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FINEST— Major investment in sustainable development in the food sector

With stakeholders from the food industry, researchers from RISE, Chalmers and Uppsala University will accelerate the transition to a more sustainable food system in Sweden. FINEST is one of four multi-million investments at the Swedish Center for Food Research and Innovation funded by Formas.

The goal is to create conditions for a system change leading to an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable food sector. FINEST aim to find solutions that contribute to a faster adjustment of the food system by combining competence and co-creation between actors with different perspectives

” To launch new innovations faster, we need to collaborate from farm to consumer. At FINEST, we try to achieve this through social science and technical research in collaboration with actors from the business community,” explains Charlotte Eklund-Jonsson, Research and Business Developer at RISE.

System Innovation, System Change and Product Development

“ How can the agricultural and food sector change in all stages from raw material production, processes and distribution to value offerings and customer behaviour? To answer that, we look at different components in the system and their mutual relationship and collaboration,” says Fredric Norefjäll, Project Manager, Sustainable Business at RISE.

The focus is on system innovation in the food system’s value chains, social system change, and product development and business models. FINEST will develop collaborations on optimized use of raw materials, product properties, food safety, sensory analyzes, market analyzes, regulatory innovation and conconsumer insights.

“Simplified, we look at the entire value chain from different perspectives; What happens at different points and what is required for a change to occur? Then, we gather scientifically developed tools and guidelines based on different research disciplines that can help food companies take the next step towards a sustainable transition. All this is to solve problems that no single organization could solve,” Fredric Norefjäll explains.

Thomas Lennerfors, Professor of Industrial Technology at Uppsala University, says that an essential aspect of FINEST is to learn from innovation management in conversion work from other industries.

”To better understand the features of the food system, we will benefit from our previous research in innovation and sustainability in other industries, such as life science, electricity market and shipping, regarding, for instance, market regulations and what sustainable production means,” he says.

Forest Berries, Legumes and Experimental Foods  

FINEST will concentrate its innovation work linked to Swedish forest berries, Protein-rich legumes and Experimental food production. In addition to the development of product pilots, health aspects, consumer acceptance, and the regulations surrounding this type of food will be examined.

Swedish forest berries have been selected because it is an underutilized product. Although as much as ten per cent of Sweden’s land area consists of blueberry rice, only a few per cent of the berries are picked, of which a large part is exported. At the same time, Sweden imports American blueberries.

We know that there is potential for new products and want to help local companies and the process industry see the business opportunities

”In Asia, Nordic blueberries are popular in health food. However, in Sweden, business and product development is still quite limited, and the process industry is absent in the berry industry, “ says Sophia Wassén, Product Design Researcher at RISE.

”Taking care of our wild berries is about utilizing the resources available in our immediate area, says Thomas Lennerfors. He believes that Sweden’s volume and process development can increase even though many berries are picked. However, he also believes that working with wild berries is complicated as the business has struggled with legitimacy problems linked to the pickers’ working conditions over the past ten years.

“Although we see that there has been a significant improvement, it is essential to constantly consider the different dimensions of sustainability and the synergies and conflicts between them when we try to improve the use of forest berries”, says Thomas Lennerfors.

”We know that there is potential for new products and want to help local companies and the process industry see the business opportunities, such as fermented blueberry juice, powder for bakeries, berry seed oil, and shells for healthy food or extraction of anthocyanins. There are many possibilities, and together with producers, we at FINEST will develop and test several different berry processing processes”, says Sophia Wassén.

Legumes are a protein-rich food that works well to grow in Sweden, but most products today come from imported raw materials. The third value chain is about new experimental foods that do not use agricultural lands, such as fatty acids produced from carbon dioxide and energy.

”It is exciting because it involves completely new ways of producing food that reduces dependence on arable land. We want to increase the understanding of how experimental food production generally could contribute to a more sustainable food supply”, says Sophia Wassén.

”Regarding product development, it is also essential to always have a consumer focus in what we do. As soon as we refine something, whether it is berries, legumes or experimental foods, we have to think about whether it is a product that consumers will buy. So we need more knowledge about customer behaviour”,  Sophia Wassén adds.teenden, lägger Sophia Wassén till.

RISE invests in the future food system

“With FINEST, we want to contribute to innovation in the food sector by involving actors from all parts of the value chain to jointly create conditions for innovation, contribute to system change and support concrete projects,” says Charlotte Eklund-Jonsson.

“We try to help established players find new ways by collaborating in new ways and with new parties, and also reach the market faster with climate-smart, excellent and healthy food products, “ says Maria Elmquist, Professor of Innovation Management at Chalmers.

She says that Chalmers has recruited a doctoral student focusing on innovation in the food sector, who is now conducting a study together with RISE, ICA and the Household Society. The background is that more knowledge is needed about how different actors can collaborate and develop their internal processes to enable more innovations in the food system.

Supports the UN sustainability goals

2. Zero hunger
3. Good health and well-being
8. Decent work and economic growth
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
13. Climate action

In addition to ICA and Hushållningssällskapet, 13 other industry players are included, and more will be linked to FINEST during the work.

Results from all research within FINEST will be disseminated to the industry but also the three other centres for sustainability and competitiveness in the food system funded by FORMAS: BLUE FOOD — Center for the seafood of the future, PAN Sweden — Plant-based proteins for health and wellbeing and SustAinimal — a collaborative research centre exploring the future role of livestock in sustainable and competitive Swedish food production systems. FINEST also collaborates with the MISTRA Food Futures program. RISE participates in all of them.


Food Innovation Enabling Sustainable Transition

Academic Partners

  • RISE
  • Chalmers
  • Uppsala University

Business Partners

  • Axfoundation

  • Gropro

  • Hushållningssällskapet 

  • ICA

  • Lantbrukarnas riksförbund

  • Lantmännen

  • Livsmedelsföretagen

  • Lyckeby Culinar

  • Mycorena

  • Skira

  • Solina-Sweden

  • Stios Utveckling

  • The Green Dairy Sweden

  • Region Västerbotten

  • Umeå kommun

Published: 2022-04-29



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