Food from non-food
“Using second generation biomass in the food industry”
By Alexandra Lüchinger and Nikki Postema
13th of January 2015
Food from non-food
“Using second generation biomass in the food industry”
Alexandra Lüchinger and Nikki Postema
Nutrition and Dietetics
Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen
Opdrachtgever: Avantium, Amsterdam
Supervisor Avantium: Ben McKay
Supervising Lecturer: Rianne Stevens
13th of January 2015
Before you lies the Bachelor thesis we wrote during our fourth year of Nutrition and Dietetics at the Hanze University of Applied Science. The thesis is the result of research performed in the first semester of 2015-2016.
We could never have written this thesis without the help of a group of very special people. We would like to take a moment to acknowledge our gratitude. Foremost we would like to thank Avantium, it is only because of this amazing company we were able to write about this fascinating subject. Our sincere thanks goes to Gert-Jan Gruter, Ed de Jong and Ben McKay, who were always were invaluable and helped shaping this project. Also, we would like to thank Rianne Stevens, with her critical eye, tips, advise and chocolates. In addition, we would like to thank Andrea Werkman, for her help and pep-talks. And finally a big thank you for all the people who participated, for their time and interesting conversations during the interviews. Without their opinions, views and suggestions this research could not have been conducted.
This report is the end of a very special period in which we have worked very hard to accomplish a good result. We enjoyed it. We hope the readers will enjoy it!
Alexandra Lüchinger and Nikki Postema
Groningen, January 2016
Als gevolg van de groeiende wereldbevolking neemt de vraag naar water, voeding en energie toe. Om in de vraag van bio-energie te voorzien wordt 15 procent van de wereldwijke mais productie gebruikt voor biofuels. Dit staat haaks tegenover de groeiende vraag naar voeding waardoor er een competitie ontstaat tussen food agriculture en non-food agriculture. Om een oplossing te vinden voor de groeiende vraag wordt het gebruik van natuurlijke bronnen aangeraden waarbij het gebruik van second-generation biomass aan bod komt, een onuitputtelijke bron van cellulose die geen concurrentie aan gaat met food security. Het is daarom interessant de potentie van tweede generatie koolhydraten in de voedingsmiddelenindustrie te onderzoeken die een bijdrage kunnen leveren aan de voedselzekerheid en de duurzame productie van voedingsmiddelen.
Het hoofddoel van deze studie is om de behoeften en standpunten van het gebruik van suiker verkregen uit non-food biomassa in voedingsmiddelen en dranken in kaart te brengen. Literatuuronderzoek dient als het fundament van de theoretische achtergrond en toonde de positieve en negatieve resultaten aan door middel van analyse aan de hand van het Triple-P Model. Veldonderzoek is uitgevoerd was om de meningen en ideeen te inventariseren door middel van semi-gestructureerde interviews uitgevoerd met acht participanten. Dit kwalitatieve onderzoek is uitgevoerd om diepgaande informatie te verkrijgen over de potentie van second-generation carbohydrates in de voedingsmiddelenindustrie.
Uit de resultaten blijkt dat het gebruik van tweede generatie koolhydraten een grote impact kan hebben op het ‘food vs. materials debate', men ziet hier een groot ethisch probleem in. Het gebruik van 2G kan een voordeel voor bedrijven zijn door de duurzaamheidsaspecten waar een groeiende vraag naar is. De prijs wordt als belangrijkste bepalende factor gezien en daarnaast is de kwaliteit en beschikbaarheid van groot belang. Men ziet potentie, met name wanneer er naast de duurzaamheidsaspecten ook gezondheidsverbetering kan worden bereikt. Men ziet barrieres in de consumer integration and acceptance and the economic competition, maar verder wordt 2G carbohydrates als goede innovatie met grote potentie omschreven. Verder toont het Triple-P model aan dat er grote voordelen zijn door het gebruik van biomassa voor de productie van food gezien de bijdrage aan food security and sustainability, al moet ook hier rekening gehouden worden met mogelijke tekortkomingen als gezondheidsbevordering.
De conclusie is dat het gebruik van tweede generatie koolhydraten wel degelijk potentie heeft en deze wordt vergroot wanneer het zowel een positief effect heeft op de duurzaamheid als op de gezondheid. Wanneer barrières verholpen kunnen worden en de wereld klaar is voor deze verandering wordt verwacht dat consumenten een voorkeur zal hebben voor een duurzaam product als deze. Van groot belang is de goede communicatie naar de consument toe en transparantie over het proces en de afkomst van het product.
