08 November 2023

Abertay University spearheads low carbon innovation within the Scottish food and drink industry

Iconic Dundee Cake among products to have shelf-life increased through research initiative

Abertay University has supported over 100 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within Scotland’s food and drink sector to reduce their carbon emissions and become more sustainable.

Led by academics at the University, the Transform Net Zero initiative has forged strong connections with food and drink SMEs across Scotland, with the businesses utilising Abertay’s academic expertise and research facilities to help enhance their products, including the famous Dundee cake.

In its final report assessing the project's impact, Transform Net Zero has been credited with making significant contributions to various aspects of the industry, including sustainable food production, supply chain optimization, food waste reduction, and enhancements in energy efficiency.

The project was conceived in 2021 and received funding from Scottish Enterprise’s Low Carbon Challenge Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, with Abertay providing match funding.

Since its inception, Transform Net Zero has successfully completed over 20 innovation projects with SMEs across Scotland. These include increasing the shelf-life of 12 products and the development of 10 new-to-market products through recycling waste materials, not only benefitting the environment but creating economic value for businesses.

Katrina Ross, Project Innovation Officer, said:

Through Transform Net Zero, we have witnessed the transformational power of collaboration between academia and business and the impact that partnership can have on the world. By empowering SMEs to embrace low carbon practices and fostering a culture of sustainability within the food and drink industry, Abertay is driving positive change toward a more sustainable, zero-waste future.

One of the most prominent companies to work with the Transform Net Zero team include local bakery chain Goodfellows & Steven.

The company approached the team seeking to extend the shelf life of their Dundee Cake from six months to nine months while adhering to the traditional recipe.

The team suggested Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) as a solution, which uses specific gases to create a protective atmosphere around food, preventing spoilage and prolonging its safety and appeal.

The team’s extensive experience in MAP allowed them to conduct tests with both vacuum packing and MAP, demonstrating that a 9-month shelf life was achievable, reducing waste and extending the product's viability by an additional three months.

Martin Goodfellow, Director of Goodfellows of Dundee Ltd., said:

Abertay played a crucial role in helping us investigate the effectiveness of two product shelf-life extension techniques for our beloved Dundee Cake. After several weeks of experimentation and thorough analysis with the Transform Net Zero, we have shown that we can offer our product to a part of the wholesale market whose storage and supply chain need a longer shelf life than is achieved by more conventional means.

As well as delivering numerous SME networking events and specialist seminars, gaming workshops and digital journeys were used to stimulate public understanding of net zero. Digital learning materials for SMEs to gain further training on subjects such as sustainability and low carbon innovation were developed, and on the project website to continue the support for SME’s.

Find out more about Abertay’s state-of-the-art Food and Drink Innovation Laboratories.

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