Speaking to attendees at the opening session of the AACCI’s annual meeting in Providence, Rhode Island on Sunday October 5 Jan Delcour said it was critical the association continued to think and plan ahead.
“We need to look forward and take into account the huge changes that occur. We need to think at least five to ten years ahead. How do we remain relevant? How do we continue to be the leading voice in cereal science?” he said.
The AACCI, he said, had established four key priorities to secure a sturdy future –
. Keep its position as scientific leader in cereal and grains: "We must capitalize on relevant areas of cereal"
. Drive more international collaboration: "We must do more with our colleagues across the globe"
. Increase outreach to next generation scientists: "We must effectively recruit these individuals"
. Identify complimentary disciplines to cereal science: "We must gain recognition for AACCI within these markets as a knowledge pool, leader and key resource"
However, speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com after his presentation, Delcour said the future would not be without challenges.
“The perception around cereals with the consumer is probably, with some consumers, not what it should be. Of course we have people that have celiac disease, and that is what it is, but then it seems to extend to individuals who believe they’re better off without grains. And in some cases it’s maybe true but in other cases it may not be,” he said.
However, there was sufficient scientific evidence that showed consumption of dietary fiber was “potent in contributing to overall health”, he said.
While fighting messages that grain-based products were bad was difficult, he said one of AACCI’s tasks was to bring forward the positive message.
Asked how science played a role in this, he said: “Two answers – in a number of areas the science is strong and needs to be communicated better, and at the same time we should advance the science.”
Cereals would be needed from a sustainability standpoint in the world’s future, he said, and it was therefore critical ideas were changed. “We’re going to have, on a world basis, more people living in an urbanized environment and we’ll need products which can easily be transported; which can easily be distributed for this growing population. So, cereals will need to have a key role in this.”
Bridging academia and industry
Close collaboration between the scientific community, industry and regulators would make this drive forward easier, Delcour said.
The AACCI was a prime example of this, he said, operating a triple helix model where grain and cereal scientists worked together with regulatory agencies and governments as well as producers. “Together we’re a powerful combination and that’s the way forward,” he said.
Asked if there could be improvements made on the link between academia and industry, he said: “I think it could be better. One of the issues that I see is that people in academia are judged and evaluated on academic criteria and then people in industry on totally different criteria. Successful cases are those where sometimes the government would help them.”
Governments could facilitate and support collaboration, he said, by connecting conversations and backing ideas with funding.
“I think governments can stimulate innovation by helping make the bridge between academia and producers stronger,” he said.