Quality

Producing and selling good quality foods to the consumer is a constant challenge that requires the whole production and supply chain to work properly for each product. The cardinal needs around food quality are to ensure good ingredients are processed, packaged and stored to present the consumer with an appetising experience. Existing challenges to food quality, such as extension of shelf life, will encourage novel, sustainable, solutions.

Fundamental needs

  • Traditional ingredients and packaging materials are being replaced with novel substitutes as dietary changes (e.g. vegan foods) and sustainability drive demand. The impact of these changes on the functionality, microbiological quality and sensory quality of foods needs to be properly assessed.
  • New ways of processing foods to reduce microbial load present quality issues (e.g. bleaching from use of ozone). The use of novel processes, and improvements to existing ones, must be assessed for their sensory and microbiological impact.
  • Consumer perception of products is changing as societies become more concious of the influence of food on health. We need to understand how the 'sensory signature' of products influences choice in response to perception changes.
  • Better definition of sensory scoring to reduce subjectivity and the use of instrumental methods will lead to better comparisons between products. Consumer complaint data needs to be more nuanced to aid root cause analysis.
  • Quality specifications (e.g. microbiological criteria for raw products) need to be harmonised to improve business efficiency and reduce waste.
  • Robust systems need to be in place to determine the quality of ingredients from multiple sources as manufacturers seek to guarantee supply by buying from larger numbers of suppliers.

Emerging needs

  • Consumer complaints information is collected in different ways by different retailers. There is a need to standardise the format in which it is collected to aid root cause investigation in suppliers with multiple retail customers.
  • There is a need for better detection of soya contamination in wheat.
  • Covid has reduced the ability of some people to taste and smell their food. There is a need to address this in sensory and consumer panellists.
  • Better digital information will lead to better control of production processes and therefore better quality products. There is a need for a digital infrastructure that can handle this data and the complexities of data sharing
  • The pressure to reduce the use of traditional food additives has led to the need for alternative solutions to boosting colours and flavours.
  • Low-alcohol and no-alcohol beverages are becoming increasingly popular. There is a need to improve consumer perception of these products, and a need to guarantee their microbiological and chemical stability over shelf life.
  • Gene-editing promises to become a valuable tool for both plant and animal breeders. There is a need for a clear understanding of the technology not just in the food industry, but also at legislative and consumer levels.
  • Improved methodologies for detecting microbes are always required. Heat resistant moulds and Leuconostoc mesenteroides have been mentioned as of specific interest
  • Packaging is an important component of food quality. There is a need to assess the impact of new packaging types on alcoholic drinks (e.g. pouches for spirit tasting packs), the effects of the removal of animal derivatives from flexible films and to reduce pack odour in poultry products.
  • Recent consumer trends have included a move toward plant-based diets. Currently, there are various definitions of what a 'plant-based' product is and how it should be labelled. There is a need for clear guidance and tools to help producers choose the correct ingredients and processes.
  • Reported reductions in consumption of meat has stimulated demand for alternative sources of protein such as insects and (in time) cultured meat products. There is a need for clear standards, legislation and guidelines for the use of these (and other) novel sources of protein.
  • High Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS) products need to change as the consumer desires fewer of these substances in their foods. There is a need for replacements to these components that maintain the same sensory profile and functionality.
  • Microbiological spoilage and sensory score reduction are linked. There is a need to better understand this link in specific product categories, e.g. meat or fish.
  • Sensory testing has an unavoidable element of subjectivity. There is a need to introduce more objective, automated, sensory testing tools.
  • The need to work from home during the pandemic has led to more sensory tests being performed at home. There is a need to assess the efficacy of home-based assessors, and to develop ways of maintaining their enthusiasm and attention when assessing a product. There is also a need to keep the positives from home-assessments such as more candid views on the product being expressed.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Campden BRI but are a summary of industrial feedback obtained from Campden BRI’s Member Interest Groups and interactions with government bodies and wider industry.

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