A Welsh consortium has secured £350,000 of research and development funding to help tackle childhood obesity using apples.
The funding from Welsh Government’s Food and Drink Division and Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative will be used to develop a method of utilising apple pomace, a by-product of apple juice and cider production, to develop a food ingredient that could reduce levels of sugar and saturated fat in range of popular food items.
The food ingredient is being developed to be utilised by food manufacturers, school caterers and people in their own kitchens.
Sustainable food technology specialist Pennotec, based in Pwllheli, has collaborated with Bangor University’s BioComposites Centre, Coleg Menai’s Food Technology Centre and Cork company CyberColloids on the project.
Managing Director of Pennotec, Dr Jonathan Hughes, said: “We are using Welsh apple pomace as a food ingredient with functional fibres which can improve the nutritional composition of foods that are particularly enjoyed by children whilst reducing cost. Apple pomace is a wonderful natural ingredient and we’ve discovered that it can be used to replace certain high-calorie ingredients such as fat while enhancing the fibre content in popular school menu food items such as cakes, savoury dishes, gravy and sauces.
“A key aim of the project is to make food and drink healthier and cheaper without sacrificing the flavour. It also intends to address the global issue of food wastage by making use of apple pomace which would usually be disposed of, bringing a number of environmental and cost benefits.
“We have already begun talking to retailers and food manufacturers who are hugely excited by our technology.”
By the age of 11, more than 40% of children in Wales are either overweight or obese. Research shows that the majority of obese children grow up to be obese adults, putting them at an increased risk of developing heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Dr Adam Charlton of Bangor University’s BioComposites Centre said: “Like the rest of the UK and Europe, Wales generates thousands of tonnes of surplus fresh food resources like apples, a rich source of natural fibres, that never make it to the supermarket shelves because they are out-graded, surplus to requirements or are processed and only partly utilised.
“In this project we are targeting the potential to use apple pomace to provide the texture for food instead of high calorie ingredients such as fat.”
Photo: Dr Jonathan Hughes and Dr Adam Charlton.