Each week, Just Food’s journalists analyse data on patent filings and grants that illustrate innovation trends in our sector. These patent signals show where the leading companies are focusing their research and development investment – and why. We uncover key innovation areas in the sector and the themes that drive them.
This new, thematic patents coverage is powered by our underlying Disruptor data which tracks all major deals, patents, company filings, hiring patterns and social media buzz across our sectors.
Nestlé applied for the highest number of patents in the food sector – and had the most granted – in the first half of 2023, data suggests.
In the six months to the end of June, the world’s largest food maker applied for 279 patents, figures from GlobalData, Just Food’s parent, suggest.
Patent offices approved 112 of the Swiss giant’s applications during the period, according to GlobalData’s figures.
GlobalData’s Patent Analytics database contains global figures on the patents filed by businesses – and those granted – across multiple sectors. Each patent is classified by theme, including those linked to areas such as the environment, sugar reduction and robotics.
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Digging into the nature of Nestlé’s patents shows health and wellness to the fore. Some 166 of the applications centred on the topic and 72 of those granted were also related to the theme.
A signal of the KitKat maker’s R&D in health emerged last week when the company unveiled a new technology to reduce sugar in food and drink products across different categories.
Not all of Nestlé’s efforts in this area pay off. In 2020, Nestlé discontinued Milkybar Wowsomes, a low-sugar chocolate that used a “hollow sugar” process that allowed the product to make a 30% less sugar claim. The product was pulled in February 2020 after an “underwhelming” two years in the UK and Ireland markets.
In March this year, Nestlé faced criticism over the health credentials of its product range.
The company said it would benchmark its products against the Health Star Rating (HSR) system employed in Australia and New Zealand rather than an in-house assessment method used in the past.
Based on HSR, 37% of Nestlé’s product sales, excluding pet food, have a score of 3.5 stars or above, the Swiss food firm said. The score rises to 57% when the company’s specialised nutrition products such as infant formula are included.
Nevertheless, ShareAction lodged criticism at Nestlé for the unhealthy part of its portfolio, although the London-based lobby group welcomed the transparency from the food company.