Let's talk about food waste - Food Industry Innovation 2020

Posted on: 01/04/2020

Here’s a recap of our February Food Industry Innovation event about food waste.




Last month we held two Food Industry Innovation events, bringing together start-ups, SMEs and larger organisations to showcase Innovate UK funded projects, hear from a range of experts and provide networking opportunities.


On 27th February, we welcomed delegates to our Food Innovation event on food waste, held at the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University.


Why the topic of food waste?

Population numbers are increasing and with that comes an increased need to produce food using less natural resources. Industry faces a challenge to produce more food with less environmental impact. UN data shows that the world’s population will be up to 10 billion by 2050. We need to produce 60% more food by 2050 to feed this growing population.


According to WRAP’s research and estimates compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), approximately one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted.


Food and drink production and consumption in the UK today account for:

  • 20% of territorial greenhouse gas emissions
  • 70% of total water footprint
  • £19 billion worth of waste a year in the UK


In addition, £730 of food is thrown away by the average UK family each year.


Expert speakers

We welcomed speakers from varied backgrounds, including those funded through Innovate UK programmes. To start off, Gavin Milligan, representing WRAP, set the scene outlining the social, environmental and economic challenges of reducing food waste.

We then heard from three organisations working to tackle food waste. Alison Wright from B-Hive Innovations explained the way their company is addressing food waste across the potato supply chain, from field to storage to extracting value from peelings. Lucas Westphal from Campden BRI highlighted their work on the application of novel fibres using vegetable by products and extraction of value from crustacean waste. Finally, Jonathan Hughes from Pennotec talked about their work in this space, from working with Canada on crustacean waste to using apple pomace to mimic fat.


Panel discussion

The panel was formed by:

  • Kathryn Miller – Innovate UK
  • Hugh Powel – Nestle UK
  • Graham Skinner – Insignia Technologies
  • Peter Griffiths – Bio-Bean


A lively panel discussion included a debate around ‘What defines food waste?’, following on from a clear split of opinion on the question ‘Is a banana skin food waste?’.


The discussion also included the following areas:

  • There are challenges in using food waste – including technical and regulatory challenges
  • It is a challenge to utilise food waste in some operations, if the waste stream is not guaranteed to be food grade. A lot of work is needed to ensure food waste can be put back into the human food supply chain safely
  • For end users, utilising a food waste stream requires a steady supply (in terms of volume and quality) which can’t always be guaranteed
  • The ideal way to reduce food waste is to stop it happening in the first place, but after that there are various routes to reuse or valorise waste into something with value, for example for high quality food supplements, pharmaceutical grade compounds, bulk replacers to reduce sugar and increase fibre, and as a fuel source
  • Often the solutions require one particular type of food waste, processes need a ‘clean’ source of uncontaminated waste
  • Consumer waste in the home is a challenge – technology could support it


Table top Exhibitors

Through a competitive process, KTN awarded eleven innovative SMEs the opportunity to showcase their innovative products and services at the event.


What people said about the event

You can follow the conversation about the event on Twitter with #FII2020.

‘Creating a Circular bioEconomy requires collaboration to establish new supply relationships and value chains. At the event, I was able to discuss alternative business models with other bioproduct manufacturers, engage potential end-users and discover new service and support providers.’

Dr Jonathan Hughes – Pennotec


Funding and support to take food waste innovation further

There is funding and support available for businesses wanting to innovate in the area of food waste, through Innovate UK and other organisations such as WRAP:


Innovate UK funding
WRAP funding
AgriFood Tech Investment Showcase
KTN AgriFood Team
National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering



Simon Baty, Knowledge Transfer Manager – AgriFood, KTN

Kathryn Miller, Innovation Lead – Food and Nutrition, Innovate UK


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