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Food makers try high-tech ways to go natural


Global population growth and rising middle classes are pushing food companies to use technological advancements to make food closer to nature.

Instead of trying to change ingredients, food technologists are now looking at how to take natural materials and make them easy to use in food products.

PepsiCo Inc., Cargill Inc., and Burcon Nutrascience Corp. are all focused on creating healthier and tastier foods, from sweeteners to proteins to texturizers, with a more understandable ingredient list.

"We are trying to make our products much more simple, much closer to nature," said Kerr Dow, Cargill's vice-president of global food technology at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit, held this week in London, Paris, Singapore and Chicago.

"What is great for technology is that that is really quite difficult," Dow said in an article by Reuters.

Innovation partnerships among companies are common with most actively working to improve the health profile of their products.

DuPont's nutrition and biosciences unit for example has partnerships with Nestle and Kellogg and spends half of its US$1.6 billion R&D budget on agriculture and nutrition.

It's becoming critical for companies to constantly improve products by reducing the number of ingredients.

Other challenges producers face include improving the cost structure and desirability of healthier products.

Despite the big push for new products, the world's diet remains largely unchanged, though it's expected functional food will have a bigger role.

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