Er wordt aanbevolen de consument van voldoende informatie te voorzien, dit kan via verschillende kanalen als brochures, e-mail, website enzovoort. Daarnaast wordt verder onderzoek naar toepassingsmogelijkheden voor tweede generatie koolhydraten geadviseerd.
As a result of the growing world population the demand for water, food and energy is increasing. To maintain the current demand on biofuels 15% of the global corn production is used. This interferes with the growing need for food and results in a competition between food agriculture and non-food agriculture. Second-generation carbohydrates provide a fresh look upon the growing demand of food, fuel and energy. Using cellulose, a non-edible and sheer inexhaustible source, second-generation carbohydrates do not intervene with food supply. Moreover 2G makes it possible to produce food from non-food. It therefore is interesting to identify the opportunities of second-generation carbohydrates and its possible contribution towards food security and sustainable food production.
The main goal of this study is to map the needs and views of using carbohydrates obtained from non-food biomass in food and beverages. This research was conducted to map possibilities for 2G in the food industry, as 2G is currently only used (in very limited quantities) for non-food applications. Literature research served as fundament for the theoretical background and showed positive as well as negative results based on the Triple-P model. Field research was operated to identify needs and opinions by means of an online survey filled out by 13 participants and semi-structured interviews. Eight food experts were interviewed to give opinions concerning the use of second-generation carbohydrates in the food industry.
The results of this study show that second-generation carbohydrates can have a major impact on the food.vs. fuel debate. Due to the sustainable character and (possible) low pricing, 2G carbohydrates show benefits for food companies. Participants thought it important that next to the sustainable aspects 2G carbohydrates have, health characteristics would benefit the product. Price is identified as determining factor. Next to this quality and availability are of big importance. Consumer integration and acceptance and economic competition were described as hurdles.
Most important conclusions that could be drawn are that second-generation carbohydrates certainly have positive effect on food security and sustainability. Communications and transparency towards companies and consumers is key for success. If awareness of consumers, companies and governments increases, second-generation carbohydrates will have a substantial chance of succeeding.
It is recommended to provide companies and consumers with enough information about the product and process. Next to this it is advised to research other applications for second-generation carbohydrates than sweeteners. The fermentation industry seems to be a good market to start introducing second-generation carbohydrates.
Table of contents
1. Introduction 6
2. Methods 8
2.1 Study design 8
2.2 Research method 8
2.3 Selective sampling of key informants 9
2.4 Mail 9
2.5 Interview 9
2.6 Data collection procedure 10
2.7 Data processing and analysis 10
3. Research results 12
3.1 Literature Research 12
3.1.1 The Triple-P model 12
3.1.2 Second-generation carbohydrates and People 13
3.1.3 Second-generation carbohydrates and Planet 14
3.1.4 Second-generation carbohydrates and Profit 14
3.2 Field Research 14
3.2.1 Online Survey 15
3.2.2 Results Qualitative Research 16
4. Discussion 28
5. Recommendations 31
Avantium Postscript 31
Reference list 32
I Mail 34
II Interview schedule 36
III Interview scheme 36
The global population is expected to rise to 9 billion in 2050.1 This massive growth leads to a higher demand for food, water and energy. The increasing demand for energy, 50 percent in the next decades1 leads to a higher carbon footprint and hence to an even bigger strain on the environment. The need to mitigate use of fossil fuels has led to a rise in demand for bioenergy.2 Whereas today mostly ‘first generation' (1G) food crops such as corn, wheat and sugarcane are used for the production of bio-fuel, a switch to non-food lignocellulosic biomass (2nd generation biomass) will be needed to produce fuels, energy and materials in order not to strain food security in the future. In 2008, about 15 percent of global corn production was used for production of biofuels.3 The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates food production will have to increase by 60 percent to feed a population of 9 billion.1 This will create competition between food agriculture and non-food agriculture, which makes feeding future generations even more complex.
Finding a solution for this competition demands a paradigm shift. As FAO stated, it is important to move from the food ‘versus' fuel debate to a food ‘and' fuel debate.1 Key is using natural resources in a more flexible and less conventional way. A big step forward in commercializing these unconventional methods can be realized by using non-food biomass for biofuels and material applications.
