Food and nutrition
Smart food is tasty, healthy and sustainable. The Food and Nutrition Programme (ERA) 2005–2008 boosted the momentum of smart food through research, education and joint projects with industry players.
Healthy school food and export efforts
Even healthy food should be good and tasty. The food debate has progressed from food innovations and low-calorie products to eating as a wider issue: good taste, healthiness, and the ethics and price of food.
The idea of smart food introduced by the Food and Nutrition Programme (ERA) is gaining ground in an area which covers both home cooking, treats and functional foods. It also takes into account customs and habits.
The success of the food industry requires networking and cooperation throughout the chain: from producers to industrial and research sectors to retailers. In Finland, resources should be focused on nutrition expertise in particular, as well as the marketing and sale of special products on an international level.
The food industry should be encouraged to turn its expertise into highly value-added products for export markets. Like other process industries, the food industry would benefit from making substantial investments in commercialisation expertise on the whole.
The global market situation of the food industry has changed in recent years, and the price of food has risen. Climate change is known to affect food production and the global market in the future. The number of people will increase, but there will be less land available for food production.
The Ruokamuutos 2030 scenario project looked at the future from the perspectives of climate change and the political operating environment, producing four different scenarios.
See the Ruokamuutos 2030 report (PDF, in Finnish) and Riitta Nieminen-Sundell’s blog post on the report.
Although the strategic centre of excellence for the food and nutrition cluster envisioned in the programme is yet to be established, development cooperation in the sector goes forward. Lessons learned during the programme will be utilised in the Finnish Food Culture development programme (2008–2011).
The responsibility for implementing the mentoring concept designed in the programme was transferred to the Sapuska programme of Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes, and the work will continue until the end of 2012. Several dozens of small and medium-sized enterprises had already gone through the mentoring process by the end of 2010.
Since 2009, the Coeliac mini-cluster established in the programme has continued its export efforts as a project under the Centre of Expertise Programme (OSKE), with Foodwest bearing the responsibility for project coordination.
Examples of the most significant projects carried out under the Food and Nutrition Programme ERA
Healthy eating habits are established during childhood. The Järkipalaa project focused on schoolchildren and involved the development of “taste lessons” and a vending machine dispensing healthy snacks.
The Coeliac mini-cluster launched joint marketing campaigns in Britain and Sweden. The joint export venture Fintorus Oy successfully initiated exports to Russia at the beginning of 2008.
The Berry mini-cluster has produced information on the nutritional and health effects of berries. The information will be useful in turning Finnish berry know-how into products for international markets.
Mentoring, venture capital investments and education
Sitra’s ERA programme promoted the development of healthy food – smart food – and turning it into commercial concepts following an industry wide-strategy. The programme brought together different players, established forums for wide-ranging debate and implemented development projects.
The ERA programme had three main goals: strengthening the industry’s international competitiveness, developing the SME sector, and developing health-promoting concepts.
Mentoring was introduced as a new form of activity to support SMEs in developing their business and expansion into international markets. Mini-clusters were established around raw materials (berries), Russian trade and coeliac know-how for the purpose of promoting internationalisation through collaboration between stakeholders. Changes in the food sector’s operating environment were envisioned in the scenario project.
Using venture capital is Sitra’s traditional business development method. The ERA programme made venture capital investments in three companies: Kyrönmaan Juustomestarit Oy, which specialises in functional cheese products made with rapeseed oil; Fintorus Oy, a company focusing on Russian exports; and Efficas Inc., a specialist in licensing bioactive compounds.
The Food and Nutritional Programme team consisted of the following people:
- Anu Harkki, Executive Director
- Sari Alfving, Programme Assistant
- Mira Kankkunen, Programme Assistant
- Jukka Aaltonen, Investment Director
- Liisa Rosi, Development Director
- Markku Mikola, Project Manager
- Juha Ahvenainen, Development Director
- Heikki Kauppinen, senior Adviser
- Seija Kurunmäki, Communications Specialist
More information on the programme is available from Sitra’s Communications on-call service, tel. +358 40 548 0794.