ENTERPRISE Minister Richard Bruton has opened a new food research centre of excellence in LIT’s Hartnett Enterprise Acceleration Centre.
The centre will see new foods developed in Limerick for Irish and international markets.
The development of an agri-food industry in Limerick is a key part of the Mid-West region’s action plan for jobs, and it is hoped this centre will assist in increasing the value of agri-food exports by up to 80% by 2025.
This will be through helping food start-up firms grow and scale, and enhancing the marketing of the region’s food and beverage products.
Mr Bruton said the facility – named Food@LIT – is “a centre of excellence in food research, capable of food development and innovation which can support small firms to grow and accelerate their businesses to the benefit of the regional and national economy.”
Commenting at the opening, LIT president Dr Maria Hinfelaar said: “Food@LIT will provide economic benefits to the economy of the Mid-West and beyond by driving the innovation that large food businesses and start-ups need to be successful.” The centre has been founded by Dr Tracey Larking and Agnes Bouchier-Hayes, and will provide a range of services to food businesses.
These include sensory analysis of foodstuffs, where panels of tasters will unlock information on the changing tastes of the Irish palate, and as a result help bring new foods to market.
“Food@LIT is central in the assessment and formulation of food products and in helping food business understand their customers.
“The expertise of the Food@LIT team will influence the ingredients used in our foods, the nutrition we derive, and how foods that we consume are analysed, labelled, and marketed,” Dr Hinfelaar added.
Other services to be provided by the centre will be the development of new products, customer studies and focus groups, shelf-life testing, recipe development, food training and food styling.
Earlier this month, councillors were shown plans to develop a new food policy for Limerick, with the aim being to develop tourism around certain artisan products. There were calls for a festival to highlight Limerick’s unique food industry.