Sheffield Hallam University has secured funding to lead a new partnership project to improve energy efficiency and make food processing more sustainable through the development of new technologies.

The University’s National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE) has secured £232,000 to lead the project which will trial a new heating system for sauces aiming to reduce carbon impact while enhancing nutrition and taste.

Partnering with Premier Foods, the project involves the development and application of innovative Continuous Flow Ohmic Heater (CFOH) technology, which will be tested on a range of the company’s sauces.

Premier Foods is one of the UK’s largest food producers, supplying a range of retailers, wholesale, convenience, and food service customers. This research project is partnering with the company’s dedicated research and development team, based at its manufacturing site in Worksop.

Ohmic heating passes electrical current through food, heating it up evenly and requiring less energy than current processes.

The funding has been provided by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, as part of the Better Food for All Programme, an investment of up to £20 million to support the development of innovative solutions to address significant nutrition challenges.

The pilot scale study will address challenges faced by the food industry, such as uneven heating, reduced food quality through over-processing, energy inefficiencies, and negative environmental impacts and could inform future spending on food processing technology.

Dr Caroline Millman, senior lecturer and healthier lives research theme lead at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “This is an exciting project, bringing together industry and academic partners, combining our expertise to jointly develop a scalable and energy-efficient heating solution. It will build on existing technology developed by NCEFE and apply it in real-world processing conditions.

“This approach will bridge the gap between research and practical applications and has the potential to transform conventional heating and processing methods. This in turn could create new business opportunities, secure jobs, and contribute to the UK’s food and energy security.”

In 2023, the global cooking sauces and condiments market was valued at $242.8 billion, with the UK market worth £3.9 billion*. Food systems are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, both in the UK and around the world, accounting for around one-third of total emissions**.

Chris Horton, Head of Creative Solutions at Premier foods, said: “As a leading manufacturer in the food industry we can’t wait to embark on this innovative project alongside our esteemed academic partners.

“Under our Enriching Life Plan, Premier Foods is committed to helping create a more sustainable food system and to reducing our energy consumption to meet ambitious targets on carbon emissions.

“By harnessing our collective expertise in this way, we stand the best chance of making a breakthrough on a more environmentally friendly heating approach which could revolutionise cooking and processing methods within our sector. I’m excited to see what we can achieve together.”

The project is due to be launched in October 2023 and will last 18 months.