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How we gave a health kick to a new company

New company Natural Sports Nutrition approached Innovation Futures to help develop their range of Performance Meals – convenient ready prepared meals that support active lifestyles, with the emphasis on muscle development and body fat minimisation.

What we did

Firstly, the Centre for Sports and Exercise Science designed the meals, each containing a different source of protein and the correct balance of key nutrients. Then Sheffield Business School translated and developed the concepts into commercially viable products.

Our research discovered that the best format for the meals would see them sealed into air and watertight pouches prior to cooking – using the same retort technology used by the military for soldier's meals. This involves thermal processing and gives the products a shelf life of up to twelve months.

Kitchen trials were carried out to ensure that as well as providing the nutritional benefits, the food tasted good. Alongside this our design consultancy Design Futures produced eye-catching packaging for the meals.

The result

The products underwent sensory panelling by sports enthusiasts, before large scale production trials progressed.

This collaboration allowed Natural Sports Nutrition’s to really kick-start their business by developing a product range to take to the market. Following several months of production trials, four meals were launched in November 2010. In the first three months approximately 8,000 meals were sold, with all of the recipes proving popular.

The company is now concentrating on growing online sales, adding new meals to the existing range and developing further ranges to suit other consumers involved in sports and fitness.

The collaborative approach between the Centre for Sports and Exercise Science and the Centre for Food Innovation meant the necessary skills, resources and knowledge were available at every stage of the project – from recipe design to market research, meal development to packaging design, right through to product trialling and testing.

They say

Prior to working with the University, we worked with other agencies to develop the product. The work carried out was not to our satisfaction, unsuitable, and costly to the business. The opportunity to work with both professional food technologists and qualified sports nutritionists under one roof was perfect.


‘Working with the Centre for Food Innovation has allowed us to develop the best product possible at a pace that suited us. The team were able to extensively test and retest the products to meet our specific nutritional requirements, whilst ensuring taste and quality.


We are very satisfied with the work carried out by the centre, and would recommend them to anyone intending to launch a food business.


Mike Webb, director, Natural Sports Nutrition


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