The University of Reading has recently finished two feeding trials, one with dairy cows and another with beef cattle. Currently Matís personnel is in full force preparing and analysing the chemical and nutrient content of the meat and milk.
Additionally, the products will undergo sensory and texture analysis to investigate whether seaweed in the feed can affect these attributes. The University of Reading has already carried out sensory analysis of the dairy products where first results indicate that astute consumers might be able to taste the difference if these products were to enter the market. The remaining question is – will the trained sensory panel at Matís taste a difference of the meat?
With the project coming to an end soon the SeaCH4NGE research team is looking forward to compiling and scrutinising all the results from the project.
Below are some pictures from the research process.
The Smart Tags project has placed considerable efforts into exploring consumer needs and expectations when it comes to implementing Smart Tags solutions in food value chains. The project has facilitated focus groups, interviews and surveys to get better understanding of what consumers consider added value enabled by Smart Tags.
As a continuation of the literature review conducted as part of the Smart Tag 2020 EIT Food project we sought to better understand consumer and stakeholder perceptions relating to Smart Tag technologies. The aim of this fieldwork was to discover consumer and other stakeholders’ needs and expectations of relating to Smart Tags and their assessment of these existing innovative Smart Tag technologies. This was done in order to inform the development of new solutions which was the next pivotal stage in the project.
Available technologies were presented to consumers of varying ages and countries and stakeholders of different professions and organisations. The methods used to gather data were one to one interviews, co-creative focus groups and surveys. All of these methods were of course conducted online due to COVID 19.
Following is a brief overview of the efforts made to cover the one-to-one stakeholder interviews and the consumer centred co-creative focus groups.
The Smart Tags consortium conducted stakeholder interviews from the four key areas of interest for the project i.e. focusing on; beverages, sugar reduction, fish and smart tag production itself. These interviews were conducted to find out the opinions and experiences of experts regarding Smart Tags and issues related to them, focusing mostly on new technologies, consumer communication and consumer trust. In total, 22 interviews were conducted in Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Israel, Poland, Spain and UK.
An example of some findings from these interviews are shown in the table below.
Table 1: Key questions asked during stakeholder interviews with responses
Have they seen/are they introducing any new technologies (in general) within their company?
Have they seen/are they introducing any new technologies (in general) within their company relating to STs and traceability?
Are there/have they seen any examples of STs in their market?
Are there/have they seen any examples of STs in their company?
Do the they have methods in place to trace their product? (STs or not)
Do they think consumer communication adds value?
Do they think there will be an increase in demand for STs from consumers?
Has there been any demand for STs directly?
The results of these interviews helped inform the process of the next stage in the fieldwork, the consumer co-creative focus groups. The main points of interest that these interviews raised were:
Are consumers aware of Smart Tags?
Do they know the values they give?
Do they see any value in smart tags?
Informed by the outputs of expert stakeholder interviews we designed and conducted the consumer centred workshops.
The aim of this segment of fieldwork was to understand consumer needs and expectations relating to existing Smart Tags and their opinions on the solution acceptability of these technologies. To do this, co-creative workshops were held with several age ranges across five countries. In total 85 consumers across six countries from age 20 to 71 took part.
These workshops were developed on the basis of creating a shared understanding of not only Smart Tags but the context surrounding them (i.e. the food value chain and why Smart Tags are implemented). Immersing participants in an issue and gradual introduction of intensity of methods aids in participant creativity and problem solving (Sanders and Stappers, 2008).
Detailed descriptions of Smart Tags were given to participants to enable them to make an informed decision as to which technologies they believed added value. This was done between Activity two and three by showing a presentation describing the full range of current Smart Tags and some of their applications.
In the final part of these workshops’ participants were asked to design their own product that included one or more Smart Tags of their choice. This produced 20 distinct co-created products for us to compare and contrast across age ranges and between countries. Figure 1 shows the template used (all templates being the same across countries for consistency) and how participants expressed their decisions and justifications.
We are currently in the process of analysing the data from our focus groups, with a focus on difference in needs and expectations across age and location. These findings are being passed on to our partners leading the work in the next phase which is the co-creation of novel Smart Tag technologies. We are also conducting a large-scale quantitative survey relating to the most promising concepts that emerged from the focus groups. This will be covered in another upcoming press release.
