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Novel Food: Curse or blessing?


19 September 2023

Partners of the Protein Community gathered on Tuesday, 19 September, at Cosun Innovation Center to discuss their views on the challenges and opportunities of novel food products and regulations.

Novel food ingredients and processes are vital to driving innovation and sustainability in the protein sector. However, to use these novel food ingredients and processes, businesses must navigate complex regulations, ensure food safety, gain market acceptance, and scale their products effectively.

The Acceleration Session organised by The Protein Community, the province of Noord Brabant and the Brabant Development Agency (BOM) addressed these issues.  


Key takeaways: 

1. Don’t underestimate the length and costs of applying for novel food approval: Participants voiced their frustration over the extensive approval timelines associated with EFSA Novel Food Regulations. While Singapore and the US take relatively shorter periods (9-18 months) for approval, the EU’s process can stretch from 30 to 60 months. This prolonged timeline was seen as a significant impediment to innovation and market entry and a hindrance to innovation. 

2. Intellectual Property Protection: Businesses must be aware of te importance of safeguarding intellectual property (IP) before embarking on the regulatory process, as Gertjan Smolders (Spot Innovation) highlighted. Failure to protect IP could lead to public disclosure, jeopardising businesses’ proprietary information. 

3. Explore alternative paths: If possible, avoid the novel food procedure by preparing a document on why your ingredient does not qualify as a novel food. Alternatively, seek partnerships with other firms or academic institutions that can streamline the process, as Hans Derksen (Biorefinery solutions) suggested. Or promote diversification; Cosun has temporarily halted the novel food procedure and is applying the knowledge gained to enhance their faba bean protein process, explained Marcel van der Vaart.  

4. Seek assistance: Barbara Mutsears (AKD Law) highlights that assessing a product’s eligibility as a novel food presents a substantial challenge for companies. Both Barbara and Hans strongly recommend enlisting the services of an advisor to assist you in navigating this process. 

5. Commercial value: Danielle Mol (The GreenUp company) emphasised the importance of market considerations from the outset. Businesses should ask themselves if their novel food product will sell. Companies need to understand their customers’ needs, craft a compelling commercial narrative, and focus on becoming experts in a specific category.

Curse or blessing? 

Novel food regulations: a curse or a blessing? Foodvalley Innovation Lead Jeroen Willemsen posed this question to the audience. 
While one advocated for them as a blessing, citing their critical role in ensuring food safety, many participants saw these regulations as a significant hurdle. 
The concerns expressed encompassed frustrations stemming from protracted approval timelines, the stifling effect on innovation, and the challenge of classifying products. This perspective underscores the need for ongoing discussions and potential reforms in the regulatory landscape to address these concerns while ensuring food safety and consumer protection. Navigating the complexities of novel food regulations can sometimes feel like an endurance race for companies. The challenges are real, but so are the opportunities. The key takeaway remains that through shared insights, collaborative efforts, and ongoing dialogue, we can make strides in the world of sustainable proteins.
This event was organised for partners of The Protein Community. Read more about the Protein Community.