A good example of open-minded thinking is using second-generation biomass for producing materials and fuels. First-generation biomass is defined as crops that are also suitable for food, such as the corn cobs providing starch, proteins and oils for human consumption. Second-generation biomass is defined as crops, which are not suitable for human food, such as forestry and agro residues like corn stem and leaves which is lignocellulosic material, consisting of hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin. Like starch, cellulose is a glucose-based polymeric material. It contains a lot of energy, yet is inadequate for human food consumption, as the human gastrointestinal tract can't digest (hydrolyse) cellulose. Using cellulose to produce biofuels or other biobased materials therefore doesn't compete with food supply and thus contributes to food security.4 This gives 2G biomass tremendous potential for eliminating the competition between food and non-food. As mentioned above, an unorthodox look is needed to deal with the food ‘versus' fuel debate. Knowing the sugar composition of 2G biomass makes it interesting to take this debate one step further: what if 2G sugars could be used in food production? In short, can the dogmas be put aside and is the world ready to use non-food biomass for producing food?
Currently the food industry uses first generation sugars. Take sweeteners as an example; manufacturers have in certain regions (e.g. USA) replaced sucrose by glucose-fructose syrup also known as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The reason for this change is HFCS is made out of corn, which is significantly cheaper than sugars from sugar beet. Furthermore HFCS offers a lot of other advantages: higher preservability, easy to blend with liquids and moreover it retains its sweetness far better than regular sucrose.5 Since HFCS is obtained from corn, a reliable, sustainable and available substance, the price is relatively low and stable. Due to this, its presence was quickly accepted in the food industry and use has increased. In the USA in the last 15 years 30 million tons of fructose was produced from corn starch. Initially HFCS was used in soda drinks such as Coca Cola and Pepsi, however it now is a very important sweetener in food as well. 6 High Fructose syrups (HFS) produced from 2G glucose (cellulose) instead of 1G glucose (starch) may have a lot of benefits: as HFCS is used in very big quantities7, enabling the use of 2G glucose leads to reduced demands on food agriculture and will thus contribute to improved future food security. Not only might 2G sugars be used as sweeteners, they can in principle substitute for 1G glucose, fructose or oligosaccharide application such as binders, thickeners or prebiotics.
Question is whether 2G sugars could or should be used in the food industry. Avantium, a chemical technology company situated in Amsterdam, has developed a unique cost competitive technology to produce high quality oligosaccharides, glucose and fructose by selectively hydrolysing the cellulose fraction of lignocellulose. Avantium is currently developing it for non-food purposes only, however as the glucose quality is excellent they are now interested to investigate the potential to use of 2G carbohydrates in the food industry too. According to the triple-P model of Elkington (found in appendix l) this may have great potential. The balance between People, Planet and Profit is preserved better than when only using 1G sugars.
While a second-generation carbohydrates technology has a lot of potential, breaking through dogmas and conventional ways of thinking is still needed. Using 2G sugars forces authorities and companies to look differently at the use of non-food and food biomass. The technology is available, however, is the world ready to use non-food biomass in food applications? And if yes: what are the needs and views that positively or negatively influence the potential demand for 2G sugars in the food industry?
The objective of this research project is to map the perceptions and needs that might influence the potential demand of second-generation carbohydrates in the food industry, to obtain better knowledge of the market possibilities.
The main goal of this study was to map the needs and views of using carbohydrates obtained from non-food biomass in food and beverages. This research was done to map possibilities for 2G carbohydrates in the food industry, as 2G carbohydrates are currently only used (in very limited quantities) for non-food applications.
2.1 Study design
This being an almost unexplored subject until now, the study is descriptive in nature. As this dissertation is descriptive it was important to obtain qualitative information.
2.2 Research method
To answer the question ‘what positive or negative results occur after analysing 2G sugars with the Triple-P model?', secondary (desk) research was conducted and forms the part of the literature review presented in this thesis.
Primary research was carried out to fill the research gaps identified during the secondary research. This chapter presents and explains how both primary and secondary research was carried out.
