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Improving Food and Drink Production

Improving Food and Drink Production

Work Package Improved food and drink production

Research Deliverable 
Improving food & drink production


The pressure on the food industry to be profitable is perceived as incompatible with the production of healthy foods. The potential health consequences of industrially processed foods (e.g. obesity and related conditions) are concerning and often relate to excessive fat and sugar content, and inclusion of synthetic preservatives with no nutritional value. However, industrial food processing is a fact of life, improving food safety, and increasing availability and consumer choice. Innovation in food reformulation is also an important means of feeding an expanding population under the pressures of environmental change and limited resources. By examining the potential of changing processing methods to reduce the formation of harmful products and improve the availability of natural plant chemicals, products will be re-designed to have higher levels of healthy components (e.g. fibre). An additional benefit of this is the re direction of natural products from primary produce waste offering the potential to reduce food waste, which amounts to an annual loss of one third of food produced.

Aim of Research

There is a focus on foods which appeal to the customer in terms of taste, appearance and price. Such foods may not be compatible with the current health messages in key policy documents and legislature. A central question for public health nutrition is whether industrially processed foods can be reformulated to improve their healthiness. At the same time reformulation has to be acceptable to both manufacturers and consumers. Consequently, the main driver of this RD is to reformulate foods improving their healthiness while retaining consumer appeal and food manufacturer acceptability.


2021 / 2022
2021 / 2022

Covid-19 halted the human studies in this RD and as previously reported, focus in year 5 moved to analysing samples collected before lockdown. In the case of the Bean Good study, that analysis revealed that the effects of the bread on the gut microbiota of the volunteers were greater than those observed for blood glucose control. It was found that consumption of the fortified bread had a positive impact in the gut and increase several beneficial microbial metabolites whilst decreasing some harmful ones. Consequently, focus in year 6 moved away from recruiting the final volunteers to additional analysis of the existing samples to determine the bioavailability and metabolism of the hulls’ nutrients and bioactive molecules early in the gastrointestinal tract and at the gut level. Although this work found no evidence that human gut bacteria are able to ferment the bean hull fibre or that the phytochemicals are released following ingestion, it has shown that there are innovative ways to reuse food waste. Further investigation is required to determine how to make this sort of food waste bioavailable.

Elsewhere in the RD, the work was expanded upon to assess consumers’ preferences and willingness to pay (WTP) for Scottish oat-based porridge and lamb and whether the desirability of these Scottish products, in the eyes of UK consumers, can be improved by the use of desirable labels (“Scottish”, “British”, "Low sugar", "High in proteins", and "Instant" in the case of oat-based porridge; and “Scottish”, “British”, “Organic”, and “Low fat” in the case of lamb). The data for each subject was obtained from two web-based choice experiment surveys conducted with representative samples of 2,000 UK primary grocery shoppers. The main findings were: (1) UK consumers value Scottish oat-based porridge more than British oat-based porridge (£0.08 more per 0.5Kg), (2) UK consumers value lamb labelled as British more than lamb labelled as Scottish (£0.95 more per 0.5Kg), (3) the use of the labels "Low sugar", "High in proteins", and "Instant" significantly increases UK consumers’ WTP for Scottish oat-based porridge, and (4) the use of the labels “Low fat” and “Organic” significantly increases consumers’ WTP for Scottish lamb.

Locally produced food products are expected to play a more important role following Brexit in decreasing Scotland’s reliance on the imports of key food products and this study provides valuable information on consumers’ preferences for selected Scottish food products and how the labelling of some of their desirable characteristics (e.g., healthier and more sustainable characteristics) can boost their demand.

2020 / 2021
2020 / 2021

Research into the demand for sheep meat products indicated that traditional products such as leg roasting joints, chops and steaks are the most popular products in the UK and the main competitors to the Scottish lamb industry is New Zealand and the rest of the UK.

