Project

Framework and overall objectives

FOODENGINE offers a research training programme on the transformation of fruits, vegetables and legumes (FVL) in high-quality, sustainable, multi-functional ingredients and foods appealing to consumer preference, acceptance and need (PAN) profiles. The research training programme consists of two new ways of thinking:

  • FOODENGINE is based on a shift in paradigm in the field of food science and technology and introduces an enginomics approach for food quality design. It connects an omics approach combined with chemometrics to instrumentally quantify quality changes of FVL-based food systems and an advanced engineering approach using multi-response kinetics to model quality changes during processing and storage;
  • FOODENGINE will develop models linking the enginomics-based instrumental food quality design with sensory properties, consumer acceptance and preferences to create new products appealing to consumers.

FOODENGINE fellows will gain experience in new research approaches (i) to create low-waste/waste-free ways to transform FVL raw materials and where relevant side streams thereof in high-quality food systems and/or ingredients and (ii) for reliable and efficient shelf-life prediction of shelf-stable foods that takes into account multiple quality attributes (omics) and consumer PAN profiles and limits. To the best of our knowledge, FOODENGINE, for the first time, will train a new generation of young scientists for the introduction of these beyond the state-of-the-art totally new ways of thinking for future (FVL-based) product and process design. The central enginomics approach to monitor and control food quality as influenced by processing and storage is generic for an extensive range of food categories and consequently highly relevant for the food industry at large. This research training programme is spiced with: (i) an intensive and extended training programme on transferable skills (including management, communication and dissemination, valorisation and entrepreneurship, and ethics); (ii) local and network wide training opportunities on academic (omics, multivariate data analysis, multi-response kinetics, advanced sensory science) and industrially/society/consumer relevant food topics (food losses, food legislation, health claims, product development); (iii) intersectoral secondments to experience the mindset of academic and industrial research; (iv) mentorship by an academic as well as an industrial (co-)supervisor; (v) immersion in an interdisciplinary, intersectoral, international environment, and (vi) experience with international mobility. These activities will leave proved records in the fellows CVs largely enhancing their employability. FOODENGINE will train its fellows according to world-class standards integrating the Horizon 2020 priorities of ‘excellent science’, ‘industrial leadership’ and ‘societal challenges’ and the principles of responsible research and innovation. This unique training experience will provide excellent career perspectives to the fellows in different career settings where they will become nuclei, accelerators and multipliers of the new ways of thinking they have been immersed in. Although the research projects within FOODENGINE focus on FVL-based foods, the research and transferable skills and new ways of thinking the fellows will acquire are generic in nature and can be easily extrapolated beyond this specific application area in their future careers.

Research

FOODENGINE contains 6 Work Packages (WPs), 3 of which are research-based. Figure 1.1 shows the overall research and training framework of FOODENGINE and shows how the individual research projects of Early Stage Researchers (ESR 1-13) are integrated in and contribute to the overall research training programme.

In order to reach the overall objectives, FOODENGINE will offer its fellows a pioneering training programme on (i) the creation of sustainable, shelf-stable FVL-based food ingredients and foods; (ii) the integration of processing solutions and storage of shelf-stable FVL-based food ingredients and foods; (iii) the acceleration of the food engineering paradigm change to ‘enginomics’ for food quality design and models linking instrumental food quality with consumer PAN profiles for processing and storage of shelf-stable FVL-based food ingredients and foods.

The specific FOODENGINE objectives are translated in 3 interrelated research themes presented in 3 WPs:

WP1

This WP focuses on multi-functional ingredients for high quality food product development. Starting from fruits, vegetables, legumes and algae (incl. side streams thereof), multi-functional ingredients to be used in clean label foods will be developed. ESR2 will optimize the production process of natural colours, being micronutrients at the same time. ESR3 and ESR13 will focus on polysaccharide-based multi-functional (rheology, emulsifying properties) clean label ingredients based on vegetable materials and algae. ESR9 will focus on legume-based ingredients as protein source for embedding in liquid and low-moisture food systems.

WP2

This WP focuses on quality design of fruit-, vegetable- and legume-based foods, using both model and real foods as study vehicles. Specific focus will be on understanding principles to formulate waste-free production processes (split-stream processing) for food product quality design by using the raw materials (single and multiple) as a whole and creating multiple functional properties by tuning mechanical disintegration processes (blending, high pressure homogenization) and preservation technologies (in particular in-pack and continuous thermal processing including ohmic and microwave heating and emerging technologies including high pressure processing (HPP) and the use of pulsed electric fields (PEF)). Vegetable-based systems are considered by ESR1 (understanding and quantifying flavour properties), fruit-based systems are considered by ESR5 (understanding and quantifying physical stability), ESR10 and ESR12 (understanding and quantifying nutrient degradation and bio-accessibility) and ESR11 (processing authenticity). Legume-based systems are considered by ESR4 and ESR9 (understanding and quantifying physical stability, texture, flavour and digestion).

WP3

This WP will link quality design to sensory properties and consumer acceptability and preference of FVL-based foods. ESR6 will focus on a new methodological approach to identify the causal relation between volatile profiles and the sensory quality of the different FVL-based product categories. ESR7 will identify the relation between consumer acceptability and instrumental quality characteristics. ESR8 will focus on consumer preference/perception determinants for FVL-based foods in different regional settings.

Figure 1.1: Overview of the research and training framework of FOODENGINE with integration of the 13 ESR projects.

Training

As indicated in Figure 1.1, FOODENGINE offers a research and skill training framework for 13 young FOODENGINE research fellows.

In particular, FOODENGINE will:

  • Offer research-based training to early-stage researchers (ESR) in an integrated multi-disciplinary joint research programme involving both academic and private sector partners;
  • Offer specialized scientific/technological courses and a comprehensive set of complementary skills by lectures, tutorials or workshops, either locally available or network-wide coordinated via the yearly organized winter schools;
  • Expose the recruited fellows both to the academic sector and to private companies via secondments and intersectoral visits. For all long-term research projects, a secondment up to 30% of the recruitment period will be provided at the supporting partners. For short term projects, secondments are also provided and may vary from one week up to several months;
  • Organize a final conference to showcase the achievements of the training network.