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Hungry consumer demands are pushing for improved ready-to-eat (RTE) meals, causing scientists and industries across Europe to bring better quality meals of higher nutritional value to the dinner table. To meet this challenge, the EU has launched the DOUBLE FRESH project, which aims to offer meals that are more appealing in terms of freshness and taste, as well as being healthier and safer. In order to make these meals economically attractive, a longer shelf life is targeted, which is especially beneficial for less densely populated countries.


EU governments, scientists and industries realise that social influences, such as budget, family lifestyles, and different time restraints affect consumer decisions on what and how they are going to eat. There is a growing consensus that by improving the freshness and nutritional value of ready-to-eat meals, Europeans will be more inclined to buy such products, thus giving them greater opportunity to pursue a better quality of life.

The DOUBLE FRESH concept involves RTE meals with fresh meat or fish and fresh vegetables, precooked starch components, and sauce inside a microwavable package. The shelf life of the new RTE meals could be extended from 5 days to 9-14 days. As for the 'freshly cooked' concept, these cooked meals have either not been post-pasteurised inside the package or have received a milder treatment.

Under the existing system, food manufacturers must carry out post-pasteurisation to reduce the risk of harmful substances in the food and ensure a long shelf life. However, this kind of manipulation somehow detracts from the food's taste and its aesthetic appeal. The DOUBLE FRESH project targets the development of new packaging systems that would either make the post-pasteurisation unnecessary or generate new milder methods.


Scientists and industry are working together to ensure the project bears fruit. The consortium comprises 5 research institutes, 3 universities, 4 technology providers, 7 food concerns and 1 catering firm. From a scientific standpoint, 7 disciplines will team up to achieve the desired results. They include nutritional scientists, food microbiologists, consumer researchers, mathematicians, sensory scientists, food process engineers and packaging technologists.

The DOUBLE FRESH project also benefits the SME sector, as 6 out of 12 companies are small-to-medium sized enterprises. These businesses are active in the market segment of the food industry, particularly within the area of ready-to-eat meals, although they lack the resources for combining fundamental and applied research in order to create groundbreaking meal concepts.

Both economic viability and technological developments are being taken into consideration. Costeffective and innovative techniques are being analysed and the industry is ensuring that the technologies developed will continue to be implemented once the project has been completed.

DOUBLE FRESH helps improve the competitiveness of European food companies now active in the market sector while covering key societal and policy-related issues, and its success will be the result of cooperation between scientists and industry.

List of Partners

  • A&F-WUR (The Netherlands)
  • ATV-WUR (The Netherlands)
  • INS / UNIVIE (Austria)
  • IVV (Germany)
  • LEI-WUR (The Netherlands)
  • MATFORSK (Norway)
  • SIK (Sweden)
  • University of Ioannina (Greece)
  • Sodexho Nederland (The Netherlands)
  • Plaza Food (The Netherlands)
  • L Medaillon (Belgium)
  • Gilde Norge BA (Norway)
  • Fjordland (Norway)
  • Snellman (Finland)
  • Pindos (Greece)
  • Freshflex (The Netherlands)
  • Mitsubishi Gas (Germany)
  • Roxytron (Denmark)
  • Supachill Europe (UK)
  • Hilcona (Principality of Liechtenstein)
Full title:
Towards a new generation of healthier and tastier ready-to-eat meals with fresh ingredients
Contract n:
Project co-ordinator:
Ulphard Thoden van Velzen, Wageningen UR, Agrotechnology and Food Innovations.
EC Scientific Officer:
Dirk Pottier,
EU contribution:
€ 1.9M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top