Sanders, E. and Stappers, P. (2008). Co-creation and the new landscapes of design. CoDesign, 4(1), pp.5-18.
Many research articles have identified a great number of commercially available intelligent packaging technologies that are inexpensive. In our previous article, we discussed the state-of-the-art technologies in intelligent packaging. But we have not seen these technologies being adopted widely even today. What could possibly be the reasons for not adopting these great technologies? Some researchers have pointed out that end-user acceptance and trust towards a given technology have a strong influence on their adoption of the technology (Suh and Han 2002; Wu et al. 2011). In this article, we gather research studies to find out possible barriers and enablers towards the adoption of intelligent packaging technologies nowadays.
Our results show that in terms of intelligent packaging technologies, particularly for time temperature indicators, the availability of easily interpretable labels and irreversible colour changes has been the main enabler for many consumers (Pennanen et al. 2015). On the other hand, consumers are highly concerned with potentially increased waste and price coupled with the indicator. In addition, they are concerned with the possibility that indicators could leak substances onto food while at the same time being subject to becoming unreliable once they are not in contact with food and/or manipulated by retailers.
The next technology that has become increasingly popular for communication in the supply chain is QR code. One particular information most valued by consumers with this technology was the ability to easily access the history of food product (Matzembacher et al. 2018). These include information about disease/pest and inputs (e.g., fertilizer and sprays for plans and food for animals). However, having an independent government body was seen by consumers as an important factor for this technology. Such an independent government body would be responsible for food safety and hygiene to provide consumers with accurate information about food and drink. On the other hand, even though QR code is a relatively easy technology to implement, regular consumers’ lack of knowledge and interest in food traceability (Matzembacher et al. 2018; Tsai et al. 2014) and health consciousness (Buaprommee and Polyorat 2016) seem to be one of the biggest barriers today.
An interesting finding of (O’ Callaghan and Kerry 2016) suggests that acceptance of new food packaging technologies may depend on the age of end-users. For instance, consumers’ willingness to accept decreased with increasing age, and the preference for no technological interference with food was higher for individuals over the age of 35.
Next, both (Aday and Yener 2015) and (O’ Callaghan and Kerry 2016) found that from the consumer point of view, the chance of being misled with innovative packaging claims is too high. However, they were willing to accept the technology through educational commercials (Aday and Yener 2015). Food producers showed similar concerns as consumers indicating that there is a risk of misconduct and a lack of proven added value and robustness which could lead to liability issues in the event of deviations. Thus, manufactures should aim not only to be transparent and informative about the given technology but also to certify and test for robustness of the technology.
Another push back for food producers is that new technologies may be incompatible with existing packaging machinery. This requires a higher investment and introduces technical complexity. In the studies of (O’ Callaghan and Kerry 2016) and (Paunonen et al. 2018), both consumers and food producers reported that high cost resulting from the new technology is a barrier towards adopting it.
One prominent example is the blockchain technology which has recently become quite popular due to its robustness against label counterfeit. Unlike traditional centralised approach where supply chain traceability information is stored in a database centrally managed by a supply chain entity, a blockchain traceability framework follows the decentralised approach and uses a smart contract protocol. This allows only trusted supply chain entities with write access to create transactions in the ledger. These transactions are trackable and irreversible. Customers can then retrieve these transactions by scanning RFID, barcode or similar data carriers. But blockchain traceability technology is new to most supply chain entities. Specific barriers to this technology include a lack of demand (possibly due to consumers’ lack of knowledge of the technology (Yeh et al. 2019)), financial burden of the systems and difficulty in tracing the source of all ingredients for all food products (Sander, Semeijn, and Mahr 2018). In a recent interview with four different companies in food supply chain, (Behnke and Janssen 2020) found that the main barriers are 1) technological incompatibility of retailers (requiring still a lot of manual actions), 2) lack of standardised internal and external traceability processes (requiring organisation changes) and 3) lack of standardised master data between the supply chain actors.
In a literature review by (Galvez, Mejuto, and Simal-Gandara 2018), it was suggested that the dependence on traditional data carriers such as RFID or barcodes to scan food tracking data could itself be a barrier to blockchain. For instance, although the data is immutable, one can tamper with a sensor and the blockchain will not be able to detect it. In other words, the blockchain does not have a verification mechanism to prove whether the raw data were correct. In addition, the overall cost of implementing blockchain technology is unpredictable, particularly when the existing, highly mature supply chain system has been used for so long. Finally, manufactures are generally concerned about what data should be shared across the supply chain. Without a clear policy on what data to reveal, they may stand on the wrong side of the trends line (Galvez et al. 2018).
