With startups, food industry leaders, research institutes, the Technocampus Alimentation platform, a regional food wholesale market (Marché d'intérêt national) and much more, Nantes Saint-Nazaire has all the ingredients needed to design, produce and test the food innovations of the future.

How about swapping your burger and fries for an insect steak? Or sipping an apéritif made with microalgae? Fancy tucking into a Petit Lu biscuit even though you are diabetic? These are just some of the food innovations currently being developed by startups and manufacturers in Nantes Saint-Nazaire. Thanks to the support of a dynamic ecosystem with laboratories and innovative structures and the presence of top-class health and food sectors, manufacturers and researchers work together to create tomorrow's food products.

Consumers’ quest for healthier, locally-made food with short supply chains forces manufacturers to innovate. Here are some examples of companies based in Nantes Saint-Nazaire who are coming up with inventions for the food sector in order to offer alternative solutions, meal replacement products or food supplements with high nutritional value. 

- Fruit Ride is a startup
that has just launched edible, 100% natural fruit leaves that are organically farmed and free from added sugar, colouring, preservatives and gelling agents. Dried the leaves at a low temperature enhances retainment of the fruit’s quality. This innovation was introduced by an entrepreneur with strong local grounding in tandem with the fruit purée producers Les Côteaux Nantais.

- AlgoSource is a product made with microalgae, which are used increasingly often in food. Based near Saint-Nazaire, the company makes food supplements and sparkling, blue curacao-coloured drinks containing spirulina; these are especially popular with athletes. Along with plant proteins and insects, microalgae are the main sources of innovations that increase nutritional content.

As they look to gain certification and approval for their innovative products, these startups benefit from the profusion of internationally renowned health and nutrition companies operating in Nantes Saint-Nazaire.
- Biofortis Nutrisciences: The company, whose head-office is in Saint-Herblain near Nantes, conducts tests on baby milk, probiotics and all kinds of food supplements. “Our customers from the food sector include producers of ingredients and food supplements but we also have pharmaceutical companies and makers of medical devices,” says Françoise Le Vacon, who co-founded the company. “They need to prove that the effectiveness of their products can be measured and yield a clinical result. At a manufacturer's request, we can open and manage clinical investigation centres anywhere in Europe. This technology requires that data is then analysed and involves the use of big data and, more and more, of machine learning.
- Eurofins Scientific : Founded and still based in Nantes, this analysis laboratory is the world leader for food tests, with more than 45,000 workers across 17 countries and a turnover of 3 billion dollars.

A unique place for food innovation in the ICO

Nutrition is also at the heart of the strategy of the Nantes-based Institut de cancérologie de l’Ouest (ICO), which is currently working with Elior and the Institut Paul Bocuse to set up a unique place for research, innovation and support for cancer patients. The idea is to encourage innovative projects (involving digital tools, living lab, codesign, etc.) to devise new research plans, products and services and provide personalised follow-up during treatment.

Technocampus Alimentation, showcasing innovation in the food sector

Positioning itself as an experimentation zone for the food of tomorrow has been a priority for Nantes Saint-Nazaire since 2018. The area already has all the assets needed to support tomorrow's food projects, with nearly 800 companies, more than 47,000 employees and a turnover of €13bn, the food sector plays a major role in the economy of the Loire basin. What is more, a new regional food wholesale market (Marché d'Intérêt National - MIN) was inaugurated in the spring of 2019.

The “Technocampus Alimentation” hub was inaugurated in early 2018. Located in the heart of the Géraudière district north Nantes, the brand new building has 2,200m2 of offices, laboratories and technical platforms, all just a stone’s throw away from research facilities of the INRA (National Institute for Agricultural Research), ONIRIS (National Colle of Veterinary Medicine, Food Science and Engineering) and the Loire-Atlantique Chamber of Agriculture.

Startups at the service of tomorrow’s food

By encouraging scientific and technical partnerships, setting up structuring projects and providing information about public support, the goal of the Technocampus Alimentation is to pull out all the stops to stimulate innovation in companies in order to overcome the challenges of food transition. Three companies have already moved in: Weenat, an agtech startup, has just raised 2 million euros to help farmers reduce their environmental impacts thanks to sensors in their fields. Capsulae, specialised in development of high-tech microencapsulation solutions for human nutrition or biotechnologies; and FoodInnov, which aim is to help manufacturers in food innovations development.

Nutrition challenges?

Cap Aliment association, another tenant of Technocampus Alimentation, exists to facilitate synergies between food companies and higher education and research bodies. « The phenomenon of rapid population growth compels us to think differently about the food of tomorrow, » explains Oscar Castellani, the operational manager of the association’s RFI Food for Tomorrow programme. “Plant proteins, insects and algae offer scope for innovations that will address the challenges. In Nantes, whenever a company encounters research issues or has an innovation project, Cap Aliment can answer their call and help them find suitable partners. This has resulted in, for example, the “company-based researchers” scheme with Tipiak, Les Côteaux Nantais, Laïta and others, as well as special training courses. "The mission matches the ambition, which is to work together to food innovation.

NutrEvent in Nantes in 2021

In Nantes there is no shortage of events focusing on tomorrow’s food. The Tables de Nantes ran from 25 to 29 September 2019, bringing together producers, restaurant owners, academics and committed citizens for two days of talks on the theme of "Eating better tomorrow ".

For professionals, the NutrEvent convention will be held from 22 to 23 October 2019 in Rennes, confirming its position as a leader in the field of events involving B2B meetings between suppliers of finished products (food companies and food supplement makers) and ingredients, plus academics and R&D consultants, all with the aim of speeding up the formation of partnerships for the creation and development of tomorrow’s innovative food, nutrition and health products. This is where all the players in the Nantes ecosystem will gather before Nantes hosts NutrEvent in 2021.