One bright idea that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has come up with in 2015 is the Food Innovation Centers (FICs) where new food products are being developed for possible commercialization.
These FICs have been established in 10 locations all over the country. They are equipped with facilities developed by DOST that include water retort, vacuum fryer, spray dryer and freeze dryer. Each one also has a vacuum packing machine.
The idea is to encourage scientists, academicians and other interested persons to develop innovative food products that will use locally available raw materials for added value and at the same time opening new opportunities for commercialization.
Very recently, DOST’s Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) recognized the most innovative food products that have been developed using the four in-house equipment mentioned above.
And what are some of these newly developed food products that could be produced commercially? Two new products scored high in terms of novelty, consumer appeal, manufacturing feasibility and can be priced competitively.
One of them is the Crispy Sprouted Mongo developed by the FIC in Region 2 or Cagayan Valley. Being vacuum-fried it is crunchy, non-greasy and it is highly nutritious. It is claimed to be more nutritious than the ordinary non-sprouted mongo. Above all, the raw material is readily available. If produced commercially, it could be perfect snack food for school children instead of the ubiquitous junk food. It is also perfect for lactating mothers. The product has many commercial possibilities and can eventually become a bestseller.
The other novel food product that scored high is the Sea Grapes Powder. This is actually spray-dried seaweed popularly called “lato”. This was developed by the Zamboanga State College of Marine Science and Technology in Region IX. It is claimed to have natural salty, peppery taste which can be used as flavoring for chips, noodles and baked products. It could also be mixed with baked products.
In the Water Retort Technology, students and professors of UP Diliman have come up Tea Tums. These are healthy ready-to-drink juices made from lemongrass, calamansi blend infused with turmeric and ginger.
And in the Freeze Drying Technology, Gracilaria, a seaweed that is abundant in Buguey, Cagayan, won the top prize. This can be used as flavoring or processed into seaweed chips.
What are actually the capabilities of the facilities in the FICs? The spray dryer transforms liquids into powder instantly. On the other hand, the freeze dryer produces dried materials, prolonging their shelf life and making them more convenient to transport. The water retort machine improves shelf life of food products even in non-refrigerated conditions, and the vacuum fryer creates crunchy products that are low in fat and high in fiber with minimal changes in color and flavor.
The FICs are open to scientists, technologists, and academicians who are in need of the said technologies.