Dreams analyses the science of flavour and confirms the success of the Spanish foodtech sector



Flavour as an end and a means, with its science and its origins, and an X-ray of the foodtech ecosystem, are the focus of the second day of Dreams #spainfoodtechnation

The Madrid Fusión stage, dedicated to the future, opened its second day with a tribute to two ancient foods, lamb and rabbit, which are deeply rooted in our Mediterranean diet, and have always served as healthy and sustainable protein alternatives. Led by José Miguel Herrero Velasco, General Director of the Food Industry at the Ministry of Agriculture, the representatives of the two inter-professional organisations highlighted the many initiatives they are undertaking to ensure that their consumption does not continue to decline. Mª Luz de Santos Martín, director of Intercun (Interprofessional Organisation of the Rabbit Sector), explained that "the problem is that consumers forget that rabbit exists, and young people are unaware of its versatility and richness", which is why their actions are based mainly on "tasting campaigns at points of sale, agreements with influencers and chefs, as well as digital advertising in the e-commerce of large retailers, segmented by age or territory". For his part, Tomás Rodríguez, director of Interovic (Interprofessional Organisation of Sheep and Goat), affirms that "the pace of life of consumers means that they prefer the product in ready-made dishes or cuts that are quick and easy to prepare, which is why we market formats such as churrasquitos, or our now famous paquito, a leg fillet sandwich that is already available in more than 800 restaurants in Spain".

Taste as a goal

In order to talk about the sensation that food creates on the palate, it was necessary to give umami, that refined fifth taste exported by the Asians, the prominence it deserves. With this in mind, Julia Pérez, food journalist and editorial director of Gastroactitud, invited two real experts on jang and kimchi, fermented soya and vegetables respectively. Hyeonggun Ahn, a researcher at Sempio, a Korean company that produces fermented products, explained the science behind their production and their organoleptic characteristics. Junghyun Park, chef at Atomix** (New York), who revisits the traditional flavours of his country from a more modern and cosmopolitan point of view, explained their use in the kitchen. "In Europe, umami is very new, but I think the structure of our table, where the flavours are very balanced, is increasingly appreciated", he explained.

And the director of the Fundació Alícia and alma mater of Dreams, Toni Massanés, also spoke of flavour in his brilliant talk on the sense of the senses. When asked what it means to eat better, he replied that "it depends not only on what, but also on who and what for", explaining all the aspects that give meaning to attributes such as healthy (safe, sufficient and balanced), sustainable (ecological, economical and practical), and good (ethical, meaningful and stimulating), stimuli that allow us to perceive and filter the world. And, with regard to umami, Toni argued that "humans need twice as much nitrogen as plants, and that is why we are stimulated by the taste of amino acids and nucleotides. A taste", he said, "that is not only found in dashi broth, but also in stew, Galician stew or escudella".

Spain, a world power in food technology

The other major theme of the day at Dreams was the Spanish foodtech ecosystem, which is currently enjoying a great moment among the major powers. This was stated by the new CEO of ICEX, Elisa Carbonell, who explained some of the key points of her latest report on foodtech in 2023. "Foodtech is one of the most dynamic sectors, with 420 registered start-ups, more than 30,000 potential buyer companies and 20 technology centres. It is also a resilient sector because, although investment has fallen by 16%, the decline has been much better than in the rest of the world". For the director, the key to this resilience is diversity, in terms of the existence of several regional hubs, and the link with Latin America.

ICEX was also represented by its Director of the Food Industry, María Naranjo, who brought together some of the most innovative foodtech start-ups, and their main accelerators, in two round tables. The latter, who took the stage first, debated the real existence of a unified and collaborative ecosystem in which, according to Bea Jacoste, CEO of KM ZERO Innovation, "there is a lot of room for improvement, because it is still very fragmented. If we want to change the food system, we cannot do it alone". For Estefanía Erro, Director of Marketing and Innovation at the CNTA Technology Centre, "it would be a dream to see new products on the shelves soon, but to do that we need to support those that add value". To succeed, Mila Valcárcel, co-founder and managing partner of Eatable Adventures, called for "ambition and global vision, because it is difficult to amortise costs in a single market, as well as institutional support to position Spanish foodtech worldwide".

The response from the start-ups was clear: unity is strength. And so FATE (Food & Agri Tech Europe) was born, a pioneering association that promotes the growth and collaboration of European foodtech companies, driven by leading companies such as Ingredalia, NuCaps or Alimentos Sanygran, whose representatives have made some of the most important claims. For Miguel Àngel Cubero, director of Ingredalia, it is necessary to "really believe in the importance of the ecosystem, because we are many, and resources are limited". "Regulatory agility and customs management" are two of the many issues identified by Mariano Oto, general manager of NuCaps, and "promoting the spirit in education", which Roselyne Chane, general manager of Sanygran, calls for "so that the new generations are not afraid of failure, and know how to adapt to what the future brings".

Blue gastronomy

Leaving the laboratory innovations behind, Dreams took us on a dive into some of the cases of regenerative aquaculture offered by the wonderful marine universe. With CSIC research professor, Uxío Labarta, and Ángeles Longa, from the Mexillon de Galicia D.O., we learned about the Musselblock project, which is developing a mussel traceability system using blockchain technology. Lovers and experts of the estuary, for Ángeles it is "essential that we give greater value to a jewel that is cheap, because it is abundant, but also healthy and sustainable, as well as versatile and delicious in the kitchen"; for Uxío "we must take seriously the devastating effects of the warming of our waters, there are massive deaths every summer". With them, Lucía Freitas, chef at A Tafona* (Santiago de Compostela), values the mussel, even its water, "and I think the price is too low, we must value it more". In the estuary, Antonio Muiños has also devoted himself to the study of seaweed, which he markets under the brand name Portomuiños. Described by Ferran Adriá himself as "the guru of seaweed", he sees "a great moment in the world, because it is no longer just Japanese seaweed that is eaten. Also, 70% of the planet is sea, we have a great future".

Finally, the afternoon was also an interactive and very enjoyable time, thanks to the El Bulli Foundation and the Madrid Culinary Campus (MACC), which involved the attendees in a workshop on basic culinary techniques, led by Gabriel Bartra, Content Director of Bullipedia. The pedagogical coordinator of the Sapiens Methodology at the MACC, who was accompanied by Pablo Márquez, director of gastronomy at the Campus, gave a preview of a project that will be published in book form at the end of the year to identify and classify the elementary techniques of creative haute cuisine. "We have collected 400 basic techniques, and we have tried to define and explain them so that they can be understood, so that we have a professional and useful language, agreed and shared, with which to decipher any recipe", they explained.






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