Interview with SHEALTHY Innovation Manager, Ms. Macarena Baylos, Higher Agriculture Engineer and Head of International Business Unit at Ctic Cita.

What aspects do you consider when designing Business Models (BMs) Prototypes? Could you please explain the ultimate objective of developing SHEALTHY’s Novel BMs?

In SHEALTHY, collaborative and holistic BMs will be designed. We will combine the technology trends and consumer needs to afford these business models, technology transfer and market orientation that will facilitate the transition towards a new collaborative agrifood ecosystem for traditional, local and rural SMEs around EU. BMs prototyping and experimentation enables iterative learning, specifying and adapting BMs to F&V SMEs, their supply chain and market opportunities.

The relatively high costs to procure minimal processing technologies require high innovation and investment capacity. While large food companies can afford significant capital and operational expenditure, traditional micro and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) cannot. To increase their competitiveness and bridge this gap in the food sector traditional food companies call for novel inclusive and collaborative BMs based on sharing processing facilities, cooperating with other actors along the value chain, that result in increased transparency, flexibility and innovation capacity, which are our ultimate goals!

Why is so important to tackle consumers’ needs and their behaviour in SHEALTHY project?

In SHEALTHY, consumers have been engaged to determine their attitudes and knowledge towards minimally processed F&V and juices/smoothies, to co-design novel holistic BMs. They will be also mobilised to assess the processed F&V prototypes and to multiply the project impacts towards consumer communities since the very beginning of the project.

Actively involving consumers is key because it enables the sustained alignment of SHEALTHY to market real needs as well as to decrease time-to-market of the minimally processed F&V methods. Moreover, insights in consumers’ needs are crucial to optimize postharvest treatments.

SHEALTHY will address consumers through two main angles: 1) with the aim of really engage them and gain insight and get to know their preferences. 2) directly related but focused on their willingness to be healthier. The idea is addressing the consumers in a personal and direct way, positioning the consumers in the spotlight to involve them avoiding previous approaches.

What challenges and demands do you expect in the adoption of novel technologies at traditional SMEs level?

As I told before, the main problem of the adoption of these novel technologies by the SMEs arises from the high costs associated with them. It is necessary to study and create new business models based in a collaborative approach between entities. In SHEALTHY project, we will tackle this challenge helping small and medium-sized companies to innovate within their business model, evolving into a collaborative business model that is sustainable in time and that impacts their results.

To finish, we would like to gather your opinion… according to your previous experience, what new trends can we expect in the food sector in the next months?

Consumers are looking to feed their body but also their mind. Due to the Coronavirus crisis, there are two combinations that must be considered essential when talking about present and future consumer trends: food & health, emotional food. We are more conscious than ever on how what we eat impacts on our health, and at the same time, we have such a shortage of experiences, that we are willing to feel them through what we eat, e.g., familiar dishes that remind us to the past; dishes that remind us to that travel we did….

This trend in aligned with the demand of transparency and traceability: consumers want to know the origin of the food products, the ingredients, the processes that the food products have suffered, the environmental footprint of the company, etc.

Another important trend, now that restaurants are often closed as a measure to alleviate the pandemic consequences, is cooking, and eating at home. Consumers are looking for food product options inspired in restaurant services and gourmet solutions to enjoy at home. At the same time, when shopping, consumers search for long-lasting food products to avoid going to the supermarket in a daily basis. In this context, new preservation methods, as the technology that is being developed in SHEALTHY project, will play an important role in our near future!

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Macarena Baylos, Higher Agriculture Engineer and Head of International Business Unit at Ctic Cita