A consortium led by Grupo Agroponiente, working in partnership with the universities of Granada and Seville, is researching how to develop improved fortified foods (from a nutritional point of view) that are also healthier, using fruit and vegetables that are usually discarded because of size standards.
As explained by those in charge of the Naturpick project, the goal is to create a new line of business resorting to those horticultural products that meet the necessary quality standards, but cannot be sold because of their size or because of an excess production.
The project has a budget of 1.2 million Euro and a temporary development period of 30 months.
It is being executed jointly by the Almeria-based company Agroponiente Natural Produce, SL, which coordinates and selects the crops, the Granada-based DMC Research (DOMCA Group), which identifies the active functional principles, and the Seville-based company Moreno Ruiz Hermanos, responsible for developing innovative recipes that include bioactive compounds.
The consortium also has the support of the national agro-food technology center of Andalusia (TECNOVA) and the universities of Granada and Seville as research organizations.
In the context of a growing social concern for healthy living habits, it is also pursued to consume foods that are rich in healthy ingredients, fortified with compounds for specific needs, such as energy bars for athletes.
The Naturpick project is studying ingredients like garlic and onion; foods that are known for their multiple health benefits, such as their ability to strengthen the immune system or reduce cardiovascular risk factors.
"We have managed to identify and characterize the phytochemicals present in onion and garlic which are responsible for their good properties and to add them to our fortified foods," explained Dr. Alberto Baños, one of the researchers.
Watermelons are another food product studied in the framework of the project, as they are rich in citrulline; an amino acid that improves the cardiac function and gives a boost to the body's performance and recovery after a physical effort.
The final result of this project, co-financed with funds from both the EU and the Ministry of Economy, will be the development of "superfoods" in the form of bars and gels that will incorporate active ingredients of natural origin.