Table 1 and 2 Search terms that was used for conducting the desk research
Sr. no Search terms Related terms
1. Sugar Sugar OR Glucose OR sucrose OR oligomer OR Saccharides OR fructose OR levulose OR Furucton OR Nevulose OR Krystar OR fructosteril OR laevoral OR dextrose OR Glucopyranose OR Dextropur OR Glucolin OR Xylose
2. Sugar alcohols Threitol OR Ribitol OR Xylitol OR dulcitol OR Iditol OR Maltitol OR Lactitol OR Isomalt OR Erythritol OR Glycerolot OR Roferose OR Glycerol OR Arabitol
3. Non-food Biomass Cellulose OR lignocellulose OR Lignin OR Wood OR grass OR Non-food OR Agricultural Waste OR Birch OR root OR Trees OR stalk OR corncobs OR pomace
4. Foodstuffs Food OR (Ice cream) OR Sweetener OR Cookie OR Candy OR candies OR Confectionery OR (Chewing gum) OR Snack OR Foodstuff OR beer OR Beverage OR chocolate OR baked OR lollipop OR gum OR coffee OR meal OR "food additive" OR "food-grade" OR "processed food" OR "packaged food" OR "dietary food"
Sr. No. Non patent: Search strategy Nu. Hits
1. Sugar + Non Food Biomass + Foodstuffs
2. Sugar Alcohols + Non-food Biomass + Foodstuffs
3. Non-food Biomass + Sugar + Hydrolysis + Foodstuffs
4. Foodstuffs + Cellulosic Sugars
The search produced 400 hits, after removing duplicates 278 articles were left. These were selected on usability by reading titles, subject and abstract. Articles that were written in other languages than Dutch and English were removed as well. After the selection process 26 articles seemed to have potential. These articles were retrieved and studied; after further analysis seven articles were actual relevant for use in the literature study these were used in the Triple-P literature analyses.
In addition to the desk research, a field research was conducted to answer the following questions:
- What impact would the use of second-generation sugars as ingredients in foods and beverages have on the food vs. materials debate?
- What views do companies have concerning the use of non-food as food?
- What views do companies have concerning the use of food as non-food?
- What considerations do companies make in determining whether or not to use 2G sugars?
- What needs could be addressed by using second-generation sugars as ingredients in foods and beverages?
Semi-structured interviews were held with key informants to allow open two-way conversation. Furthermore this type of interview gives qualitative and readily comparable data. It was important to get reliable conclusions hence the minimum number of interviews was set at seven. Contacts of Avantium were used to selectively identify subjects for the semi-structured interviews.
2.3 Selective sampling of key informants
Because this terrain has never before been explored it was important to gain information from different angles. Therefore it was necessary that the subjects of this study are from different fields of activity, being:
- Innovation, R&D and Marketing professionals in the food industry
- Academic researchers in the food and beverages area
- Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority
- Consumers union
The 25 participants were selected on the basis of their expertise, work and available contact information. It was decided to assemble two groups. The first group contained 13 academic researchers and NGO employees, the second group consisted of 12 professionals from the food industry.
All subjects received an email beforehand with a request for the interview and an explanation about second-generation carbohydrates. Attached to the email was a link to a small survey with eight scale questions. This brief survey was meant to make the subjects think about second-generation carbohydrates ahead of the interview and form an opinion. Answers provided additional insights in the attitude of each subject in question. This made interviewing more personal and allowed the interviewer to ask more thoroughly about certain opinions and thoughts. The full text of the email and the scale questions can be found in appendix I.
The email to potential candidates was subjected to a pre-test. Two employees of Avantium functioned as trial subjects. They received the email and survey and filled it out. Their feedback was used to finalize the email and survey. This was then sent out to 25 potential candidates.
Also the interview was pre-tested with the employees of Avantium. During the interview the question and interview time were recorded After each interview, it was evaluated. Doing so, the questions were refined. All this testing led to optimized preparation for the interviews and thus for the research.
The interviews took approximately 30 minutes and were only held with the participants who also completed the survey. The main themes of the interview were:
- The use of food for non-food
- The use of non-food for food
- The strengths and weaknesses of this concept
- The benefits for food and beverage companies using 2G carbohydrates
- The way of producing 2G carbohydrates
- The source of 2G carbohydrates
- Consumer's acceptance and communication
- The best opportunities in the food industry
- The remaining hurdles
The complete interview topics and schedule can be found in appendix II.
2.6 Data collection procedure
Because of the nature of interviewing it was appropriate to prepare questions beforehand. Using this technique allowed to have an open conversation yet have a proper foundation. On the 10th of November 2015 all 25 potential participants were contacted for the first time. Supervisors each emailed their contacts with the announcement students would contact them. Two days later the potential participants were emailed for the second time with the request if they wanted to participate. Participants who didn't respond after a week were mailed again with a reminder. Responding participants filled in the survey and were asked to participate in a semi-structured interview that would last approximately 30 minutes. The interview scheme can be found in appendix III.
