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“I enable companies to develop healthy foods that benefit both people and planet.” - Dr Sandra Einerhand [Interview]

Article-“I enable companies to develop healthy foods that benefit both people and planet.” - Dr Sandra Einerhand [Interview]

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Dr Sandra Einerhand is Director & Nutrition Consultant at Einerhand Science & Innovation BV, Chair of Nutrition Consultants Cooperative, and Fellow & Explorer at PRESANS. We talked to her about her career and how the move from working in academia to a corporate setting affected her career growth and invited her to share how she coped with the challenges that COVID-19 brought in 2020.

Sandra, what type of consultancy does your company, Einerhand Science & Innovation provide?

“I believe science and innovation are critical to success in nutrition, health and sustainability. My vision is to work with my customers in the food industry to create a healthier and more sustainable environment with honest communication to the consumers.”

“Therefore, Einerhand Science & Innovation turns science into business opportunity with a special focus on early and later life nutrition, and personalized nutrition.”

“My customers tell me that my added value is that I help them to market healthy food products efficiently, sustainably, scientifically and with a clear story.”

Who could benefit from your services?

“We provide tailored nutrition solutions for food and beverage (ingredient) manufacturers around the world. These could be start-ups asking for strategic advice about how to market their new ideas, but also big multinational companies.”

“For example, I recently helped a large company renovate their early life and senior nutrition product range and a small business with the introduction of a healthy vitamin drink to support the immune system. I help them through the scientific and regulatory maze.”

“My clients appreciate me for my nutrition expertise, scientific background and broad international network in industry and academia.”

You recently won an award for your expertise – what was it for?

“We were recently awarded the Food & Drink Award by LuxLife Magazine for being the best early life nutrition consultancy in Europe. It has been a long journey from initially being nominated, undergoing the research and judging stages, and finally being recognized for an award. We are very happy to have our expertise recognized in this way.”

Apart from managing your own consultancy, you also act as Chair of Nutrition Consultants Cooperative and as Fellow & Explorer at PRESANS. Could you tell us a bit more about these bodies and your role there?

“Together with 8 senior-level nutrition consultants, I founded the Nutrition Consultants Cooperative in 2017. Since the beginning of 2021, I also chair the NCC. We assist authorities, NGOs and the food industry to produce healthy and sustainable foods in order to improve dietary habits, resulting in health improvements. Currently, we are developing a powerful digital tool that provides insights on health and sustainability aspects of products and portfolios in a speedy and cost-effective way. This would be of great benefit to F&B companies, NGOs and (semi)governmental bodies.“

“Since 2015, I have also worked for Presans to help the food and beverage industry tackle the most complex industrial challenges. To achieve this we tapping into our comprehensive network of 6 million talents, scientists and technologists across a large variety of scientific disciplines and technological fields to deliver the information our industrial clients need in order to drive innovation.”

It looks like you know the F&B industry from every angle – you worked in academia, in a corporate setting and now, you manage your own business. Was it difficult to make the move from academia to a corporate environment?

“Actually, it wasn’t difficult at all. I like to learn and from each step I took, I learned a lot. It has broadened my perspective as well as my network. Currently, this is one of the added values I bring to my customers. I have learned to connect the industry to academia, and vice versa, to drive food innovation.”

“In addition, if you look at innovation, the breakthrough innovations often occur in areas where disciplines meet. Nowadays, I see it happening in the area between food and digital/technology. Most startups in food are nowadays working in this space. As one of the judges of the Fi Global Startup Innovation Challenge since 2016, I have seen this transition happening over the last few years.”  

What was the trigger? And how have you further expanded your experience?

“What was the trigger? I wanted to apply the knowledge I gained over in academia. As an associate professor, I had my own academic group working on the prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel and infectious diseases. After I switched to the industry, I could actually use that knowledge to design food (ingredients) that targeted those diseases and/or keep the gut healthy.”

“Gut health is key for overall health and wellbeing. Furthermore, in the industry I could expand my scope to other health areas, like metabolic, brain and immune health and help design functional foods for specific health benefits. Currently, I notice that microbiology, personalized nutrition, sustainability, trust and transparency are important topics in food. So, I keep on further developing myself professionally to address these needs and to be ahead of the game.”

“Also, I am very open to partner with other independent consultants/experts that are active in these areas, especially digital technologies, so that we complement each other and create synergies.”

From your experience, does the approach to research and product development differ in the academic and corporate world?

“Yes, surely it does. In academia, the focus is on knowledge development and understanding what keeps people healthy and why diseases occur and how to treat them. In the industry, it is more about designing products and services addressing relevant consumer needs and it is more about prevention of disease rather than treatment.”

“The industry (sponsored) research is needed to help develop such products and services. So, connecting both worlds is key if you are to be as innovative as possible, successful in designing consumer-relevant products and services that will keep people healthy, and sell well.“

What motivated you to invest in your own business? How did you find the first client?

“After I left Danone Nutricia, I wanted to set up my own company to be independent and serve as many companies around the world as possible to again broaden my scope. Even though I have worked for several exciting B2B and B2C companies in senior R&D positions, having the opportunity to lead great teams and work on the development of innovative and healthy products and services, it was always in the context of one company. Now, I assist many different companies around the world enabling development of healthy foods that benefit both people and planet.”

“Actually, I was extremely lucky, because the first clients contacted me as soon as I changed my linked-in profile! Thus, my first clients were coming out of my own social network. So, having a broad international network helps.”

I guess there were plenty of interesting projects that you were involved in over the years. If you think of a favourite one that you worked on, what would that be?

“Difficult question. I have had the privilege to be involved in plenty of interesting projects over the past years on an interim basis as well as on a project basis. It is the variety in projects and interim positions that I really like. It varies from being a member of a scientific advisory board of a company, to working as a nutrition team manager on an ad interim basis running several clinical studies across the world, to being involved in new product development assisting a multinational to renovate their complete early life and senior nutrition range. Currently, I am creating a new set of services for clients to get insights from health care professionals and to write scientific papers in a very efficient manner.”

What are the challenges of a science and innovation consultant in the COVID-19 era? How do you overcome them?

“Of course, the (partial) lockdown was a great challenge. Last year for instance, I was supposed to give a presentation at the AOCS conference in Canada, co-organize a satellite symposium at ESPGHAN in Denmark, and help to organize and moderate an expert meeting in Singapore. All these events were canceled.”

“Luckily, I could manage to turn these challenges into opportunities, as most of these events could be organized in an online manner and that’s how I currently work. I recently organized an expert meeting in a TV studio near my client’s office. Three people from the client were present in the studio, whereas experts from all over the world were calling in online via zoom. I moderated the session and the whole expert session was recorded by the TV studio in a professional manner. The client now has an excellent recording of the whole expert meeting and this type of service, I can now offer this format to other clients as well, because the concept really worked well.”

Connect with Sandra Einerhand on LinkedIn

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