Farmers2Founders had the chance to connect with Nadia Coetzee, a distinguished food technologist and dedicated product development consultant. In this interview, Nadia shared her profound insights into her role as a food scientist and her journey into the field of food science. She shed light on current industry trends and challenges, particularly those around health and sustainability. With a focus on developing products that cater to both consumers' well-being and the planet's health, Nadia's expertise and perspective provided valuable insight for influencing the future of food.
Nadia's Path as a Food Technologist and Inspiration:
Farmers2Founders: Hi Nadia, can you briefly describe your role as a food technologist and what inspired your journey?
Nadia: In a nutshell, as a food scientist and a product development consultant for my own business, my main role is to assist in the ideation, formulation, processing and commercialisation of new products with a focus on the health and sustainability sector. I struggled with my own health, so my direction from starting as a chef to a food technologist evolved into nutrition and gut health. Studying this sector formed a big part of my business and who I am as a person and that’s where my passion evolved into developing more nutritional or sustainable products that will help consumers to live a sustainable and healthy life as well. Working with like-minded people and entrepreneurs like myself who love to make a difference in the industry and it also taps into sustainability and hunger relief in the community. It’s a passion of mine and a vision for my company to make a real difference in the environment or society; with products and technology that find a solution to real problems with climate change, food shortages and minimising food waste. It’s very inspiring to see that there are so many like-minded people that have similar purposes.
Exploring the Phases of Crafting Successful Food Products:
Farmers2Founders: Please talk us through the new product development process as a food technologist.
Nadia: There are four different sectors of product development:
Ideation - the initial stage; putting the idea together for a product, doing all the research, putting the product brief together to see if there is actually space for this product to be launched into the market. Whether it will be successful, working on the recipe development and looking at raw materials.
Formulation - actually making up the product and doing tests like shelf-life analysis, how you can improve the sensory side of the products appearance, colour, flavour and determine if you want it to be more locally sourced. Whether the product will need to adhere to specific dietary requirements, to determine if it’s a vegan friendly product or allergen free and how can you produce a tasty product whilst adhering to all these different aspects.
Processing - the third stage is when the manufacturer takes the formulation which you have developed on a kitchen scale, takes it into a factory and sees if you can replicate what you have made on a larger scale. To look at the quality of the product, the packaging, the shelf life and the cost.
Commercialisation - this is where we look at the final details including the legislation, packaging, distribution, setting up meetings with retailers and potential buyers, working on branding and making the launch of the product a success.
Farmers2Founders: Nadia's insights into the new product development process as a food technologist illustrate the collaborative essence of our mission, putting producers at the heart of industry innovation. Highlighting the crucial role of partnerships between producers, tech developers, and innovators in every phase of product development.
Prominent Trends in the Food Industry:
Farmers2Founders: What are the most prominent trends you are seeing in the food industry at the moment?
Nadia: I would say there are the four trends currently:
Sustainability and health around functional foods, the way you produce a product but also the sustainability to the environment.
Clean labelling and locally sourced products are also something that consumers are always looking at, so locally produced (which will also limit the CO2 footprint of these products) and contributes to the sustainability of the environment. But locally sourced products also have a high nutritional value. So, for the consumers, from a health perspective, it's better to look at locally sourced products.
Convenience foods and healthy snacks, that also still have the health benefit of all the nutritional aspects.
Plant based alternatives – which can be more sustainable and eating less meat that comes from animals, alongside sourcing more plant-based alternatives for protein.
If we all use our expertise across different sectors/ parts of the value chain and work together to make a positive impact in the way people consume and produce food, then we can really make a big difference in the way people are living healthier. Alongside contributing to growing food in a more sustainable way.
Farmers2Founders: Nadia's call for collaboration across the value chain and the shared expertise of different stakeholders resonates with our mission to create a positive impact on how people consume and produce food. Together, we can drive innovation, sustainability, and health in the agri+food industry, contributing to healthier living and more sustainable food systems.
Sustainable Approaches to Food Development:
Farmers2Founders: How important have sustainable and ethical sourcing become in food development?
Nadia: It’s a huge topic and is driving a lot of the large-scale manufacturers to make changes from plastic to compostable and more sustainable products. Also, the way you would source raw materials as locally sourced has a smaller carbon footprint and supports local producers. As a food developer you keep in mind and are always looking for solutions on how you can replace a product with a locally sourced product, how can you work yourself up to becoming a factory that launches products into the market that are zero plastic. There is a big gap for smart technology in packaging at the moment, especially in the food and beverage sector.
Farmers2Founders: Nadia's perspective on sustainable and ethical sourcing underscores the significance of locally sourced and produced products, establishing a crucial link between startups and producers to drive impactful industry changes. This collaboration leverages smart technologies to enhance product sustainability through innovation, to support and empower producers while advancing environmentally aware practices.
