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Winners of the 2023 Fi Innovation Awards and Startup Innovation Challenge revealed

Innovators scoop top honours in the F&B ingredient industry’s most prestigious awards.

Informa Markets, organiser of the Fi events portfolio, announced the winners of this year’s Fi Innovation Awards last night at a glittering ceremony held at the Panorama Hall, Messe Frankfurt. Finalists waited with bated breath for the judging panel’s verdict on which nominations were worthy of the top accolades. Earlier in the day, the Startup Innovation Challenge winners were revealed after a gripping round of live pitches at the Innovation Hub.

Fi Innovation Awards: recognising outstanding contributions

The Fi Innovation Awards celebrate the people, businesses and organisations breaking new ground and driving positive change in the F&B industry, giving them the credit they deserve for their achievements. They are judged by a panel of esteemed industry professionals presided over by Prof. Colin Dennis, chair of the board of trustees at IFIS and the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF).

This year, 20 finalists were shortlisted across six categories. On judging day, 27 November, each finalist was invited to present to the panel and the judges assessed each nomination behind closed doors to reach a decision.

Commenting on his experience of this year’s judging process, Prof. Colin Dennis, said: “Judging the Fi Innovation Awards is always a tough task, because the standard of entries is so high and all of the finalists are worthy contenders. What was particularly apparent this year was how much work the industry is putting into innovation that supports healthier, more sustainable eating. At a time when there is so much talk of problems and crises in the world, it is heartening to see companies pushing scientific boundaries to find solutions.

The 2023 winners and ‘highly commended’ entrants were as follows:

• Sustainability Innovation Award: Ofi (winner) for its efforts to advance climate action through its Carbon Scenario Planner (CSP); KOA (highly commended) for its efforts to introduce a new ingredient to the value chain by upcycling cocoa pulp.

• Plant-based Innovation Award: Hi-Food & Alianza Team (winner) for Mirror Tissue, a range of oil-based emulsions that are designed to mimic the functional, structural, and sensory attributes of animal fats; ChickP Protein (winner) for its functional pure 90% isolate chickpea protein.

• Sensory Innovation Award: Corbion (winner) for PURAC® Powder MAX, an ingredient range that allows manufacturers to make acid panned and tablet confections with a superior sour taste; AAK (highly commended) for CEBESTM Choco 15, an ingredient that improves the cocoa flavour in cocoa butter substitutes.

• Health Innovation Award: MycoTech (winner) for FermentIQ PTP, a shiitake fermented pea and rice protein powder that helps unlock the nutritional potential of plant proteins.

• Food Tech Innovation Award: FrieslandCampina Professional (winner): for its Kievit Vana Cappa X01 Foam Booster, which produces nitrogen bubbles at high pressure in powdered form and allows consumers to create a frothy cappuccino coffee instantly; NIZO (highly commended) for its biopurification process, a novel approach to removing unwanted molecules such as off-flavours from plant-based proteins using lactic acid bacteria or yeasts.

• Diversity & Inclusion Innovation Award: Solidaridad (winner) for its efforts to promote women in farming through its Feminisation of Agriculture Supply Chains; Cargill (highly commended) for its Program Awalé 2.0, which empowers women and young entrepreneurs in Côte d’Ivoire.

On accepting the Food Tech Innovation Award on behalf of FrieslandCampina Professional, Carolien Roseboom, the company’s Global Marketing Lead, said: “What makes us so proud is that this award acknowledges the endless possibilities that our Foam Booster gives manufacturers to create sensory novelties and new structures, as well as to solve the pain points of unstable, thin, collecting foam. I can imagine that is going to motivate us to continue developing in this area.”

Startup Innovation Challenge: giving startups a step up

Now in its eighth edition, the Startup Innovation Challenge awards programme champions innovation in F&B ingredients and technology, providing a unique platform for young companies to gain exposure to a global audience, attract investment and showcase their products and ideas to influential industry players.

The final round of judging took place at the Movenpick Hotel on 27 November when 20 finalists presented their innovative ingredients and disruptive foodtech to a panel of expert judges. On the 28 November, they were given the opportunity to pitch again – this time in front of the Fi Europe audience live on the show floor at the Innovation Hub. The winners were subsequently announced at a ceremony that took place within the hub.

The 2023 winners were as follows:

• Most Innovative Food & Beverage Ingredient: EQUII

• Most Innovative Plant-Based or Alternative Ingredient: Arkeon

• Most Innovative Processing Technology or Technology Platform: NIUM

• Most Innovative Service or AI Solution Supporting the F&B Industry: Deep Detection

• Most Innovative Sustainable Solution (Jury’s Choice award): Planet A Foods and WNWN Food Labs (two winners in the same category for the first time in this competition).

Michael Mitsakos, Co-Founder and President at Arkeon, said: “We are producing amino acids but we are doing it very differently – with CO2. We are thrilled that this has been acknowledged as a valuable and viable approach for amino acid production by the judging panel.”

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