Insights from the 13th Global Food Technology & Innovation Summit

Nutrition and sustainability are key to good innovation, says Nestlé R&D chief

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nutrition and sustainability are key to good innovation, says Nestlé R&D chief

Related tags: Nutrition, Food

Food and beverage manufacturers must focus research and development activities on creating more nutritious and sustainable food solutions, says Nestlé’s head of global R&D.

The whole food and drink industry needs to work to create solutions that offer better nutrition and greater sustainability to everybody in the world, said Dr Johannes Baensch, global head of R&D at Nestlé.

Speaking at the Global Food Technology & Innovation Summit in London this week, Baensch warned that the industry has a responsibility to create sustainable nutrition goals and to follow these up with innovations and R&D activities that lead to healthier and more sustainable products. 

“At the end of the day, it is about us. It is actually about you and me. It is a collective effort to address the issues that we have as a society going forward,”​ said the global R&D chief. 

“It is our responsibility to have sustainable nutrition goals.”

Speaking to a crowd of leading food and industry executives, Baensch noted that as a company Nestlé has set out ‘clear goals’ to reduce sugar, fat and salt - as well as setting goals to increase whole grain, vegetables and natural ingredients. 

“But at the end of the day we don’t want to do this without compromising taste and pleasure,”​ he said, adding that it is also ‘very clear’ that the consumer “more and more values sustainability, and a clear communication and information from the manufacturer and the retailer on sustainability.” 

“What we can see is a sales increase of around 5% for products that are promoted around sustainability,”​ he explained. 

“So the consumer is very sensitive to sustainability. The consumer is sensitive to the nutritional aspect. But most importantly, the consumer wants taste.” 

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Nutrition and balance

Baensch said manufacturers like Nestlé have to balance innovations and new product development (NPD) to ensure that the notion of food safety, food security, pleasure, nutritional balance, health protection, and cost are all considered.

In terms of nutrition, he explained that the Vevey-based firm uses World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations and reference values as a way to generate product-specific nutrition targets. 

“From public health recommendation, to Nestlé nutritional profiling system, to tangible product targets. All of our products are undergoing nutritional evaluation based on public health recommendations." 

From ‘culinary art’ to material science

Baensch suggested that good R&D combines a multitude of disciplines to aid product development and reformulation. Indeed, he noted that using a combination of ‘culinary art’, scientific knowledge of material sciences and new insights in to how taste receptors work, Nestlé has been able to develop new ways to reduce salt, sugar and fat from products and also to fortify products. 

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“You reduce something on one side, you then address the question of consumer preference and liking, and then you add the dimension of something extremely positive,”​ he said, citing a recent example where Nestlé cut the level of sugar in its Nesquik flavoured milk powder and also added fortification with vitamins and minerals. 

“It isn’t just about reducing,”​ said Baensch. “When you talk about nutrition then it is also about balancing and enriching our products.”

He noted that in Nigeria 76% of pre-school children suffer from anaemia, while 62% of women suffer. 

“What we have done there is to supply 33 million Maggi cubes that were fortified, and this is certainly a substantial contribution to nutrition in the country. 

“This is not a marketing gimmick,”​ said the Nestlé chief. “There are people out there who suffer from deficiencies and it is our responsibility as an industry to ensure the right nutrition.”

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