Researchers at Teesside University are joining forces with a leading supermarket chain on a £1 million project to find ways to cut the amount of fat used in fried food.
As well as improving efficiency and reducing carbon output, the three-year project with Sainsbury's could also result in healthier crisps and snacks.
The University will work with Sainsbury's and members of its supply chain to explore different ways to improve efficiency and reduce the take up of oil in fried food.
The project is part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, a public body set up to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Teesside University will provide expertise in food science, chemistry and sustainable technology to optimise the management of oil in the production process.
The five main aims of the project are to:
The first year of the project will predominantly take place at Teesside University and will involve a wide range of research and experimentation. In the second year, ideas that have been developed in the laboratories will be upscaled and tested in the factories of Sainsbury's industrial partners.
In the final year of the project, the results will be analysed and published and any process or innovations which have been developed will be patented. At all stages of the process, taste panels will be used to assess the impact upon the consumer.
Teesside University was chosen to collaborate with Sainsbury's because of its proven experience working on similar projects. Previous work the University has undertaken in this field include spearheading the Resource Efficiency Pathways to Sustainable Growth (REPS) project - a £2 million scheme to help 156 North-East companies improve efficiency and sustainability, make cost savings and reduce carbon production.
Teesside University also worked with Camerons Brewery to improve its energy efficiency, bringing a graduate into the company, with academic supervision, to deliver the project.
The Teesside University research project will be led by Sustainable Technologies Project Manager Garry Evans along with Dr Jibin He, Dr Gillian Taylor, Dr Liam O'Hare and Shirley O'Hare.
'We’ll be looking at many different options at how to achieve these aims. It could be that we devise a new piece of machinery or a new process on the production line or a different way of preparing the food or a combination of different things. As well as increased efficiency and productivity, there is also going to be a health impact as there will be less oil used in the manufacture of the foods. I’m very confident that at the end of the three years we will have developed innovative ways to achieve our aims.'
'This is a great project and it’s fantastic to be working on it with a company like Sainsbury’s. There is a lot of competition for these projects. Out of more than 1,600 applications there were only about 30 successful bids. From a University perspective it proves that we have the capacity and capability for delivering successful results. The market for what we’re working on is in excess of £2b so even a small reduction in the cost of the process could have massive impact. The work that we do could also have implications for many other industries as well.'