2.1 Executive summary
This is an updated version of the observatoryNANO project report on economic impact of nanotechnologies in the Agrifood sector. This report focuses on market potential of nanotechnology applications in the food industry, driving forces and boundaries of their further development in respect to their commercialization and market utilization. Four applications of nanotechnologies have been selected for more detailed description in this report:
- Controlled-release encapsulation system for food additives, ingredients and flavours
- Delivery systems for nutraceuticals and nutritional supplements
- Food packaging based on nanoclay composites: multilayer PET
- Food contact materials (FCMs) based on metal/metal oxide nanoparticles
From the global food market perspective, the European food industry is weak in economies of scale and in labour productivity; however, it is powerful in attracting sufficient capital and labour, is open to the world market and is in an open internal and external competition. The European food industry is also characterised by a considerable diversity of products and firms.
Looking at the impact of nanotechnology in the food industry more than 400 companies around the world today are active in nanotechnology research and development (R&D) and this number is expected to increase to more than 1000 within the next 10 years. Nanotechnology applications are expected to bring a range of benefits to the food sector, including new tastes, textures and sensations, less use of fat, enhanced absorption of nutrients, improved packaging, traceability and security of food products.
The food industry is ultimately driven by profitability, which is consequent on gaining consumer acceptance by offering added-value in terms of quality, freshness, new tastes, flavours, textures, safety or reduced cost. Food companies are also looking out for new technologies to improve the nutritional value, shelf-life and traceability of their products. They are also aiming to develop improved tastes, reduce the amount of salt, sugar, fat and preservatives, address food-related illnesses (e.g. obesity and diabetes), develop targeted nutrition for different lifestyles and aging population, and maintain sustainability of food production, processing and food safety.
On the other hand, the main possible barriers, which could hamper the future development of nanotechnologies in Agrifood sector, are the perception of new technologies in food by the public and regulations applied to food safety. Therefore, it is necessary to gain confidence of consumers in nanotechnology. The European public should be assured that Food Safety Authorities led by EFSA oversee safety of nanotechnology applications in Agrifood sector. This should avoid a negative attitude of public to nanotechnology.
Controlled-release encapsulation system for food additives, ingredients and flavours
Multicomponent delivery system delivers multiple active ingredients that do not normally mix well, such as water-soluble and fat-soluble ingredients, and releases them consecutively. It enhances the stability and bioavailability of a wide range of nutrients and other ingredients, controls their release characteristics and prolongs their residence time in the oral cavity, and thus prolongs the sensation of flavours in the mouth.
Several products based on MultiSalTM technology from Salvona Technologies are in the market at present (MultiSalTM Flavor/Cooling, MultiSalTM Collagen Tripeptide, etc.)
There is no economic information about the present products available. However, the value of the global food additives market was expected to reach 25.3 billion US$ in 2007. Further growth in this market will be prompted by greater use of additives to improve finished product quality and to control costs, as well as by fast growth of newer food and beverage products, such as enhanced and flavoured waters.
The further development in this area is strongly dependent on the perception of nanotechnologies in food and food contact materials by the public. Food companies are still hesitant to incorporate nanomaterials for uncertainty of future regulations and standards and for fear of negative consumer reactions. Experts also alert to the absence of reliable data relevant to consumer health and lack or regulations for use of nanomaterials.
Delivery systems for nutraceuticals and nutritional supplements
The use of nanotechnologies can improve the solubility and utility of nutraceuticals and nutritional supplements. Solubility problems can affect the applicability and performance of a biologically active compound in a variety of ways.
There are several systems using nanotechnology for delivering nutraceuticals and nutritional supplements in the market (e.g. Ubisol-AquaTM, NovaSOL®, NSSL technology, Bioral®); however the economic information about the present products is not available.
The global nutraceuticals market is estimated at 120 billion US$ in 2007 growing at 7% compound annual growth rate. The US has been the major market for nutraceuticals with India and China becoming fastest growing markets. Nutraceuticals are gaining acceptance for their ability to address several diseases. Vitamins, Minerals and Nutrients constitute about 85% of the market while antioxidants and anti-agents account for 10% other segments such as herbal extracts occupy 5% of the market, globally.
The further development in this area is strongly dependent on the perception of nanotechnologies in food and food contact materials by the public. Food companies are still hesitant to incorporate nanomaterials for uncertainty of future regulations and standards and for fear of negative consumer reactions. The efficiency of nanotechnologies in this application must be verified by further research.
Food packaging based on nanoclay composites: multilayer PET
The polymer composites incorporating clay nanoparticles are among the first nanocomposites to emerge on the market as improved materials for food packaging. Nano-layer structure of clays increases the path of diffusion that penetrating molecules of gases or other substances must take and significantly improves the polymer's barrier properties.
Commercial products (e.g. Imperm®, Aegis® or Durethan®) fall into two general categories: regular and high load. Regular products have nanoclay loading in the 2-4% range and high load 5-8%. Regular load products bring 2 times barrier improvement for oxygen and water vapour transmission. High load products are 4-5X better than neat polymer and about 2X better for CO2.
Nanocomposites are the fastest growing segment in the forty billion dollar polymer composite market. This segment is estimated to more than double in size in the next four years. Analysts predict that nanoclays will be the largest component of the nanocomposite market in 2010. Currently, clay particles at the nanoscale are the most common commercial application of nanoparticles in food packaging and account for nearly 70% of the market volume (the market for food packaging containing nanomaterials has been predicted to reach $360m in 2008 and $20bn by 2020).
Except of uncertainty in the perception of nanotechnologies in food contact materials by the public, a higher price can be considered as a possible barrier to further development of market applicable products in this area.
Food contact materials (FCMs) based on metal/metal oxide nanoparticles
The food contact materials based on metal/metal oxide nanoparticles use especially Nano-Silver, Nano-Titanium, Nano-Aluminium and Nano Zinc Oxide. Nano-Silver particles can significantly reduce bacteria and insure safer, fresher and tastier food. Nano-Titanium is used in filtration systems in fridges and vacuum cleaners. Nano-Aluminium enables to improve properties of the foil surface, for instance to develop anti-adhesive coating or black coating of baking foil which does not reflect heat in an oven. Nano ZnO is used as a non-organic antibacterial agent, which does not discolour nor does not need ultra-violet light to be activated.
Products based on metal or metal oxide nanoparticles used in FCMs are already in the market, e.g. food containers, cutting boards, refrigerators, kitchenware and tableware, aluminium foil or plastic wrap.
Detailed information about the market size of this relatively narrow segment is not publicly available. From the global point of view, the number of nano-based packaging applications is reported to be growing fast. Three years ago fewer than 40 packaging products containing nanoparticles were thought to be on the market, compared to the 400 plus currently available. The market for food packaging containing nanomaterials has been predicted to reach $360m in 2008 and $20bn by 2020.
The further development in this area is strongly dependent on the perception of nanotechnologies in food contact materials by the public. Furthermore, several expert studies show that nanoparticulated substances might cross cell membranes and thus introduce new risks to human health.
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