Significant growth in global demand for plant-based products has been a key driver over the past few years in terms of reformulation and emerging new product opportunities. The trend has also presented supply chain issues and new challenges.
“Manufacturers increasingly need to make sure that their products are sustainable, and that they achieve clean label,” says Katrine Kallesoe Hagege from Invest in Denmark. “Using ingredients to develop clean and sustainable plant-based products is a key lever. Denmark has strong competence in this area, due to a strong ingredients sector presence.”
Indeed, in 2020, Denmark was ranked number two - out of 166 countries – by the 2020 SDG Index. Sustainability is a key asset for many sectors in the country, including food.
“Denmark is also experiencing rapid growth in plant-based foods, with sales value growing by 29 % between 2018 and 2020,” says Kallesoe Hagege. “Sales volumes in fact increased by 46 %. Throughout the entire Danish food value chain there is a keen focus on sustainable and innovative product development of plant-based foods. The Danish government is encouraging and supporting the sector, which we will be talking more about at the roundtable discussion.”
At industry level, action is also being taken. Denmark is home to world-leading innovative companies and products, as well as a great deal of scientific expertise. In order to better leverage this expertise, the Danish Food and Bio Cluster was established in 2020, to provide a bridge between research, industry and policy makers. The Cluster now boasts 340 members, including 15 companies based abroad.
“Our aim at the Cluster is to accelerate innovation in the sector,” explains Lars Visbech Sørensen, CEO of the Danish Food and Bio Cluster. “As Katrine explained, this is a sector in transition. Only a few years ago, the key focus was on food safety and achieving efficiencies. Today, the main challenges are focused on climate change, and producing healthy food for growing populations.”
The Cluster’s key role is to facilitate collaborations, and bring new technologies and ideas into the sector. In a short space of time, links have been forged between Danish universities and start-ups, as well as agencies focused on fisheries and agriculture.
“When we talk about being focusing on the climate, this increasingly means focusing on plant-based,” says Sørensen. “This is where demand is growing, and where we have the tools to make a difference. As a cluster our aim is to help all companies along the value chain, from breeding new seeds and innovating the processing of crops through to helping companies reach new customers.”
The Cluster is also internationally oriented, and looking to collaborate with clusters and companies from abroad.
“Right now, we are building up clusters in Europe that also work with plant-based food,” says Sørensen. “We are also trying to build bridges to the best clusters in the world, such as in Canada, for example.”
Focus on innovation
Invest in Denmark’s roundtable will touch on all these issues, and explore in greater depth the opportunities that the plant-based trend presents.
“The roundtable gives us the opportunity to really showcase Denmark,” adds Kallesoe Hagege. “It will also give attendees an overview of the full value chain, from R&D and ingredients producers through to consumer goods producers.”
Roundtable participants will include Sine Riisager, Head of Members & Relations at the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark; Henning Høgh Jensen from the Danish Technical University; Lisbet Khan from Chromologics and Henrik Lund, CEO of fast-growing company Naturli.
“We expect that these will be inspiring and insightful sessions,” adds Kallesoe Hagege.
For Sørensen, the roundtable is an opportunity to highlight Danish innovation.
“As a Cluster, we are doing whatever we can to transform the Danish food sector from being animal-based to being plant-based,” he says.
“And we are trying to do this as fast as we can. This is why we focus on innovation, and why the Cluster is so close to universities and science institutions. We represent the new way of thinking and the latest science, to enable the food sector to move in new directions.”
“I hope this session will inspire companies to look more towards Denmark, understand it is a unique eco system to work with and set up more partnerships with the Danish eco system, and work with universities to develop new plant based product, for example.”