Researchers at Teesside University are joining forces with a leading supermarket chain on a £1m project to find ways to cut the amount of fat used in fried food.
As well as improving efficiency and reducing carbon output, the three-year project with Sainsbury’s could also result in healthier crisps and snacks.
The university will work with both the company and members of its supply chain on the initiative, which is part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, a public body set up to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.
Throughout, the institution will provide expertise in food science, chemistry and sustainable technology to deliver the best results.
The five main aims of the project are: to reduce oil use and oil degradation; to reduce production costs through increased productivity and efficiency; to increase shelf life of crisps and ambient snacks, thereby reducing supply chain waste; to reduce product oil pick-up during frying; and to find options for oil and energy reuse.
Sainsbury’s technical manager Victoria Yell said: “We’ll be looking at many different options at how to achieve these aims.
“It could be that we devise a new piece of machinery or a new process on the production line or a different way of preparing the food or a combination of different things.
“As well as increased efficiency and productivity, there is also going to be a health impact as there will be less oil used in the manufacture of the foods.”
Teesside University was chosen to collaborate with Sainsbury’s because of its proven experience working on similar projects.
Previous work it has undertaken in this field includes spearheading the Resource Efficiency Pathways to Sustainable Growth (REPS) project – a £2m scheme to help 156 North East companies improve efficiency and sustainability, make cost savings and reduce carbon production. It also worked with Camerons Brewery to improve its energy efficiency.
The research project will be led by the university’s sustainable technologies project manager Garry Evans along with Dr Jibin He, Dr Gillian Taylor, Dr Liam O’Hare and Shirley O’Hare.
Evans said: “This is a great project and it’s fantastic to be working on it with a company like Sainsbury’s.
“There is a lot of competition for these projects – out of more than 1,600 applications there were only about 30 successful bids. From a university perspective it proves that we have the capacity and capability for delivering successful results.”