CAFRE hosted a successful Alternative Food event
December 7, 2022
In October, the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) Food Technology Branch hosted a workshop to demonstrate both the challenges and opportunities that the plant-based food market presents to the Northern Ireland Food Industry. There was certainly an appetite for the event with over 60 in attendance, representing 30 food companies within NI.
Over the past number of years, there has been increasing interest in plant-based food products and diets. This is being driven by the global trends of climate change, resource scarcity, health challenges being associated with red meat and the affordability of meat. Based on these global trends, consumers are wanting to move towards meat reduction and plant-based products.
In response to the level of interest in plant-based products within the local food manufacturing sector, CAFRE hosted a workshop to bring interested parties together in a bid to share ideas and overcome challenges that manufacturers may be facing as they enter the sector.
The session started with Emma Curistan, Head of Innovation at Finnebrouge Foods outlining how Finnebrouge had gone from a Venison processing facility to be one of the biggest, leading manufacturers of plant-based products within the UK.
This was followed by Katerina Fillipou from Kantar who presented the market intelligence into the plant-based sector within the UK and Ireland. This outlined the areas of growth and decline within the market, highlighting the potential opportunities for food manufacturers.
Ciara Kane, CAFRE Food Technologist, then presented her real-life experience on the challenges and consideration of introducing plant-based products into an existing processing facility.
Konstantinos Xyntaris, CAFRE Senior Horticulturist, enlightened the audience on the potential crops that could be grown locally as raw materials for processing into plant-based products that satisfy the consumer needs of being tasty and also conscious of the environment.
Thelma Fitzgerald, Consumer Insights Manager at Invest NI, highlighted the support available to the local food manufacturing sector from the Consumer Insights Team. The team provides consumer market data which is key to ensuring new products meet the demands of the consumer.
Peter Simpson, CAFRE Head of Food Technology, concluded the event by outlining the support CAFRE can offer to both new and existing food manufacturers. From new product development, focusing on plant-based products or implementing new processing methods to meet and delight the consumer, CAFRE has a team of Food Technologists based at Loughry Campus who are only more than willing to guide and support.
The event provided all those in attendance with food for thought when it comes to the area of plant-based food products. It also provided a networking opportunity for like minded companies to come together and see the facilities on offer at CAFRE Loughry Campus.