Elsewhere, the human studies which were halted by the Covid-19 pandemic have not been able to restart and the focus moved to analysing the samples collected prior to lockdown. This has been completed for both the study assessing the health effects of breads reformulated with broad bean hull and the study assessing the use of natural products in food reformulation for inhibiting AGE formation. In addition, in vitro work using a cell model was conducted to assess the inhibitory effect of bean hull extracts on glucose transport. Bean hull extracts were tested for their efficacy to inhibit enzyme activity and to prevent oxidation.


2019 / 2020
2019 / 2020

Socioeconomic research investigating consumer preferences for healthy and sustainable food products continued. The focus of the work for this year was potato products. This work concluded that the main processed potato product was oven chips, representing 40% of branded product retail sales.

In year 4 a human study was initiated to assess the health benefits of eating breads reformulated with broad bean hull. The human study was progressing well but is now paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The physicochemical analysis of bread with bean hull (BH) was completed and showed that BH can be used to replace up to 21% of the flour without significantly impacting on bread texture and volume.

The intervention study aiming to determine acute effects of dietary AGEs on human metabolism and cognition has progressed well but has now been halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Related studies showed that processing increases the AGEs levels in milk and demonstrated the potential of natural products for inhibiting AGEs formation.



  • Participation in BBC TV programme: Theme scientists were invited to take part in a BBC television programme (Great British Railway Journeys). Viren Ranawana and Vassilios Raikos presented their RESAS work on the development of novel reformulated foods for improving health and nutrition in Scotland.


2018 / 2019
2018 / 2019

Research into socioeconomic aspects has centred on processed dairy products such as cheese, butter and yogurt, which are vital to the Scottish economy. This has involved analysis of uptake of dairy products by retailers and consumer preferences.

The work on reformulated products is being supported by a human study based on data gathered over the past two years which showed that broad bean hull (BBH) has a favourable nutritional profile with 75% fibre, 6% protein, and low levels of fats and carbohydrates compared to wheat bran, as well as being rich in flavanols (proanthocyanins), and containing flavonols, phytosterols and isoflavones. Overall, the data showed that broad bean hull has promise as a functional ingredient for improving human health. The objective of the human study is to determine the acute effects of consuming BBH fortified bread on lowering blood glucose for diabetes control, and improving gut health. Studies are also being carried out to determine whether reformulating foods using natural products can help prevent AGE formation during processing. The formation of AGEs and other damaged proteins during processing is being investigated in seasonal milk samples - analysing the formation of AGEs in winter and summer milk before and after processing.

The human study looking at both habitual intake and the acute effects of dietary AGEs on circulating markers of metabolic health and memory is progressing well with recruitment and testing both on target.


  • Food reformulation – practical application: SEFARI scientists have developed broad bean hull fortified breads that are high in fibre and that have reduced glycaemic index properties. The breads are attracting interest from industry. Scientific papers have been published on (i) the use of β-glucan from spent brewer's yeast as a yogurt thickener and (ii) the effect of beetroot on oxidative stability and functional properties of processed foods.
  • Ministerial Summit on Reformulation: A Theme scientist joined the panel at the ‘Reformulation for a Healthier Future - challenges, opportunities and support’ summit (Jan-19) convened by the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe FitzPatrick MSP, and supported by FDF Scotland, Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Enterprise. The event featured contributions from government, industry and academia. Publications on reformulated and innovative foods with enhanced health properties providing healthy reformulation options for the food and drink sector have used salal and blackcurrant to reformulate yogurt, with products showing antidiabetic and antioxidant properties.
2017 / 2018
2017 / 2018

Consumer research work identified the supply and demand for healthy and sustainable breakfast cereals (porridge oats in particular). The work showed that the popularity of instant porridge and porridge oats has been increasing slowly over time however ready-to-eat cereals still dominate. Convenience is still preferred as cereals and fruit bars are more popular than oat-based products. The analysis concluded there is a need to promote healthy eating messages with respect to breakfast cereals.

