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Innovation in personalised Nutrition through Cluster cooperation in the Silver economy

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Addressing the demand for healthy food products among the elderly

People have different nutritional needs for staying healthy. To adjust the dietary behaviour of elderly citizens, a European initiative supported innovative ideas in the field of personalised nutrition.

Health

Personalised nutrition is an emerging approach for helping people eat better through suggestions on food choices and eating patterns that fit their individual needs and preferences. However, although the market is filled with food choices for babies, toddlers, people who exercise, there is a lack of products that promote elderly to eat according to their personal nutrition needs.

A funding scheme for a cluster cooperation

The EU-funded INCluSilver project was designed to address this gap by supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop and scale up nutritional innovations. “The overall objective was to support collaboration between actors within the agro-food, ICT, Creative Industries, and Information Technology (IT) sectors to create the right conditions for generating innovative ideas in the field of personalised nutrition for the elderly,” explains Per Simonsson, INCluSilver coordinator. As a first step, the project identified stakeholders in the nine countries that participated in the project, who highlighted key barriers to personalised nutrition. Alongside experts in the field, they pinpointed the challenges to innovation, the perceptions of personalised nutrition risks and benefits, as well as consumer concerns. The generated reports were disseminated to SMEs that were interested in developing innovations with the cluster and university networks in the project. Following several networking and training events, these SMEs had the opportunity to apply for an innovation voucher worth between EUR 3 000 and 60 000 to fund work on five different sectors, including nutrigenomics, e-health, diet and food production, as well as social networking. Five application rounds were scheduled, supporting a total of 88 projects from 78 unique SMEs. INCluSilver-funded projects have generated 37 new products and services on personalised nutrition for the elderly.

Personalised nutritional solutions for the elderly

“The design of nutritional solutions for the elderly must meet certain criteria,” emphasises Simonsson. The food product itself must be nutritious, containing more energy and protein than products destined for younger people, but also taste good. Importantly, it must be delivered in a package that is easily opened. INCluSilver supported a range of such projects, one example being a chocolate bar with lemon balm that makes it easier to fall asleep. Moreover, the emotional, social, and physical aspects of the user’s life must be taken into account. Old people tend to feel lonely and disconnected from society which makes them lose their appetite. Therefore, it is important to develop strategies that stimulate and facilitate the possibility of meeting new friends and engaging in new activities through, for example, a mobile application. Equally important is to disseminate the knowledge about what to eat to stay healthy according to one’s personal nutrition profile. One of the INCluSilver-funded projects developed the myDNAhealth personalised platform that analyses food intake data and bodily fluids, and helps the elderly make the right food choices for a healthy life. Overall, INCluSilver has successfully highlighted the problem of malnourishment among the elderly and created innovative products and services that support their health and social well being. INCluSilver has also laid the foundation for the scaling up of many SMEs that will continue to contribute to the nutrition sector.

Keywords

INCluSilver, food, elderly, personalised nutrition, SME

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3 December 2021