The food industry evolves towards the (increasingly demanding) demands of the consumer. However, the mastodónticas structures of traditional companies are not always able to meet those needs. The Spanish startup Naturae has achieved what the big companies in the sector have not been able to do. His work has just been recognized as best responsible innovation in the world at the International Quality Innovation Awards (QUIA), which were delivered this week in Tel Aviv (Israel).
There are two food challenges that this young company in Valladolid wanted to help solve. The first, that of recover the most natural approach to food. “According to Eurobarometer 354, 66% of Europeans distrust the chemical preservatives that carry food,” Naturae CEO Juan Manuel Sanz tells INNOVADORES. “And rightly so,” he says. “There are numerous scientific studies that correlate that presence with health problems such as childhood hyperactivity, certain allergic reactions or digestive problems. “
Nitrates, nitrites, parabens, hypochlorite … have replaced more natural techniques such as salt or smoking to preserve food. “These chemical preservatives, in certain quantities, are legally allowed; but when they accumulate over the years, problems appear, “says Sanz.
The second challenge Naturae faces is the food waste. FAO warns that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are discarded annually in the world. “With that amount you could feed Africa, Europe and America for a year,” says the CEO. “We throw a third of everything that is produced in the field.” On the one hand, consumers want the fruit and vegetables we eat to be perfect, with the ideal color and size. For another, “We have not been able to find a balance between what we buy and what we eat”. And it is that of that third that ends up in the trash, 43% we throw it at home.
In this scenario, the spin off from the University of Valladolid – founded by a team of engineers, biologists and chemists in 2013 – decided to look for a solution through innovation. “It’s the way we have of compete with the big food companies, making different foods that have something unique, “says Sanz.
Naturae needed to replace chemical preservatives with an innocuous method that would facilitate the disinfection of fruit and vegetables. And what better than water and ozone? The startup has created a system of high hydrostatic pressures capable of eliminating food microbiology naturally.
The technology also has advantages over the other procedure that is usually used for cleaning, high temperatures. “The heat treatments eliminate the properties of the food, which also changes color and smell,” says the CEO. “Our disinfection occurs naturally, without losing nutritional properties originals “.
But the technology of the Spanish startup goes beyond. “We get to increase the shelf life of the food.” The cut fruit that is on the market does not last more than four days, thus contributing to food waste. “If the person has more time to consume the product, they will throw less food.” Well Naturae has achieved multiply that useful life by 10, reaching 40 days, thanks to its high pressure system and “some additional technology”.
In addition, the company gives an ssecond chance for fruits and vegetables which, although they are in perfect condition, are discontinued by agents of the food chain. “We have agreements with farmers and suppliers of origin that fruits that are perfectly usable, but that by their appearance are discarded,” says Sanz.
All this has just taken Naturae to Tel Aviv. First, the startup received the Responsible Innovation Award from the Centers of Excellence (CEX) in Spain. This recognition qualified her directly in the global competition, where she has won the International Quality Innovation Award in its category between large and small companies around the world.