique products and the need not only to develop new products but to explore alternative production pathways, identify alternative packaging and investigate methods to optimise product quality, while extending product stability.

CAFRE Food Innovation Centre

CAFRE Food Innovation Centre

One way CAFRE supports companies to innovate is through the Invest NI Innovation Voucher Programme. CAFRE is a knowledge provider on this programme, which offers a voucher of up to £5000 to work with one of our food technology experts. It is an ideal tool to stimulate innovative thinking and to help Northern Ireland SMEs to access expertise to help deliver innovative projects.

Since 2008, the CAFRE team has contributed to 370 projects and counting! Innovation Vouchers are not exclusive to food businesses; this funding stream has been active across CAFRE’s entire portfolio of agriculture, horticulture and equine projects. Through our partnership approach, we have provided companies with the support, knowledge and practical skills required to help promote innovation, develop new products and systems and help companies grow.

We have worked with early stage companies to test new ideas and explore niche markets. One such entrepreneurial company, is County Down based Pizzado. Established in 2013 by Karen Boyd, Pizzado specialises in the production of award winning innovative frozen pizza kits. Through working with CAFRE food technologists and availing of the support of innovation vouchers, the company has developed a unique award winning product which has gained significant traction in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Karen Boyd acknowledged the support provided by the innovation voucher and CAFRE and said, ‘I have worked with Loughry Campus food technologists on many occasions developing new products; the most recent was finalising shelf life and nutritionals for a contract with Aldi Ireland. As always very helpful and efficient’.

Cafre encourages food innovation - Pic 2

A CAFRE bakery technologist conducting trails on bakery products

Armagh based Davison Canners is a long established family business which traditionally focused on apple processing. It worked with CAFRE and utilised an Invest NI innovation voucher to investigate product diversification. Acknowledging the support provided by CAFRE, Alan Davison, managing director of the company said, ‘We were awarded an Innovation Voucher by Invest Northern Ireland in 2016. The Innovation Voucher assisted in funding a research and development project which involved partnering with CAFRE. Utilising their expertise as a knowledge provider, the project allowed our business to expand into the Retail Dessert sector within the UK for the first time. Four Years on, the dessert side of our business continues to grow rapidly year on year and we are now a leading player in the Chilled Dessert Sector across the UK and Ireland.’

If you are interested in Invest NI’s Innovation Voucher programme, further information and access to the online application form is available at Applications are welcome from Monday 4 May to 3pm Friday 29 2020. Alternatively if you would like to discuss a potential project, commercially in confidence, or have any queries relating to CAFRE’s role with the innovation voucher applications and project delivery, please do not hesitate to contact Christine Haydock.

Mobile number 07557 783909
CAFRE Number 0300 200 7846

Covid-19 has changed all our lives, but perhaps it has made us reassess our business priorities and think innovatively about new food opportunities for the future; why not explore them!