To review state-of-the-art approaches to food innovation for value-added, convenient, healthy foods

United Kingdom
Land, Commerce and Logistics
Health and Medicine
To review state-of-the-art approaches to food innovation for value-added, convenient, healthy foods featured image

Dr Hazel MacTavish-West’s Churchill Fellowship trip became known (to her, at least) as the VegDoctor’s Odyssey - her LinkedIn updates ran under the by-line “Postcards from the VegDoctor”.

The topic: Investigating opportunities to incorporate more vegetables and fruit into value-added, convenient, healthy foods.

The study tour: Spanned five countries (mid-March to mid-May, 2018), and reviewed companies throughout the entire supply chain, from seed breeders to producers and processors, from retailers with consumers in mind to research and support companies, with some agri-tourism thrown in.

In summary: As the trip evolved, it became evident that Hazel was receiving unexpected but consistent answers to some of her questions, especially around things like waste, shelf-life, packaging, production efficiency, retailing and how we communicate about vegetables. This shifted her thinking.

Key take-outs: The vegetable and fruit industry supplies the food groups we all need to be eating more of. They are doing a great job of developing and finding new, better varieties to grow, with meaningful characteristics for us (how they look, taste and how we can use them). Food trends are moving in the direction of more ‘plant-based’ eating, which is a great opportunity.

There are new ways to get fresh produce and meal kit solutions to people: these are worth investigating. Adding further value is about focusing on the strengths and quality of the core produce, and selecting sensible food technology solutions, that deliver quality food, safely and at an acceptable price.

Food packaging is evolving rapidly and is a key area for focus; government legislation may be required for real change.

Retailers can take a strong lead in helping people value fresh produce: improving how it is displayed, engaged with and promoted (not just on price). Supply chains need to be more local, opening up opportunities for smaller producers and reducing food miles and packaging.

Cross-sectoral approaches for promotion of healthy eating and enjoying vegetables and fruits are required. Since the whole of society will benefit from this, all players should contribute. Hazel believes the message should be ‘less stick, and more carrot’.

Connecting people with primary production needs to improve, at all levels.

Hazel also (unexpectedly) went on her very own VegDoctor’s Odyssey (especially in Italy), emerging with an altered food philosophy, and returning determined to keep things simple, and to examine the potential for some of the new vegetables she tasted.


Hazel MacTavish-West

Hazel MacTavish-West


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