The design and development of new foods should focus on human health, and particularly on a healthy gastro-intestinal tract, says Professor Vincenzo Fogliano.
The incoming Professor of Food Quality and Design at Wageningen University noted that the design and development of 'functional foods' was widely regarded as a promised land for the food industry around a decade ago. However, those efforts resulted far more often in frustration than in success, he said.
Speaking at his inaugural address he warned that restrictions put in place by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), coupled with the fact that consumers are not willing to pay for new and improved functional foods has meant that around 90% of new products in the area are taken off the market within weeks.
This has led to 'enormous losses' for food companies and decreased motivation, said Fogliano.
Nevertheless, the expert believes there are good reasons for continuing to develop healthy products - adding that there is a growing demand for such foods among consumers.
Go with the gut
According to Fogliano, the most interesting food products are those that have a beneficial impact on the intestinal flora and that could result in a new generation of functional foods.
There are also areas in which the 'food chain approach' developed by his group could contribute new knowledge and innovations.
For example, there is considerable potential in employing insects as a sustainable source of food and feed, he said.
"Despite the cultural obstacles to consuming insects, scientists and policymakers are all agreed that using insects as a food source offers the best chances of feeding humankind in the future."
There is also potential in thinking up and designing specific products that are suitable for feeding the populations of rapidly expanding cities, he suggested.
"Would it be possible to overcome problems that occur in metropolitan areas -- undernourishment and the disappearance of traditional eating customs, for example - and at the same time maintain the local economy and community?," he suggested.