2.7 Data processing and analysis
All interviews were conducted on the basis of anonymity. Candidate names and affiliations are not disclosed in order to get more open discussions and thus more valuable responses. The semi-structured interviews were recorded on a voice recorder and afterwards transcribed. ‘Atlas' was used to decode the interviews. First open coding was conducted. All the articles were read and the text was analysed, categorised and described per subject. Afterwards axial coding was conducted; herby codes were related to each other. Furthermore codes were combined as one new code. After all the coding 30 codes remained. The analysis was conducted by comparing the outcomes of the interviews. Since the semi-structured interviews were held around a few fixed topics of conversation its (dis) similarities could be established. Using these findings as a framework, conclusions can be drawn. These can be found in the chapter 4 of this thesis. From the retrieved opinions, additional information was derived, such as further discussion points. With help of these discussion points, views of different people that are involved can be highlighted. This again brings out the bottlenecks/impediments.
3. Research results
3.1 Literature Research
The Hanze Library, Pubmed, Google Scholar and Picarta were used to conduct the literature study. Keywords used during the search were: Triple-P, Triple Bottom Line, Biomass, Cellulose, Sugar, Glucose, Carbohydrates, Food, Sustainable, Food Security, Biofuels, Weight, Second Generation, Agriculture.
Table 3 Inclusion- and exclusion criteria
Inclusion criteria Exclusion criteria
Relevance on account of screening Title and abstract Conclusion is outside of the scope
Dutch or English full text available Outcome not fully described
Research design consisted of a Systematic review, Meta-analysis Randomised controlled trial or Observational study Research is not valid, reliable, or other shortcomings
Timeframe 1/1/2000-1/1/2016 No clear record of type biomass or sugar/sweetener
After the selection process 26 articles seemed to have potential. Not all were actually relevant for the literature study due to the fact they had to fit the three P's of the Triple-P model. Seven articles were selected that all met the requirements of validity, reliability and time frame. Also articles from ‘Rijksoverheid', UR Wageningen and dossier ‘Duurzaam Ondernemen' were used as references. Furthermore two books were used to help analyse the Triple-P model.
3.1.1 The Triple-P Bottom Line model
The last ten years sustainability gained more attention from companies, governments and non-profit organizations. It is hard to measure the degree to which companies are sustainable; as a result John Elkingson developed the Triple-P Bottom Line model. Before the model was introduced environmentalist wrestled with measures of, and frameworks for, sustainability.8 The framework incorporates three dimensions of performance: social, environmental and financial, shortly People, Planet, Profit. 9
“The TBL captures the essence of sustainability by measuring the impact of an organization's activities on the world, including both its profitability and shareholders values and its social, human and environmental capital “.10
There is no common unit of measure for the Triple-P framework. This can be viewed as strength because it allows a user to adapt the model to different entities, different projects and different geographic boundaries. The entity, type of project and geographical scope will decide what measures to include.
Striving for sustainable development in the Social dimension People are the main focal point. Examples of social variables are human equality, well-being and health. Fairtrade can also be seen as a social dimension and can help sustainable developments.
Sustainable environment is key in the dimension Planet. This is generated if people take care of the earth they are living on. Achieving a sustainable environment goes hand in hand with reducing the ecological footprint and reduction of carbon dioxide emission. Other examples are reducing waste, recycling, sustainable product development and water management.
Sustainable cooperation is the focal point in the dimension Profit. The aim is to strive for optimal economical welfare for current- and future generations.9
Figure 1 The Triple Bottom Line Model
3.1.2 Second-generation carbohydrates and People
Nutrition is a basic need allowing people to survive. Since people are not able to digest cellulose containing plants they started eating food that contained starch. In order to provide enough food, a great amount of food production is needed11. However, a lot of valuable agricultural land gets lost as a result of ground erosion. Furthermore a lot of water and pesticides are needed to maintain the crops. Due to the growing world population and the growing food consumption an almost unbearable pressure lies upon modern agriculture. It therefore is important to firstly focus on food consumption instead of using food crops for non-food applications. To increase food production and create economical stability the development of sustainable agriculture based on perennial plants is a suitable solution. These plants produce more biomass per hectare with minimal input. As a result human food, animal feed, biofuels and other biobased materials can be produced from non-food biomass.12 The use of second-generation carbohydrates does not obstruct food intake since non-digestible biomass is used. Due to this fact second-generation carbohydrates do not inhibit food security.
