Estonia held one of the first public tastings of novel foods in Europe

27. May 2024

Accelerate Estonia took foods of the future from the lab to the table, as Estonia held its first public novel food tasting yesterday. The tasting was a crucial step for the novel food industry, as innovative food production methods are pivotal in reducing humanity’s environmental impact. By making food production more sustainable, we are able to enhance the quality and taste of the food we consume.

A select number of Latitude59 visitors and novel food enthusiasts had the opportunity to put their taste buds to the test getting to experience 5 different items, prepared by accomplished chef Johannes Hõimoja – tempura battered oyster mushrooms with BBQ sauce, where the BBQ sauce was made using ÄIO’s yeast biomass followed by Gelatex’s potato fibrous scaffold meant for cultured meat production – the fibre isn’t meant to be eaten as itself, but it is a scaffold for growing cultured meat from the cell of an animal in a bioreactor. The tasting culminated with three desserts, which also incorporated ÄIO’s lipid rich yeast biomass – chocolate chip cookies, muffins with butter cream and eclairs filled with yeast cream.

What did tasters have to say? The British Ambassador to Estonia, Ross Allen, for example gave the cookies a 10/10: “All cookies are great, but this one is excellent!” Flavour is crucial – after all, if it doesn’t taste delicious, it won’t amount to anything, no matter how innovative.

Johannes Hõimoja, the chef preparing these tasting experiences shared his perspective: “Today’s chefs are always trying to find local and healthy ingredients. These types of novel solutions allow me, as a chef, to experiment with entirely new ingredients and prepare completely unique culinary experiences.”

Why is the tasting so important? 

Bringing novel foods to the market and allowing tastings is currently an extremely bureaucratic and time consuming process in Europe. The first public tasting in the Netherlands was reportedly put together in 2 and a half years. If you’re lucky, a straight-forward approval process for taking novel foods to the market is usually a 2-year, 2-million euro enterprise, just for gaining regulatory approval, something that in many cases can take much longer. 

Estonia managed to put this event together in roughly a month – and that’s the nature of the small and agile country, things can – if being creative, move faster. This is a huge milestone for Accelerate Estonia’s novel food project, as it draws its cooperation with ÄIO and Gelatex to a close, having worked for nearly a year and half to accelerate the regulatory approval needed for going to market.

As a result of the project Estonian public sector entities have decided to come together and create a clear pipeline and support process for food innovators to guide them in the European regulatory framework, so that innovation can get to our dinner table sooner. By guiding deeptech companies through regulatory challenges, potentially using AI to analyse regulations and past applications.