chew on this
Posted by Dale Buss on April 23, 2012 01:44 PM
Some consumers will go to great lengths to find natural foods and ingredients that may unlock some long-lost secrets of nutrition and health. That's why you can find quinoa in every Whole Foods Market and loaves of bread based on biblical recipes.
Now, Unilever wants to put a corporate spin on that kind of a pursuit. The Dutch CPG giant has launched a scientific consortium that aims to identify nutritionally valuable varieties of fruits and vegetables from the past in order to produce natural health ingredients today. They're going to look at everyday foods such as apples, mangos, bananas, onions and tea for some of these hidden treasures.
"We have been studying what the paleolithic diet was like for a few years now in the Unilever labs, and just recently we realized that in ancient times not only did man eat a lot of plants, but additionally the plants themselves would have been very different in both appearance and nutritional value," Mark Berry of Unilever UK's R&D unit told Foodnavigator.com.
Unilever aims to give researchers about three years before any identified ingredients would start showing up in product prototypes for smoothies, beverages and nutrition bars to see how they affect taste, texture and flavor. But Berry will be working with U.K. government and academic researchers to try to find undiscovered "phytonutrients," perhaps since disappeared from common versions of these foods, that may be brought back as worthy of future R&D.
Specifically, Berry believes that the research effort may discover varieties higher in fiber than modern versions and providing better yields and appearance, and stronger resistance to disease.
Foodies already have pushed global food distribution to move back toward local production where possible. This may be another case where looking backward could actually be a way for Unilever to move forward.