2019 02 21

Lithuanian Food Innovations for the Ukrainian Market

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Dry honey and dry yoghurt. Eco-friendly coatings for fruit, berries and vegetables that prevent them from wilting and rotting for longer. Seed and nut snacks or dried fruit, berry and vegetable goodies. These are just a few of the healthy and nutritious products made using innovative technology developed by Lithuanian scientists that captured the interest of the Ukrainian food industry.

In late October, Kiev hosted WorldFood 2018, an international food and beverage fair. This was an opportunity for the Open R&D Lithuania network, which represents the combined scientific potential of Lithuania, to introduce itself and the services it can provide to the food industry. The Lithuanian stand offered visitors a taste of Lithuanian products developed by scientists in partnership with business.

“As much as 56% of Ukraine’s territory is arable land. The country produces a lot of plant and animal products that are processed by about 2 thousand food processing companies. Investment in the sector is continually growing. As we presented our technology and research services, we saw that we too can step into this market and help companies make better, safer and more innovative products,” explains Martynas Survilas, an Open R&D Lithuania network facilitator.

Suitable for Astronauts

The WorldFood 2018 fair in Kiev was attended by representatives of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU), the Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry (LAMMC), Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) and Aleksandras Stulginskis University.

“Lyophilised, or dry, honey – is now one of our classic technologies. Water is extracted from the honey, leaving only the concentrated bioactive contents. This shrinks the mass and volume of the honey, making it easier to keep and transport. Dry honey is easier to dose in the confectionery industry too,” says Professor Mickevičius.

Ukraine harvests a great amount of honey, making this technology a very pertinent one. As emphasised by the dean of the VDU Faculty of Natural Sciences, the country has a well-developed food industry that is trying to break into the EU market. This is why they are looking for more advanced food production and safety technology that could help their products meet EU standards.

Lithuanian scientists have such technology to offer. For example, the eco-friendly fruit, berry and vegetable coating technology developed by VDU allows produce to maintain its fresh appearance for longer. The technology uses people-friendly substances that have no negative effect on health. However, when coated with this product, fruit, berries and vegetables do not wilt or rot for longer.

Much like dry honey, dry yoghurt is made by extracting its water content and leaving behind its nutrients. According to Professor Mickevičius, the yoghurt turns into a small tasty sweet. When mixed with the appropriate amount of water, it returns to its original liquid state. This technology allows companies to shrink the mass and volume of the yoghurt, thereby reducing transportation costs. On the other hand, dry yoghurt can keep for longer. This is especially important for the industrial consumer.

This interesting solution may attract the interest of the space industry. Professor Mickevičius believes that dry yoghurt would be a suitable food for astronauts in space.

100% Natural

“We have long-term experience with regard to how science can collaborate with business. The results of such collaborative partnerships are innovative products made using advanced technology and without any synthetic food additives. The very raw material of horticulture is very valuable because it contains phenolic compounds, antioxidants and dyeing substances. We develop healthy and safe products based on the natural properties of the raw material,” emphasises Dr. Marina Rubinskienė, senior researcher at the Biochemistry and Technology Laboratory of the LAMMC Institute of Horticulture.

Such products are well-known in the Lithuanian market and are establishing themselves in the Baltic, Scandinavian and German markets. The products LAMMC researchers and their long-term partner, the sweet factory Rūta, have developed together make regular appearances at various national and international trade fairs, often winning prizes. This year, at the Lithuanian product and service fair Made in Lithuania, their healthy nut and seed snack, Greenz, received a gold medal.

A partnership between LSMU pharmaceutical specialists and the Švenčionys-based medicinal herb factory Acorus Calamus produced various medicinal teas and lyophilised products for the pharmaceutical industry. UAB Mėlynė, a partner of the LAMMC Institute of Horticulture, is renowned for its line of lyophilised food products. As Dr. Rubinskienė explains, fruit and berry pulp dried at -80 degrees comes in various shapes and colours, but their colour and flavour are 100% natural and have kept the colour and flavour of the original fruit or berry.

From 2015, a line of dried fruit, berry and vegetable snacks produced by the Biochemistry and Technology Laboratory has become a consumer favourite and earned public trust. Made of Lithuanian-grown apples, black-currants, cherries, plums, carrots and pumpkins, the products have been presented at various national fairs and collected awards. The dried apple and blackcurrant as well as plum, apple and carrot treats known by the brand name LABUwere developed as part of a partnership between the institute and UAB LABU. In 2016, products won a gold medal at the Made in Lithuania fair.

This range of dried treats is currently being expanded further. Six products have already been made on the basis of dried fruit, berry and vegetable pulp in various flavour combinations of apple, black-currant, plum, cherry, cranberry, carrot and pumpkin.

In collaboration with MB Sulčių Fabrikas, a unique carrot juice pasteurisation technology was also developed that allows manufacturers to preserve the flavour of fresh vegetables. Researchers at the Biochemistry and Technology Laboratory have helped develop products and improve technology for many Lithuanian companies.

In 2005, the Biochemistry and Technology Laboratory opened the Experimental Fruit and Vegetable Processing Module. Prototypes for innovative products and technology are developed in an environment that approximates real industry conditions. The laboratory offers recommendations and creates suitable conditions for producing prototype products that could later be commercialised. This kind of help, according to Dr. Rubinskienė, is very important when making safe, eco-friendly products free of synthetic additives and preservatives.

In 2015, the LAMMC Institute of Horticulture opened the doors to its Open Access Fruit and Vegetable Processing Technology Modelling Laboratory. Here, specialists can model different kinds of technology for processing various fruits and vegetables and work on commercialising the results of horticultural plant, fruit, berry and vegetable-related research.

Scientists Speak to the Food Industry

At the WorldFood 2018 fair in Kiev, Open R&D Lithuania hosted a conference entitled Open R&D Lithuania: Innovative Food Technology for the Food Industry. Representatives of the Lithuanian scientific community presented the potential of the R&D network in various fields such as new functional materials, food production technology, innovative food product development and functional food.

Among the seven presenters representing different universities, as many as three were professors. Professor Rimantas Venskutonis of KTU gave a presentation on the development of new functional materials using biorefining technology, Professor Loreta Šernienė of LSMU spoke about innovative food products, and Professor Mickevičius of VDU discussed research on food biotechnology.

The community hopes this conference will be an important step towards making contact with Ukraine’s food production and processing companies. The WorldFood 2018 fair in Kiev marks the fourth Open R&D Lithuania visit to Ukraine. Earlier events focused on the fields of energy and cyber security. This was the first visit dedicated to the topic of food.



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