Our research found limited empirical studies that have investigated consumer acceptance or trust in the context of intelligent packaging technologies. Studies have so far focused on only a few of the technologies such as time-temperature indicators, barcodes and labels. There is an opportunity for future research to study the barriers of the remaining technologies that make up the domain of intelligent packaging as each might present end-users with a different barrier.
EIT Food Smart Tags communication project has progressed into pre-piloting phase with three technical pilots. VTT is in charge of preparing physical smart tags, and all the partners will participate in smart tag evaluation – specifically project’s industrial partners. The three pre-piloting cases focus on monitoring environmental conditions combined with mobile phone based reading.
Temperature logging pre-pilot is based on an ultra-thin smart data logger label demonstrator called T-Tag that VTT has developed and demonstrated earlier (Figure 1). This type of logger can be used to track the temperature of the packaged item to boost sustainable and safe transport as well as storage of temperature sensitive products. T-tag is based on an extremely thin NFC temperature monitoring IC for logging and communication, and indicator LEDs for indication of logging and threshold temperature. Temperature data can be accessed via Android application as an user interface. (See: https://youtu.be/CbMFWoooLcQ)
The other pre-pilots are based on 2D bar codes that have colour changing areas. Because these types of smart tags are sensitive to environmental conditions, they are dynamic, but they also enable context aware services as each of them can be unique. This enables the achieved information and its meta-information content to change due to the changing environmental conditions when scanning the codes by mobile phone.
Spoiling fish creates nitrogen that can be detected from the package headspace with indicators reacting to changes in environmental conditions (e.g. presence of nitrogen) with visual colour change. VTT has integrated printed nitrogen indicator with 2D bar code in order to implement mobile phone readable smart tags. The reading software can detect colour change in the indicator area and thus direct the user to varying digital content (Figure 2). Integrity of modified atmosphere package (MAP) has been detected in the third pre-pilot with oxygen indicators based on the same technical principle as the nitrogen indicator.
For more information on pre-pilots and underlying technologies, contact Senior Scientist Liisa Hakola (email@example.com) at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd.
Holding of Sea Urchins and Scallops in a RAS Transport System
Trials were carried out at Matís on holding live sea urchins and scallops in a RAS system developed by Technion, Israel, which not only recirculates the water, but additionally controls the pH and removes toxic ammonia. The aim of the trials was to test the feasibility of holding sea urchins and scallops alive in the RAS system for 10 days at 4°C, with at least 90% survival. The project was funded by EIT food, and the participants were Technion and Matís.
The survival of sea urchins held in the RAS system at 4°C was high during the first five days. Eight days from catch the survival was only 80%, after 12 days about 50% and after 15 days, 10%. Sea urchins, packed in the standard way of transporting live urchins (in polystyrene boxes at 4°C) were at similar quality as the RAS stored sea urchins, five days from catch and the roe was still edible at eight days from catch. All the urchins in the polystyrene boxes were dead after 12 days storage and the roe inedible.
Scallops had a high survival when held in the RAS system or about 89% after 24-days at 4°C.
In September 2019 two live holding trials with Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) were carried out at Matís where the fish was kept for up to eight days in a RAS holding and transport system developed by Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. The RAS system, which recirculated the water, controled the pH and removed accumulated ammonia, was set up in a 40 feet reefer tank to control the temperature at 4°C. The project was funded by EIT food and the participants were Technion and Matís.
The results show that Arctic char could be held at a density of 80 kg/m3 at 4°C for 8 days in the RAS system, without adverse effects on mortality. Moreover, no differences were found in the sensory quality (flavour, odour, appearance and texture) of the stored fish compared with fish before it was placed in the RAS system. The stored fish had however more gaping, higher cooking yield and marginally lighter colour than fish before placing in the system.
However, a bio-load of 135-145 kg/m3 Arctic char in the RAS storage and holding system led to a high mortality. Moreover, on slaughter the surviving fish had adverse sensory quality as indicated by loss of characteristic flavour and odour as well as firmer, drier and tougher texture. The fish had a high incidence of gaping, a high cooking yield and showed evidence of deformation on cooking.