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Innovative businesses invited to seize opportunities in Kent to meet global demand for UK food innovation and sustainability

Locate in Kent and Growing Kent & Medway will be joining forces next month to showcase opportunities in the county for innovative businesses seeking the right location to join the alternative plant-based food revolution sweeping the UK.

Sales of meat and dairy substitute products are estimated to grow by £6.8 billion globally by 2025, with sales of vegan foods in the UK growing faster than any country in the world.  In Kent, which already contributes some £2.6 billion annually to the UK food and drink sector, a growing cluster is emerging to meet the increased appetite for healthier choices, plant-based products and more personalised nutrition.  This will form the basis of a one-hour webinar panel discussion taking place from 4pm (UK Time) on Wednesday, 20 July 2022.

The session will offer valuable insights and discussion on how businesses can make the most of the huge opportunity for innovation and growth in the nutritional foods sector, including:

  • Current trends and opportunities for market growth
  • How new facilities and pilot equipment are helping Kent businesses grow
  • Overcoming challenges with product research and food safety
  • Business support and grants available to help within Kent

Simon Ryan, Investment Director for Locate in Kent, says the webinar will provide UK and global businesses with a clear view of how Kent can deliver thanks to a compelling combination of world leading research and talent, external funding and business support as well as unrivalled connectivity between London, the wider UK and key markets in Europe.

“There is a exciting and innovative work taking place now in the food technology space from new plant-based protein rich foods, personalised nutrition and novel packaging solutions to the development of new crop varieties resilient to climate change,” he said.

“That work taking place in our region’s real cluster of success, including a growing talent pool, has maintained Kent’s reputation as the UK’s centre for food innovation. This is attracting interest from around the world.

“Sales of meat and dairy substitute products, for example, are estimated to grow by £6.8 billion globally by 2025, with sales of vegan food in the UK growing faster than any other country in the world.

Kent with its proximity to diverse and established supply chains serving some of the UK’s most densely populated regions, including London and the wider South East, has long been a magnet for companies of all sizes looking for the right location as the gateway to European markets.

Add in world class research, taking place at the University of Greenwich, the University of Kent, NIAB EMR and initiatives from Growing Kent & Medway to support and scale up business growth, this is a pivotal moment for the county’s success in this sector.

“The UK market for alternative proteins is one of a number of exciting opportunities for businesses in Kent, a county that already contributes £2.6bn per year to the UK food and drink industry,” Locate in Kent’s Simon Ryan adds.

“We’re seeing an increased number of enquiries from a range of domestic and overseas businesses – from food production to product developers. They like what they see developing here and see this part of the UK, with easy access to London and unrivalled proximity to European markets, as the right location.

“Kent is well placed for companies looking to meet the UK consumer’s growing appetite for plant-based products and development of innovative and value-added foods as well as in packaging, distribution, and the broader supply chain.

“The region is already seeing growth in the number of companies working on innovative ways to grow and deliver fresh produce and pantry items to people living across London and the South East.

“There are also opportunities now in Kent for companies to drive innovation and address the challenges of making food surplus and packaging circular and waste-free.”

Dr Parag Acharya is leading Growing Kent & Medway’s work to develop a UK flagship centre of excellence for alternative protein development in the Kent and Medway region, linking academia with industry across all stages of new product development from R&D to market launch. He will be among the panel of experts taking part in the webinar.

“One of the advantages for Kent in terms of the UK food market is its strategic location, close to London and to Europe. Kent, often called the Garden of England, is famous for its fresh produce,” Dr Acharya said.

“There is huge traction on the production side with the focus now on driving more business growth in processing and product development and other areas such as the supply chain where there may be opportunity for circular economy by re-utilising food waste.

“We now also have the Medway Food Innovation Centre where we are trying to bridge the gap between research and applications as well as building a start-up community primarily for work around alternative protein-based food innovation.

“There is a growing debate globally on the lack of sustainability of animal agriculture, which is quite emission intensive and therefore we are looking for more sustainable alternatives to animal proteins,” Dr Acharya added.

“Alternative protein is a growth area with the UK market already huge, particularly for plant-based foods. Meat and dairy alternatives consist of more than a billion pounds in the UK with plant-based foods one of the country’s fastest growing consumer trends.

“Through our food accelerator programme, Medway Food Innovation Centre would like to develop entrepreneurships for the alternative protein space which will contribute to the innovation ecosystem that is building in the UK.

“Via Growing Kent and Medway, we are developing ourselves as one of the front runners in this area with a lot of work taking place now to generate more scientific insights by addressing the key knowledge gaps via collaborative research.

“We are developing partnerships with the other UK universities as well as high value manufacturing catapults like CPI and Campden BRI, and investors to deliver innovation and skills development in the emerging area of alterative protein-based food.

“At Growing Kent & Medway we are establishing ourselves as the lead co-ordinator to develop the UK innovation ecosystem for alternative protein. That is a real opportunity for Kent.”

To register for the one-hour webinar ‘Bringing Nutrition to the Table. Can you meet the UK demand? Researching and developing nutritional foods in Kent’ visit: https://www.locateinkent.com/webinar-series/

Confirmed speakers for the webinar, include:

Dr Nazanin Zand, Associate Professor in Food and Nutrition and Science and Portfolio Lead for Enterprise within the faculty of Engineering and Science at the University of Greenwich. She is also the Programme Leader for the MSc in Food Innovation, attracting significant input from a range of major food companies.

Dr Parag Acharya is a senior fellow in Food Innovation at the University of Greenwich and Innovation Growth Manager for the Growing Kent & Medway Cluster. He joined the university’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI) in 2020. He has contributed to six research grants during 2021-2022 to enable new insights on the alternative protein and resilient food supply chain.

Dr Alessia Buscaino is a Senior Lecturer at University of Kent. Part of the Kent Fungal Group, her work oversees fungal research and industrial biotechnology, including fermentation, synthetic biology, cell-culture and protein production. The group collaborates with a wide range of brands, including Wye Vale Hops, Provenance Potatoes and Shepherd Neame.

Nimisha Raja is the founder and CEO of Nim’s Crisps, an award-winning healthy snacks firm based in Kent enjoying international success. Nim’s is the UK’s only manufacturer of 100% natural air-dried fruit and vegetable crisps.

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