Milk and cheese of superior quality. A handy cap that doses nutritional supplements in a bottle of water. All the aforementioned initiatives fly the Belgian flag. And wherever there is innovation stemming from the Belgian Wagralim, Isabelle Grommet, the International Manager, is sure to be in the vicinity. “We are constantly looking for the right partners,” says Grommet. It calls to mind an old Belgian motto, “Unity is strength.” Apparently that strength is unified by tasty innovations, too.
Wagralim is the innovation cluster of the Walloon food industry. Founded in late 2005, in part supported by the Walloon government, Wagralim brings together industry and research and provides the framework for innovation in Wallonia.
Wagralim’s experts help members develop new products and bring them to market, both domestically and abroad. A unique Belgian model, Wagralim promotes innovation—even for smaller companies. Isabelle Grommet explains, "Wagralim today consists of 180 members: agri-food industry, and private and public training and research centers. We are constantly looking for the right connections within our membership to bring new products or services to market."
From Farm to Fork
Laitherbe is a typical example according to Isabelle Grommet. The project launched in 2011 for a period of four years and centers on sustainable development. The goal: producing milk and cheese of superior quality with minimal burden to animals and nature. “Developing a sustainable value chain enabled Laitherbe to achieve a better product. This is a true farm to fork project and it starts with good nutrition for the animals. Healthier animals produce milk with a higher nutritional value, which also affects the quality of the cheese on up,” says Grommet.
With the focus revolving around healthier, more efficient and more durable, whether production, packaging, or policy development, Wagralim offers more, since innovation goes across the board. Bringing people together with the right skills, that too, is Wagralim. The Belgian Health Ingredients Group encourages Belgian producers of healthy nutrients to align in order to spotlight their combined strengths abroad. Isabelle Grommet reports this initiative has already proven very successful, “A number of companies have noticed that the combination of their ingredients intensifies the individual components. A blend of fibers from one company with antioxidants from another creates a wonderful new drink.”
Made in Belgium: Surprise in a Bottle
Even though supported by the Walloon government, Wagralim gladly pulls out the Belgian card. "Made in Belgium is a very strong brand. In Belgium we also have a unique way to foster cross-pollination between researchers and the food industry. And we gladly present our scientific and industrial strengths. International trade fairs, conferences and prospecting, such as one made recently to South Korea, provide a window to the world, nurture innovation and attract the missing skills to our own country, since you simply cannot be everything.”
Wagralim also puts its members on display during the World Expo in Milan. A highly original plastic bottle cap was an unexpected discovery for visitors. What was so surprising? The cap contains specific healthy ingredients in powder form such as antioxidants, natural flavors or fibers. The consumer could choose from a wide range—just screw the magic cap onto a bottle of water and shake well. Again, Belgian technology. The fine cuts in the capsule allowed the contents to release with the shaking pressure. The flavors have a corresponding color and the ingredients mix with the liquid hassle-free. At the Expo2015 Milano three were available: black, yellow, red—the colors of the Belgian flag.
Within the global food industry, as Isabelle Grommet mentions, Belgium has long been famous for the production of ingredients, particularly the healthy kind. “But while they currently deliver to large multinationals, the innovative cap story can go directly to consumers and boost the success of our own companies. When we work together, we reap more benefits!” Unity is strength—but it also generates more flavor.