Activities will assess and develop food processing methods (e.g. minimal, mild, careful processing) with the potential to optimise the preservation of the naturally occurring nutritional, structural and functional food properties, even once the food is processed. They will focus on innovative small-scale processing technologies tailored to the needs of SMEs, while ensuring links between food processing and primary production. Work will include, as appropriate, testing of solutions and assessment of their impacts on product characteristics (food structure, composition and stability, safety, nutritional and sensory quality), traceability and authenticity, sustainability (environmental, social, economic) and public health. When needed, proposals should address requirements from relevant EU regulatory frameworks including needs for pre-market approval. Activities will also look into the potential for the post-harvest preservation of naturally occurring nutritional food properties. Furthermore, work will explore appropriate business models adapted to proposed methods / technologies, taking into account organisation and distribution concepts, consumer behaviour / acceptance and/or the potential for consumer engagement. Proposed work shall benefit both the conventional and organic sectors. Activities will fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach'[[See definition of the 'multi-actor approach' in the introduction to this Work Programme part.]] and allow for adequate involvement of food SMEs, farmers and consumers.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 7 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Increasingly, consumers are paying attention to healthier food diets, ""healthy"" food attributes (such as ""freshness"", ""naturalness"" and ""nutritional value"") and overall sustainability of production and processing methods. To meet these demands food production and processing need to further evolve in terms of better preservation of the raw material and natural food properties while ensuring healthy, tasty and sustainable food. In parallel it is necessary to improve the understanding of the influence of consumers’ practices in maintaining the healthy food attributes from purchasing to consumption. Other important trends include a growing demand for regional and locally produced/supplied and less processed food. This has resulted in the emergence of new SME-led business models and an increasing number of farmers engaging in food processing (either on farm or by sharing processing facilities) and local food value chains. Developing effective and sustainable logistics systems for these types of products is essential to fully capitalise on new business opportunities in local/regional food systems and meet consumer expectations.
Activities will enhance market orientation and capacity of small and medium scale food processors and its suppliers to meet consumer demand for healthier food diets.
In the short- to medium term work will
- increase the availability of food with ""healthy” attributes, resulting in positive impacts on sustainability and public health;
- develop food processing methods/technologies adapted to the needs of the SMEs and with the potential to optimise the preservation of the naturally occurring nutritional, structural and functional food properties;
- develop flexible and optimised food processing units adapted to the seasonal character of raw material production and processing in small(er) batches;
- ensure food authenticity and prevent/reduce food losses through efficient use of raw material and optimised processes between primary production and processing;
- stimulate creation of new business models supporting job creation and job retention in rural areas.
In the longer term funded activities will contribute to increased competitiveness, sustainability, circularity and diversity of regional and local food systems.