Aligning Innovation with Consumer Preferences:
Farmers2Founders: how are consumer preferences influencing the food science industry right now?
Nadia: Consumers are also aware of not just the sustainable side and the environment but also the importance this has on their own health. Consumer preferences are driving the food trends, they are more educated and are thinking about the health of the environment, sustainability and their own health. This creates a gap in the market to allow food scientists to actually produce food that is more sustainable and healthier as it is forcing the manufactures to make a difference. It’s a very interesting and exciting phase, consumer demands are definitely one of the main drivers for food trends, the way we develop products and launch products into the market.
Client Engagement and Sustainability:
Farmers2Founders: What percentage of your clients are currently looking to integrate upcycled ingredients into their products?
Nadia: From an agriculture perspective and the food industry, I would say around 40% are looking at how we can reuse products either as final products or to reuse into the industry. It’s still a relatively new movement and started in the baking and brewing industry. However, upcycling is growing because there is so much food waste especially if it is coming from the end of processes of final products. So upcycling is definitely something that will stick around and grow over the next decade.
Farmers2Founders: How do you guide clients who are looking to make a shift towards using upcycled ingredients?
Nadia: I always look at the opportunity for how we can reuse waste products or minimise the waste in production, how we can use the whole of the product, bringing that into the food sector and how you can use whole ingredients. The more fibre from wholefoods that you can include in your product the healthier the product will be.
Farmers2Founders: How many clients are focusing on recyclable or compostable packaging for their products?
Nadia: I would say a high percentage, at least 80 percent because for the consumer it is a big trend as well and in the next 5 years manufacturers will have to make a change if they still want to stay in the market with certain types of food. It is more difficult for start-ups or SMEs, who have limited amounts of financial capacity to launch a product with something more sustainable. However most are having a plan in the next 5 years for how they can convert into something more sustainable. So, they definitely have the mindset of changing and looking at sustainability.
Farmers2Founders: Nadia's insights into client engagement demonstrate the holistic approach through innovative collaborations with producers to combat food waste originating from various stages of production. Her emphasis on fostering partnerships between the agriculture industry and the food sector to address food waste through upcycling and the utilisation of whole ingredients reinforces the necessity for a seamless integration of smart technological innovations, from the initial producer phase.
Approaching Food Innovation as a Start-Up:
Farmers2Founders: From your perspective, do startups differ in their approach to food innovation compared to larger, established companies?
Nadia: Definitely, they have limited resources, and the financial capacity is usually a lot smaller. They are also more innovative and focused on the details of the products compared to larger established companies - you learn to solve problems with little resources. As a start-up you have to be focused and know how the main purpose of the product you want to produce catering to a purpose.
Envisioning Future Food Systems:
Farmers2Founders: What innovations or advancements in food science are you most excited about at the moment?
Nadia: Consumers are being more educated in health and sustainability and really investing their money into organic or locally sourced products, which also gives me the opportunity to develop products that are very aligned with the passion and purpose of my business; being more sustainable and healthier for consumers and the movement of going plastic free in the next decade. I think it will be amazing to see the new smart technologies that will evolve to replace the properties of plastics in a cost-effective way. That is one of the most exciting parts of advancements that I am looking forward to in the food industry.
Farmers2Founders: What do you hope future food systems will incorporate or prioritise?
Nadia: I think just to continue to develop smart and sustainable food systems that will help the food production sector to access smart technologies and explore new food innovation to limit things like food waste and produce more sustainable and healthy products in the market. It’s such a good platform and place to start off and support people in this sector.
Farmers2Founders: Nadia demonstrates the significance of innovation and collaboration across the entire value chain. With a focus on sustainability and the integration of smart technologies in both the agriculture and food industry, future food systems are poised for significant improvement, enabling the creation and introduction of healthier products for consumers.
Our conversation with Nadia revealed a dynamic fusion of innovation, sustainability, and purpose within the food technology sector. Her dedication to crafting products that resonate with consumers' values whilst minimising environmental impact serves as an inspiration for the evolving landscape of food innovation. As the industry continues to embrace sustainable practices and adapt to consumer demands, Nadia's insights provide a vision of a future where nurturing both individuals and the planet becomes the primary focus for food innovation. Find out more about this exciting future at Nadia's website: Root Your Health - Nadia Coetzee.
If you're currently working on a product within this sector and seeking assistance, we're excited to announce two upcoming programs: Circular Value and Value+ Functional Food and Beverage. Explore the dedicated landing pages for each program, with Circular Value, commencing in February 2024, and the Value+ Functional Food & Beverages program commencing in May 2024. If you're interested in the idea of participating in a program like this or becoming a founder, feel free to contact Program Manager Anna Phillips at 0432 624 614. Your innovation is welcomed and encouraged!