Client: NI Drinks Sector
Knowledge Provider: North West Regional College
Sector: Food and Drink / Agri Food
NI Drinks Sector
NWRC Foodovation has been supported by Connected 4 funding since mid-2018 to support companies in the area of drinks and beverages.
Within that time the funding has provided a platform for the ‘Foodovation Centre’ to investigate the area of drinks and beverages locally and gain an understanding of the innovation and technical requirements of these businesses.
The funding has helped the ‘Foodovation Centre’ to identify and establish a network of businesses in Northern Ireland who share their business needs in relation to beverages. It also helped to support the delivery of Innovation and R&D with a variety of different drinks companies.
Within the past couple of years there has been a growth in craft beers, spirits, health drinks and sugar free drinks. For many companies locally they have great ideas to develop products in these areas however lack the technical expertise of a ‘drinks specialist’. A key part of the Connected funding was to bring a ‘drinks specialist’ on board to engage with businesses to identify their needs and offer support to them to develop new products.
Thanks to the support from Connected the ‘Foodovation Centre’ has been able to support multiple companies with a range of drinks related projects from kombucha to flavoured gin to infused tea brews.
One area in particular that Connected has supported research and project initiation on, is reduced sugar drinks to meet the sugar tax requirements. One project involved recipe development investigating both alternative sweeteners and new flavour innovations, blind taste testing, standardisation of the final recipe and understanding of food nutritional claims and product labelling which resulted in two new products for the company.
Over the past couple of years, the Connected 4 funding has highlighted that there was a gap in the expertise offered to local businesses by the ‘Foodovation Centre’. As a result of the initial assessment of the need for a drinks specialist, Foodovation recruited a ‘Technical Consultant - Beverages’ as part of the team. Linda McClean joined the team in November 2019 and has significant experience in innovation and development of drinks and beverages. Linda previously worked for flavour and ingredient companies in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK as a beverage technologist, developing new products for major brands and retailers and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to support local businesses.