From 2006 to 2009 the company, in cooperation with Nofima Mat, has taken part in the EU-project LowJuice under the EU's sixth framework program. Their goal was to develop a natural apple juice with half the amount of calories as existing apple juices.
The new and healthier juice not only contains less sugar, but also more fiber. In the project, juice was made from both Norwegian, Danish and Greek apples.
"While developing this new juice we've actually invented an entirely new production process which will enable us to reduce sugar content and increase fiber content in natural apple juice. A prototype is now available," says Merete Lunde, director of R & D and Quality at Lerum.
LowJuice has become an entirely new product, produced in an entirely new way. For this reason, Lerum has applied to have the product registered as a Novel Food-product. This will open up new market segments, and now work begins on making the product commercially available.
"Ten companies participated in LowJuice, four research institutions and three industrial organizations from seven, four and three different European countries respectively. Naturally, this has given us a significantly larger international network. We will continue working with some of the partners even now, having reached the commercialization phase," Lunde explains.
Taking part in the international R &D project has given Lerum useful experience, and they make no secret of the fact that there are certain factors which are important for them to be aware of.
"To get the most out of participating in the project, we felt that having a Norwegian research partner was a clear advantage, and we will continue to cooperate with Nofima Mat in the commercialization phase. In this phase we will make use of their competency in quality analysis, process development, consumer surveys, commercialization strategy packaging design," says Lunde.
She adds that a thorough understanding of the project, the right competency within the organization, willingness to use resources and actively participate, knowledge of the partners with whom you are cooperating and a good collaboration agreement are important in order to assure a good result.
Benefits from research
Nofima Mat has, in cooperation with the German university college Fachhochschule Weinstephan, contributed the majority of the research competency related to the process for reducing sugar content and increasing fiber content.
"This has been the type of project where there is a lot of room for research, and at the onset we couldn't say if we would be able to produce anything useful for the industry. Constructive meetings and an open process of innovation has resulted in excellent and very useful results. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Lerum has been given a grant from The Research Council of Norway to develop the process further," says project leader Sveinung Grimsby at Nofima Mat.
"Our motivation for participating in the LowJuice project was a wish to develop something entirely new. With access to international R & D resources, we were easily able to do just that. The result - the fact that we were able to develop an entirely new production process - is something we are very pleased with. We have also acquired important practical knowledge and improved our ability to make use of research. Last, but not least, we have become more proud of our own competency," Merete Lunde concludes.