Food for Health Ireland aims to meet the growing consumer demand for Irish health-enhancing ingredients, while making Ireland a global leader in the €250bn market for functional food.
On Wednesday (27 November), a new €21.6m centre for innovation in ‘functional food’ was launched, with backing from Enterprise Ireland.
The project, which is called Food for Health Ireland, has secured €7.2m in funding over five years from Enterprise Ireland, which has been matched by a further €7.2m in funding from Irish industry partners. Another €7.2m has been pledged from competitive sources.
The aim of the initiative is to make Ireland a global leader in the €250bn market for functional food.
The technology centre will be based in University College Dublin (UCD) and will meet growing consumer demands for health-enhancing ingredients, which are increasingly desired in food rather than pills or supplements.
Food for Health Ireland has spent over a decade building a unique innovation ecosystem that brings together leaders in food and health research, industry, policy, marketing and investment.
The project’s core industry membership features names such as Carbery, Dairygold, Glanbia and Kerry.
‘A world-class model’
In a statement, Food for Health Ireland said: “Together we have developed a world-class model for pre-competitive collaboration, which we are now expanding to include start-ups, SMEs and other large international players in the food and drink sector who need our support to innovate in the functional food space.”
Food for Health Ireland will place a particular focus on the Irish dairy industry. A spokesperson for the organisation said: “Our three focus areas for the next five years involve researching the metabolic and cardiovascular benefits of Irish cheddar; creating differentiation in Irish grass-fed dairy on the basis of nutrition, health benefits and sensory attritubtes; and developing fermented dairy ingredients to enhance digestive health.”
The UCD-based centre will also work with industry partners to bring products to market that enhance health across all life stages, with a dedicated commercialisation platform.
While the centre is based in UCD, Food for Health Ireland will utilise research from other Irish universities, including Dublin City University, University of Limerick, Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork. The project also partners with Teagasc, the semi-state Agriculture and Food Development Authority.