Josep Pla, the journalist, gastronomy and Catalan writer, will someday experience an immortal gastronomic sentiment: "The kitchen of a country is posing the seu paisatge dins la cassola". A phrase that can summarize the symbolism of gastronomy as a representative of a territory, that which is based on the products and local knowledge, and that make up the cultural identity itself. This type of focus has become, in the last years, a strategy linked to gastronomic tourism with a differential value between territories. An internal vision molt interessant per conéixer els available resources and that generates an opportunity to rediscover the own gastronomic landscape.
Currently, gastronomy offers various options to convert total cuisine with culinary products and gastronomic experiences. And if, in addition, will we have the opportunity to go further and will I pose the landscape, like Josep Pla, also in a five-gamma packaging? Is it possible to turn polp sec into a gourmet product to taste in Sweden? Puc anar al linear i buy me a preparat per fer arròs amb fava pelada? As a territory with gastronomic prestige, as well as not having a transformative product creation movement?
We can donate value to the product and it is an ambaixador de luxe perquè pot fer to arrive more often than not. It is a generator of investment opportunities and business creation, to channel the surplus productius, to reinforce the nutritional and healthy values of a dish, to be an alternative to those that have no cooking time, to rediscover- it is our own cuina, and we can be an element of custody of our agro-gastronomic culture, in short.
Tot això needs a process of innovation and creation. Exploring these possibilities is worth it and for this reason, he asked Puri García Segovia, who is part of the Food Research and Innovation Group of the Department of Food Technology of the Universitat Politècnica de València, which contains the next experience in this camp i ens parle d'some cases that claim to be illustrious.
THE POWER TO INNOVATE
QUESTION. What type of research do you carry out in your department?
ANSWER. The Food Technology Department of the Universitat Politècnica de València has several lines of research, obviously all of them focused on the study of what happens to food during the different transformation processes. Within these multiple lines of work, our research team has worked for the last 20 years in researching in the area of culinary transformations: from the simplest processes such as peeling to the most complex, such as cooking with control of pressure ... any step causes physical, chemical and biochemical transformations in food, which we are in charge of studying.
Q. What is the development of new foods?
R. The development of new foods starts from the basic premise of satisfying the needs of consumers. This process, which a priori may seem easy, requires a significant effort in which many “actors” are involved. On the one hand, knowledge about the needs of the population to which the product is directed is needed. For example, it is not the same to design an ice cream for children as for adults, for a woman than for a man ... And it is also necessary to take into account cultural, socioeconomic, geographical factors, preferences and aversions, etc. A lot of factors that are going to intervene in the choice of food. But, in addition, you have to know very well how the ingredients behave in a process. To continue with the same example, in the design of an ice cream, the balance between the components (dairy, sugars, fruit, chocolate ...) is crucial for the texture of the ice cream to be creamy, the crystallization to be adequate and not produce quality losses in its flavor and aroma. It is also important to take into account during the design and development of a new product, how it is going to be preserved, studying its useful life, stability and safety. We must study what nutrients and what amounts it is providing us and evaluate the benefits and risks of its consumption. All this without forgetting that the placing on the market of a new food, be it a new variety of fruit (as the persimmon persimmon once was) or that ice cream we are talking about, requires economic feasibility studies that serve to value innovation and contribute to the generation of wealth in the environment.
KITCHEN WITH ADDED VALUE
Q. What does food processing contribute to the creation of value-added companies?
R. Obviously, many of the raw materials, of which we are producers and defenders of the gastronomic tradition, are very perishable. They are sustainable in their environment, they create wealth, they provide cultural identity, but they are highly seasonal or underperform. The transformation of part of these raw materials through culinary, semi-industrial or industrial processes can help in the creation of new business models that provide added value and that can help revitalize a product, its environment, its producers, its gastronomy and its culture. . There are very clear examples, such as the Loquat of Callosa, an example of seasonal fruit -with DO- and that we can find in different types of processed product giving added value to a very seasonal fruit.
Q. What is the role that a territory like Dénia can play - with its distinctive Unesco and the importance of its gastronomic sector - in food innovation?
R. Dénia is part of an enclave, like many others in our Community, with special agri-food interest. Due to the proximity of sea and mountains, it presents a particularly favorable climate for maintaining biodiversity, which has contributed greatly to a flourishing gastronomic identity. Conjuncturally, this situation has also favored the growth of the tourism sector. Innovation must be understood as the ability to materialize creative ideas in generating economic or social value. If the Unesco label accredits Dénia as a Creative City of gastronomy, the association is clear. We must materialize the creative ideas that this City is capable of offering in generating value and, therefore, in innovations.
Q. Do you consider that food security continues to be a priority?
R. As I have already mentioned, food safety is one of the most studied fields in food science and technology. For decades we have developed increasingly sensitive methods to identify those compounds that can cause toxicity in food products in order to guarantee their safety. It is evident that we are not at the end of the road and that cases of contaminating agents in one or the other food continually appear, but the great satisfaction is that current security guarantee systems allow the detection, identification and paralysis of those food batches that may contain any element harmful to consumer health.
Q. It's not just about food, is there much to do about functional and sustainable packaging?
R. The added value, in fact, is not only in the food itself. We can find many examples of products that, maintaining their integrity, add a lot of value for the type of packaging they contain, for example, ready-to-eat salads. The vegetables have undergone little modification, except for a wash and, at most, a chop, but the fact that we can dispose of them in a container that allows us to consume them anywhere quickly, means that the value is quintupled of the fresh product. The new containers, which, in addition to being easy to handle and transport comfortably, have been designed with environmentally friendly and biodegradable organic materials, are currently a growing challenge that not only add value to the product but also to the environment.
Q. Does it take a lot of production to make research and development profitable?
R. The main mistake that has been made in this and many other countries has been to consider research and development as an expense rather than an investment. Unfortunately, at the present time we have lived the clear example of being a country that produces few things, and many of them have little added value. It is not a matter of demagoguery with the budgetary barrier that R&D has in the territory (national and of our Community). Do you have to produce a lot to be able to invest in R&D? I would say that, if you do not invest in R&D, it does not matter what you produce, because the value of the products is not in the quantity or even, sometimes, not even in the quality, it is in the power of innovation, which it goes even further than R&D.