In year 1, salal berries, spent brewer’s yeast and broad bean hull were all identified as having potential for use in food reformulation. Spent brewer’s yeast has been shown to be rich in beta-glucan, a fibre known to reduce blood sugar, improve digestive comfort and have prebiotic effects. Salal berries are rich in beneficial phytochemicals, imparting health benefits such as antioxidant protection. Broad bean hull is rich in fibre and phytochemicals, and shows antidiabetic properties. The beta-glucan from spent brewer’s yeast and salal berries were used to reformulate yogurt creating healthier and potentially longer-lasting products. The broad bean hull was incorporated into bread resulting in a loaf similar to wholemeal bread. It had increased fibre content and antidiabetic properties. Based on this evidence a human study is being planned to see how eating broad bean hull bread could improve blood sugar control and gut health.

Processed food products high in AGE content were identified and these included a number of sports nutrition products containing whey protein. Based on these findings a human intervention trial is underway to look at the contribution of dietary AGES to human health. The study investigates the effects of high AGE intake in the daily diet as well as the immediate effect of consuming a high-AGE containing milkshake. The results of this study will be known later in the programme.



  • Food waste makes for healthier frying in vegetable oil: A new paper shows how the addition of herbs and spices can improve the oxidative stability of vegetable oils and help ensure that the associate health benefits are maintained.
  • Knowledge exchange activity: A family-friendly interactive workshop on “Reformulation for health: Why less is really more” was held at MayFest17 and attended by approximately 50 people. Several reformulated products including vegetable breads and yogurts were made available for tasting and were well received by the general public.
2016 / 2017
2016 / 2017

The research in year 1 developed approaches to determine how to reformulate foods to improve their healthiness while retaining consumer appeal. The socioeconomic work built datasets and developed computer tools that will be used to analyse data from Mintel’s Global New Product Development to determine what attributes companies and consumers look for in launching new products. Early results showed that retailers are introducing not only healthy and sustainable products but also standard ones and therefore the decision on which to choose lies with the consumers.

Scotland is home to a wide range of natural resources most of which remain underexploited and poorly studied. A variety of Scottish-produced underutilised plant foods, processing products, herbs and vegetables were characterised for their nutritional properties out of which 3 (spent brewer’s yeast, salal berries and broad bean hull) were chosen for further analysis and food reformulation

Compounds detrimental to health are known to arise from food processing. The chemical browning reaction between protein sugar/fat creates advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) and research has explored whether there is a difference between plant and animal-derived protein in the formation of these compounds. Plant-derived proteins were shown to be more resistant to heat treatment compared to dairy proteins and this information will be used to explore if food can be reformulated to avoid detrimental AGE formation during processing.

Future Activities

The by-product revalorisation concept to tackle food and agricultural waste and to deliver zero-waste food processes and a circular nutrition continues in the 2022-27 SRP. Focus will move to revalorising sustainable crops by-products (hemp and co-products from hemp processing) and post-processing co-products (stems, peels, pomace) to deliver novel foods for the food industry. Projects will deliver supply-chain-driven food and drink reformulation, to 1) help to achieve Scotland’s dietary and climate targets in reducing food high in fat, sugar and/or salt (RI-B5-03) and 2) identify opportunities for the Scottish food and drink sector to promote sustainability (RI-B1-01).

Elsewhere, our work on the demand for new products with healthy attributes will continue in the 2022-27 SRP. Two projects (SRUC-B4-1 - Issues related to the demand of fruits and vegetables in Scotland and SRUC-B5-3 - Opportunities for Scottish food industries in existing and new markets) will continue studying the demand for healthy food (fruit and vegetables) and also the interest of other markets on Scottish products.

Selected Outputs


Breads fortified with freeze-dried vegetables: quality and nutritional attributes. Part 1: Breads containing oil as an ingredient. (2016) – paper published in Foods by Viren Ranawana et al

Breads fortified with freeze-dried vegetables: quality and nutritional attributes. Part II: Breads not containing oil as an ingredient. (2016) – paper published in Foods by Viren Ranawana et al

Processed beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) as a natural antioxidant in mayonnaise: Effects on physical stability, texture and sensory attributes. (2016) – paper published in Food Science and Human Wellness by Vassilios Raikos et al


