Unismack & Innovation
Interview with Alexandros Stratakis, Unismack’s R&D Director, by Natalie Sanderson.
What areas of innovation is Unismack specifically focusing on this year?
There are many aspects of innovation that can enhance our work and problem solving capabilities and we are going to be exploring many different avenues throughout 2021 via new technologies, research, more collaboration with third parties and also looking at our physical structures and buildings.
How are you using innovation to improve your snacks?
We are asking ourselves a key question: Can we really bake better? We have created a new lab machine and we will be exploring in depth, a unique baking technology to investigate whether our baking technique can be improved. We anticipate that the result of such a process, should give us greater insight into improving the flavour and nutrition profile of our snacks, at the end of the baking process. This project is currently on stealth mode and once we have detailed results of our research findings, we will be looking at how to scale it up and move it forward.
What other new technologies are you exploring?
We are currently gaining experience and getting ready to explore four new technologies that will dramatically extend our ability to develop new products and product lines. This year so far, experimenting with all these technologies, we have managed to develop some new promising products. We are now building the capabilities to scale these up and possibility take them into wider production. Given our 100% gluten and allergen free manufacturing status and any further health oriented restrictions we have, our task is to make sure that we will produce new exceptional products without any compromises.
How are you collaborating with other businesses?
We are looking forward to continuing and extending our collaboration with Universities including the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Currently we have an active project and we are also looking forward to taking part in Ecotrophelia, which is a student competition that aims to inspire young people to create new products. Our ambition is to create an interesting new product using upcycling.
What role is research playing in terms of innovation?
We have filed for a 400K research programme to help us develop products that maintain certain nutritional characteristics after the baking process. This is something we are very excited about. Finding and developing products with quite unique raw materials can be challenging. Given the fact that the bakery industry has traditionally worked with certain materials, innovating in this area and making sure that you have in place both the availability and the quality required to create a product, is no easy task. In addition, learning to work with the properties of a new ingredient to deliver the right sensory properties, is equally an important step. Throughout this year, we are looking at different materials and at this stage, we are actively focusing on one new crop, which we think can deliver an exceptional product and also fits with our own strict ethical standards.
What other improvements are you looking to explore?
Digitalisation is the last areas that we are keen to improve on as we continue to grow and move forward. Currently our goal is to modernise the way we access information on certain areas, but our longer term vision is to have a system that aligns all different functions of our internal and external environment and part of it should be blockchain making sure we are taking these extra steps that we believe are necessary for our clients and also our end customers.
What does the short term future look like in terms of innovation for Unismack?
The last and most important aspect to support our innovation, is building the structure to support all those aspects and to research and measure the steps we are taking. It is great to be working on projects like the above and we are looking forward to moving away from the traditional industry standards and to finding new ways to produce exceptional products. We are focusing on our problem solving capabilities and looking at all of the aspects of the consumer experience right down to the core. For us, consumer food products and snacks shouldn’t only deliver great taste, they should be adding more actual value in so many other ways. I am very optimistic and confident of our strategy and goals for the coming year.