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The rise of patents in the health food industry

Monday 30 September 2019

In the booming, ultra-competitive health food industry, now, more than ever, brand owners and manufacturers need to protect recipes and distinctive development processes from discovery by competitors.

Traditionally, these elements would be kept confidential as trade secrets, a strategy that can be risky from a legal perspective. Also, because a recipe or method must not have been disclosed anywhere in the world before a patent application is filed, a patent must be secured before a product is brought to market – a tactic not historically considered by food and beverage manufacturers during the early stages of a product’s life.

As the food and beverage industry’s approach to risk evolves, and manufacturers begin to consider patents earlier in the product development phase, the number of patents being granted particularly in the health food space is increasing. Innovation in this area continues to be driven by rising consumer demand for alternative food products.

California-based company Impossible Foods has recently acquired European patents relating to its vegetarian "bleeding" burger. The patents filed protect the process of using plant-based meat substitutes comprising meat organic compounds. The process of creating meat substitutes and other animal product substitutes is in fact an established area of food tech. Quorn was launched in 1985 and the original Quorn patent expired nearly a decade ago. Since then Quorn has built up a portfolio of patents for derivative products.

There are numerous examples of patents being applied for and granted in the field of dietary supplements and high protein products. PepsiCo has several granted patents in relation to the manufacture of protein beverages. General Mills, which produces brands including Cheerios and Nature Valley has filed patents for gluten-free tortillas, gluten free oats, reduced sucrose sugar coatings for cereals and high protein oat species. Kraft Foods has filed to protect production methods for a high-protein spreadable cream cheese which overcomes traditional textural smoothness problems[5]. Arla Foods has filed in excess of 80 patents relating to a combination of products including high protein yoghurts.

For further information about patents and protecting intellectual property in the food and beverage industry, please click here.

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