Despite the sustainable character of 2G the ‘end product' is still glucose. It bares the same qualities and structures and thus (in big quantities) can have negative effects on consumers. Overweight and obesity are possible outcomes.13
3.1.3 Second-generation carbohydrates and Planet
Almost all half of plant-based material consists of lignocellulose. This is a combination of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. This is the most available biomass on earth. Using this material creates a sheer inexhaustible source with little to no risk of shortages. Until now only a small amount of the available lignocellulosic material is used as side-product of agroforstery. The remainder is agricultural waste like straw, crop-, forest-, leaf- or food waste. Worldwide, billions of tons of second-generation biomass are accesible.14 Using cellulose can in many cases be seen as using waste, which has a positive effect on sustainability and the environment. Compared to using oil, its use is CO2 neutral. This can be seen as a very positive aspect of second-generation carbohydrates.14
Leafs and stems nowadays are also used for animal feed. It is very important not to cross any existing uses of these waste streams in competition with feed applications. It also has to be noted that some of the agricultural waste is left on the land to rot and fertilize the land.15
3.1.4 Second- generation and Profit
Biorefinery technologies that can convert lignocellulosic biomass into human food or animal feed were named as a possible breakthrough for food security.16 With this method food security as well as economical wellbeing can be increased. An increasing number of consumers gets aware of the importance of sustainability. The number of consumers that decide whether or not to buy a product based on sustainability has increased by 42% in 2014.17 The use of 2G carbohydrates anticipates on the needs of a generation who pays more attention towards sustainability and environment. The use of a sheer inexhaustible resource benefits the society, and creates efficiency and continuity. Furthermore cellulose in leafs and stems contains the same amount of carbohydrates as starch from grains.18 This ensures that companies do not have to increase production for the same amount of carbohydrates.
Although the expectations of Bio refineries are high, it is a double-edged sword. Biorefineries enables to obtain more products from biomass, yet, as consequence it is easier to produce more due to low pricing, therefore demand will rise.16 Despite the fact cellulose will not lead to physical shortage a political shortage could occur in form of export restrictions.19
3.2 Field Research
For the field research a total of 25 respondents were approached. The complete selection procedure is described in chapter 2. Respondents came from different segments: 13 Academic researchers and NGO employees were selected to participate. They are all specialised in the field of Human Nutrition & Health, Biology, Agro-technology and Biobased research. Within this group eight people filled out the survey and four participated in the interviews. Four respondents did fill in the survey, yet did not participate in the interview. They indicated not to have enough time for an interview.
Furthermore, 12 professionals in the food industry were selected, all from different companies and with different specialities: R&D, Product Safety Authority and food companies, sugar companies and marketing and development. Within this group five respondents filled in the survey and four took part in the interviews.
3.2.1 Online Survey
Leading up to the interview to the interviews thirteen respondents filled out the online survey. All 13 participants agreed or strongly agreed that companies have responsibilities towards a better environment. Twelve out of thirteen agreed or strongly agreed that companies have responsibilities towards consumers health. It seems that the opinions are most divided on the question if second-generation carbohydrates can contribute to improved food security.
Figure 2 Answers to online survey questions
The last question of the survey asked in what kind of applications second-generation carbohydrates could best be used. Participants could choose between: a) Sweeteners b) Binders c) Fibres d) Other, please specify. Three out of thirteen respondents thought sweeteners was the best option for 2G. Five respondents mentioned different applications than sweeteners, binders or fibre.
Table 4 Options 2G carbohydrates applications as stated by the respondents (n=13)
Opportunities for using 2G in the food industry Frequency
Food acids 1
Health promoting sugars 1
Wide ranges 3
3.2.2 Results Qualitative Research
The qualitative research consisted of 8 in-depth interviews with food and chemical experts. Together with the literature review, the qualitative research was carried out to understand the possible potential that second-generation carbohydrates could have.
Use of food for non-food applications
Attitudes toward the use of food for non-food applications differ. It was mentioned three times that this was a positive thing and needed to be done regardless of the potential food shortages. One participant stated there is enough agricultural land for non-food as well as food applications. The fact that people become less dependent on petroleum was mentioned as a positive aspect as well. The use of food for non-food applications could even be seen as a positive development, giving people more food security.
