Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Design and development of realistic food models with well-characterised micro- and macro-structure and composition (FOOD PROCESSING)

Project acronym: DREAM

Title of project: Design and development of realistic food models with well-characterised micro- and macro-structure and composition

Research area: FOOD PROCESSING

Contract No: 222654

EU contribution: €5 995 786

Start date: May 2009

Duration: 54 months

Status: on-going

DREAM – a trans-disciplinary partnership involving two multinationals and partners from nine countries – is developing realistic, physical and mathematical food models for use as standards. These models are being applied across all major food categories to facilitate the development of common approaches to risk/benefit assessment and nutritional quality in food research and industry. The aim of the project is to integrate experimental and mathematical approaches into ranges of food models that are realistic enough to be used by industry and sufficiently versatile to be used as predictive tools of food behaviour.

DREAM’s models are being used to investigate process-structure-property relationships from the molecular to macroscopic level and help create generic food matrices with functional and nutritional properties based on tailored microstructure.

A wide a range of food products with a diversity of structures is under investigation, including plant-based foods; meat; dairy and bakery products. Fruit and vegetables are examples of filled cellular solids, meat of proteinous cellular networks, cheese and cream of gelled/dispersed/aerated systems, and breads of open, solid foams. For each, the most relevant product types are selected using criteria including structural characteristics and industrial and societal needs, ensuring that benefits/risks, economic importance and sustainability are taken into consideration.

The objective of the mathematical approach is to produce a dynamic description of food processing using an innovative strategy that exploits the most recent advances in cognitive and complex system sciences; these allow the generalised methodologies to be extended to other food products.

The development of standard food models, each representing a major food category, will make it easier for public and private research partners to pool their knowledge, and will enable partners from the food industry, especially SMEs, to benefit from models that are both generic and realistic enough to optimise their existing processes or to come up with new ones. Scientists also need generic, but as realistic as possible models, that can mimic food structure complexity. Such models would make it much easier to assess the impact of a change in composition or of processing conditions on the nutritional and health properties of foods.

DREAM’s innovative approach involves applying cognitive science to the development of model foods and their standard operating procedures (SOPs) for use by food industries; this is the first time this has been done. Industrial partners and five industry-oriented organisations are integrated into the project, specifying industrial needs and providing feedback for overall improvement and standardisation.

Models and protocols developed within DREAM are disseminated by expert partners via channels such as European and national technology platforms, national federations and regulatory bodies. This ensures that DREAM’s results are available to scientists, SMEs and multinationals to improve nutritional quality and benefit-risk management of the food chain. The involvement of the European Technology Platform (ETP) Food for Life will ensure the approach is extended to all foods by 2015.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Monique Axelos,

Organisation: INRA – Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France,