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Flanders’ FOOD: preparing the food of tomorrow

Globalization, climate change, pressure on raw materials, digitalization, automation... The food industry is facing complex challenges that individual companies and organizations can’t tackle on their own. That’s why Flanders' FOOD has been bringing various industry players together since 2005. Their goal is to make the agri-food system more sustainable, innovative and competitive in Flanders and beyond.

Flanders’ FOOD is the industry-driven spearhead cluster for innovation in Flanders’ agri-food sector. To increase the effectiveness of the agrifood sector, the spearhead cluster seeks to lower the threshold for access to scientific and technological knowledge. It brings together all the actors within the agri-food system and focuses on cross-sectoral and international cooperation.

The ‘Yes, together we can’ attitude at Flanders’ FOOD

“Together, we can:

  • build a resilient and sustainable agri-food system;
  • facilitate world-class food production;
  • create personalized foods and healthy diets;
  • make the shift towards new and alternative resources.”

Entire agri-food system represented

"In 2005, Flanders’ FOOD started with 20 founding members, all of whom are food processors,” says Business Development & Internationalization Manager Veerle Rijckaert. “Today, we have a network of almost 300 companies and our member portfolio represents the entire agri-food system. Most are still food producers, though, from small SMEs to multinationals with factories in Flanders.”

“But the suppliers are also well represented within the network,” Veerle adds, “as are other sectors that work closely with the food sector: retailers, machine builders, maintenance companies, software and automation specialists, and so on. Finally, various knowledge institutions take part in the cluster operation as well. Think of universities such as UGent, KU Leuven and VUB, alongside research institutes including ILVO and imec.”

Today, we have a network of almost 300 companies and our member portfolio represents the entire agri-food system.

Veerle Rijckaert
Business Development & Internationalization Manager, Flanders' FOOD

All the ingredients for product and process excellence

Flanders’ FOOD offers its member companies a complete service portfolio: fundamental research, application-oriented research and projects with large consortia, but also one-on-one support. The Food Pilot is an important link in this process. Flanders' FOOD has managed this testing and analysis center together with ILVO since 2011. Here, companies can test new concepts, products or processes on a semi-industrial scale or carry out food analyses.

Veerle: “Last year, over 300 companies ran pilot tests at the Food Pilot and more than 10,000 analyses for product and process improvements were carried out. By the way, an increasing number of foreign companies are also finding their way to the test environment, sometimes via similar clusters in their business environments abroad. We actively exchange knowledge with these organizations or work together on a project basis. We currently coordinate various international projects at Flanders’ FOOD."

At the Food Pilot, companies can carry out semi-industrial-scale testing and food analyses.

Veerle Rijckaert
Business Development & Internationalization Manager, Flanders' FOOD

Four concrete themes

The services of Flanders' FOOD revolve around specific thematic programs. Involving all stakeholders to make the food system more resilient and flexible is a first theme. As part of the second theme, world-class food production, technology players, machine builders and integrators are partnering up to transform food companies into factories of the future.

Thirdly, Flanders’ FOOD is committed to healthy diets and personalized nutrition. For instance, the cluster focuses on the needs of specific target groups, such as seniors or people with certain food allergies or intolerances. Finally, together with agriculture and knowledge institutions, Flanders' FOOD is looking for new raw materials and ingredients. The aim is to offer consumers more variety on their plates, something which can also benefit biodiversity.”

We are looking for new raw materials to offer consumers more variety on their plates, something which can also benefit biodiversity.

Veerle Rijckaert
Business Development & Internationalization Manager, Flanders' FOOD

Consumers first

“Consumers do not merely come at the end of the value chain but instead form the central pivot of our agri-food system,” emphasizes Veerle. “In addition to our member companies, knowledge institutes and the government, we see consumers as an equal discussion partner within the food ecosystem.”

The CropExplore project is a textbook example of this philosophy. Veerle Rijckaert: "Today, people are very health conscious. Another clear trend is the shift to a more varied use of raw materials in daily food products.”

Future-proof food

CropExplore investigates the opportunities of these trends in terms of product development. Veerle Rijckaert: “Think of alternative cereals, fruit and nuts for bakery products or legumes and nuts as meat substitutes.  We map out the nutritional, functional, economic and ecological qualities of various known and less-familiar crops so that future generations can also enjoy tasty and varied food that fits within a healthy lifestyle. In short, together, we are building the food of tomorrow."

Future generations should also be able to enjoy a tasty and varied diet that aligns with a healthy lifestyle.

Veerle Rijckaert
Business Development & Internationalization Manager, Flanders' FOOD

ID Flanders’ FOOD

  • Founded in: 2005
  • Services: fundamental research, application-oriented research, business advice, pilot infrastructure, study days and training courses, workshops, newsletters, publications and more.

17 September 2019

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