“…it possibly could be an improvement for food supply and food security. If there is to be a failed harvest the crops meant for non-food applications can be used for food applications.” – Participant 1
Five respondents thought it not suitable to use food for non-food applications. Manly they mentioned food should always come first. Next to this they stated with the growing world population it is irresponsible to use valuable land for non-food applications.
“…it is a really bad idea…We had predictions concerning the production of food, now it is apparent these prognoses are different than expected. For example erosion of soil, mostly in Africa is much worse than calculated. Shortly you just can't use agriculture ground for non-food applications, you just can't.” – Participant 5
Table 5 Positive and negative reactions towards the use of food for non-food applications
Use food for non-food applications Reasons Frequency
Positive reactions 1. Enough agricultural land 1
2. Less dependent on petroleum 1
3. Increase food security 1
Negative reactions 1. Ethical problem 2
2. Growing world population 4
3. Not enough agricultural land 2
4. Negative impact on food security 3
Use of non-food for food applications
Although all respondents stated that second-generation carbohydrates was an innovative solution and could have potential, two respondents pointed out that it possibly was not the best solution to strengthen food security.
“…I think there is going to be a bigger demand for non-processed food, so I think that it would have more potential to think of smart solutions for more non-processed food. And this is an example of extremely processed food” – Participant 3
Nevertheless five respondents thought second-generation carbohydrates were a sustainable and a progressive development. Mentioned was the improvement it could have on food security and the sheer inexhaustible source of cellulose on earth.
“…the advantage of course is that you have a sheer inexhaustible source of cellulose that is rather cheap. That is really an advantage, and probably cheaper, well, eventually cheaper than 1G solutions.” – Participant 3
Table 6 Positive and negative reactions towards the use of non-food for food
Use non-food for food applications Reasons Frequency
Positive reactions 1. Food security 1
2. Sustainable 1
3. Waste use 1
4. Sheer inexhaustible source 2
5. Price 4
6. Marketing advantage 5
Negative reactions 1. No added value 1
2. Reduced need for processed food 1
Strengths of this concept
The respondents mentioned many strengths and positive aspects concerning second-generation carbohydrates. One factor that was mentioned seven times was waste utilization. Respondents perceived the fact that 2G could decrease food waste as very positive.
“…One of the strongest points is obviously that one has less waste because the waste is used rather efficiently” – Participant 2
Next to sustainability, food security was mentioned five times as strengths as well. Participants realized the growing world population would lead to a higher demand of food and thus thought second-generation carbohydrates could contribute to a improved food security.
“…An argument as well I think is, people see that with this solution we can enlarge food production, people will get triggered by that. That is what I expect al least” – Participant 5
Flexibility was mentioned three times as strength. Participants emphasized there are hard times ahead and stated that second-generation carbohydrates could contribute to more flexibility and food supply in the future.
“…you upgrade the potential of already existing soil and crops. This gives you more flexibility in times of distress.” - Participant 1
Figure 3 Strengths of 2G carbohydrates
Weaknesses of this concept
Advantages come with disadvantages. Participants mentioned several disadvantages in relation to 2G carbohydrates. For example participants stated second-generation carbohydrates could have a very good sustainable character. Nevertheless sugar is still sugar, which can be an unhealthy ingredient.
“…if you have to much glucose it tastes really sweet and even worse: it has a lot of negative side-effects, think of ‘fast carbohydrates'. It is therefore not really healthy” – Participant 1
Also the process of obtaining second-generation carbohydrates was called a possible weakness three times. Participants mentioned side-products would decrease the purity of the carbohydrates and could even be dangerous for consumers.
“…I think a disadvantage is that you have to look very careful what side-products are left behind behind.” – Participant 3
Figure 4 Weaknesses of 2G
Benefit for food companies
Many different factors were mentioned as a benefit of using 2G for food companies. Particularly important appeared to be sustainability, such as the use of waste streams.
“…sustainability gets a more crucial place in the food and beverage industry. The importance of showing that processes and products are sustainable increases.” – Participant 2
Marketing advantage is another argument that is mentioned 6 times. Participants perceived the fact that consumers would chose the more sustainable product if price was similar to the less sustainable product. During the interviews it was stated 9 times that 2G could have a marketing advantage. Next to this it was mentioned twice 2G did not have marketing advantage.
“…companies can fine-tune there marketing on second-generation carbohydrates, that way they can use it as a selling point. Doing so they will have to search for the right communication strategy to attract consumers” – Participant 4
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