Natural antioxidants from herbs and spices improve the oxidative stability and frying performance of vegetable oils. (2017) – paper published in the International Journal of Food Science + Technology by Lucia Redondo-Cuevas et al


Beetroot improves oxidative stability and functional properties of processed foods: singular and combined effects with chocolate. (2018) – paper published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology by Viren Ranawana et al

Use of β-glucan from spent brewer's yeast as thickener in skimmed yogurt: Physicochemical, textural and structural properties related to sensory perception (2018) – paper published in the Journal of Dairy Science by Vassilios Raikos et al


Reformulation as a Strategy for Developing Healthier Food Products: This book  ( was edited by two theme scientists (Vassilios Raikos & Viren Ranawana) and was published by Springer Nature.

Importance of Health Claims in the Adoption of New Breakfast Cereal Products in the UK (2019) -a paper published in Nutrients by Cesar Revoredo Giha et al.

Angiotensin‐converting enzyme inhibitory activity of hydrolysates generated from whey protein fortified with salal fruits (Galtheria shallon) by enzymatic treatment with Pronase from Streptomyces griseus (2019) – paper published in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology by Vassilios Raikos et al.

Trading on Food Quality due to Changes in Prices: Are There Any Nutritional Effects? (2020) – paper published in Nutrients by Cesar Revoredo-Giha et al.

Interaction of whey protein with polyphenols from salal fruits (Gaultheria shallon) and the effects on protein structure and hydrolysis pattern by Flavourzyme® (2020) - paper published in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology by Vassilios Raikos et al.

How Consumers in the UK and Spain Value the Coexistence of the Claims Low Fat, Local, Organic and Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions (2020) – paper published in Nutrients by Faical Akaichi et al.

The Role of Dietary Advanced Glycation End Products in Metabolic Dysfunction (2020) – a paper published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research by Domenico Sergi et al.

Using household demographic data to estimate demand for sustainable diets - Conference paper/presentation by Cesar Revoredo-Giha


Addition of broad bean hull to wheat flour for the development of high-fiber bread: Effects on physical and nutritional properties, a paper published in Foods by Vassilios Raikos et al.

Physicochemical properties, texture, and probiotic survivability of oat-based yogurt using aquafaba as a gelling agent, a paper published in Food Science & Nutrition by Vassilios Raikos et al.

Encapsulation of vitamin e in yogurt-based beverage emulsions: Influence of bulk pasteurization and chilled storage on physicochemical stability and starter culture viability, a paper published in Molecules by Vassilios Raikos et al.



Peer-reviewed Publications

Bundling Food Labels: What Role Could the Labels “Organic”, “Local” and “Low Fat” Play in Fostering the Demand for Animal-Friendly Meat’ (2022) by Faical Akaichi et al. paper published in the journal Agribusiness.

Trend analysis of sustainability claims: The European fisheries and aquaculture markets case (2021) by Sterenn Lucas et al. paper published in the journal Food Policy.


Presentations and Blog Posts


  • The paper “New product development activity during the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK” was presented at the 96th annual conference of the Agricultural Economics Society, 4th to 6th of April 2022, Leuven, Belgium.
  • The paper “Implications of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in Scotland” was presented at the 96th annual conference of the Agricultural Economics Society, 4th to 6th of April 2022, Leuven, Belgium.
  • The paper “Food Package Information and The Success Of Processed Potato Products In The UK” was presented at the 96th annual conference of the Agricultural Economics Society, 4th to 6th of April 2022, Leuven, Belgium.
  • The paper “Estimation of a Hedonic Price Equation with instruments for Chicken Meat in the UK: Does the Organic Attribute matter?” was presented at the IAAE Congress which will be held virtually (online) from 17 to 31 August 2021.
  • The paper “Ready Meals in the UK: An Analysis Based on Their Nutritional and Sustainable Claims” was presented at the IAAE Congress which will be held virtually (online) from 17 to 31 August 2021.
  • The blog ‘The British are eating less red meat and consuming more processed food’ was published at the London School of Economics Business Review, October 15th.
  • Could a Circular Food System contribute to Nutrition Security and Sufficiency? The Bean Hull Case