August 22, 2013

Interview: Gerard Klein Essink, CEO, Bridge2Food, the Netherlands on the 6th Protein Summit

The 6th Protein Summit brings together the different industries using and producing proteins: from food, feed and aquaculture to pet food industries and food ingredient suppliers of animal and vegetable origin. The global need for protein is eminent. What kind of opportunities are available in short, mid and long term? How will markets and industries develop? What are the key drivers? Where can you co-operate and find new technology solutions for sustainability and health? Bridge2Food hopes to contribute to solving these issues with providing a protein platform with the right people and insights.

The major players in the different food and other industries will be present 24 & 25 September in Rotterdam: well over 100 attendees and speakers.

GFMT spoke to Gerard Klein Essink, CEO, Bridge2Food, the Netherlands, about what the Summit hopes to achieve.

Why is sustainability so important in the food and feed industries?
Sustainability is a key priority for the industry. With increasing demand for high quality protein the industry needs to ensure sustainability to meet the growing demand. All industries are fishing in the same pond. While the food industry has been making attempts at moving sustainability ahead, it should be recognised that much more needs to be done and can be done to secure future supply of raw materials. It is important to connect and close food chains as there will be a lot more pressure from consumers, retailers and governments on food waste, which will also affect the operating conditions in the food industry in a positive way.
How relevant are cross industry networks?
At Bridge2Food we work on different platforms, such as new trends, ingredients and technologies. We often see that those companies, who look at the broader picture and who have an overview of the developments in different sectors, can move faster and they are then ahead of the game. For instance, technology companies with a longstanding experience in the dairy industries with separation technologies, want to work with vegetable protein industries and their customers. They have the capabilities and the ideas, but what is lacking it the know-how of the applications and the industry needs. Grain, feed and food manufacturers, who acknowledge this situation, can turn their challenge into an opportunity and cooperation and connect the dots.

Reducing food waste: what do you expect?

Food waste reduction is the next big thing that is going to influence the food, feed and agricultural industries. The UN has recently announced that this is going to be a major theme for the world to solve in view of the growing imbalance between poor and rich nations. It will be more and more difficult for lesser developed countries to afford protein rich ingredients and protein foods as supply is getting shorter and more expensive. Western governments, retailers, manufacturers and researchers are working on a common agenda. It is not only about enabling technologies, but also about regulation and thinking outside the box. At the Protein Summit, Wageningen University will provide the industry an overview of the what´s happening in Europe and how and where companies can shape new co-operations.

Improving healthy living with more nutritious and high protein foods: here to stay?
Certainly, high protein foods is the thing in the USA at this moment. No industry can do without a high protein equivalent of their current product range. Consumers are being educated on what protein is and which benefits can be obtained. This awareness is key to sustainable growth. European markets will follow, yet it may take a little while before it will be as big as in the USA. Another good example of innovation opportunities in health with new technologies is germinating pulses. The Swiss based company Buhler has recently launched this technology. Pre-germinating makes pulses and pulse flours up to 6 times more healthy and cooking more convenient due to the shorter cooking times.
How can the industry source sustainable feed materials?

The key is to find other sources that do not put further stress on marine resources. A lot of work is already being done on developing new soybean traits without anti-nutritional factors. We are very pleased that soy expert John Baize, who has been monitoring global soy demand and supply, will share his forecasts and what will drive the soy industry. New opportunities will also come from other pulse sectors such as Canadian pea growing, research and processing. This industry needs direction and is looking for strategic partnerships. How fast new protein sources like insect proteins and Rubisco will contribute to the global agenda, will also depend on increasing efforts of industry demand and cooperation.

How did you go about setting up the Summit?
We always work closely together with industry experts to make a new challenging agenda with great content. This is the 6th time we are hosting a Protein Summit and each time we strive for a higher quality. Prof. Rob Hamer, Vice President of Unilever Research is the Summit Chair, seconded by 3 experts, who are leading a special track. The track chair on future supply and demand is Jeroen Leffelaar, Global head of Rabobank International, the health track is chaired by Ronald Visschers, Business Manager at research organization TNO and your editor and colleague Roger Gilbert of Perendale Publishing.

I hope that through global collaboration and research, pooling of resources and sharing knowledge, the 6th Summit will contribute to make significant improvements across the industry in terms of sustainability, more food security and a better world.

More information about the 6th Protein Summit here

Gerard Klein Essink, CEO, Bridge2Food, the Netherlands

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