James, it’s great to meet with you. Please tell us about your work and your role in the SWEET project.
I work in the Centre for Environment and Sustainability, at the University of Surrey in the UK. My role within the SWEET Project is to understand the sustainability of replacing sugar in food and drink products with sweeteners and sweetness enhancers. To do this we are researching the environmental, economic and social ramifications of making the switch. All three of these are essential when considering sustainability and the final assessment will bring all of them together. We are using a new technique called life cycle sustainability assessment and will also be contributing to the development of this technique. I am working with Prof Richard Murphy and Prof Stephen Morse.
Why is this work a key part of the project?
The sustainability of our food systems is becoming an ever-greater concern as the world’s population grows. Because of this, it is important that we also consider dietary changes that may give rise to shifts in food production and consumption patterns. There has been a strong body of research into the safety of sweeteners and sweetness enhancers, but as yet, there has not been the same level of research with regard to sustainability. Working on both health and sustainability aspects gives the SWEET Project a holistic perspective of the whole.
Please tell us about the survey your team has developed and the promotional video.
The most important part of our work is engaging with stakeholders from across the entire supply chain, or life cycle, of the sweeteners and sweetness enhancers. We cannot do our research without a grounded perspective from those who are closest and most familiar with these food ingredients. The survey is chiefly intended to allow stakeholders to begin engaging with us. Anyone who considers themselves a stakeholder in the production, use and consumption of sweeteners is welcome to participate, be they from industry, academia, charity or NGO etc. The survey helps us to get an insight into the stakeholders’ expertise and willingness to engage with us further. The accompanying video gives an overview of the SWEET Project, the sweeteners that we are researching and what the life cycle sustainability assessment technique involves.
This introductory video provides an overview of the SWEET project, the sweeteners that we are working with, the research technique that are using, and who we would love to engage with further. The brief survey is designed to help us understand the areas of interest of stakeholders who may wish to engage with us and to allow us to better engage with them.
Dr James Suckling is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Environment and Sustainability, within the University of Surrey, UK. He trained as a physicist, before working for 6 years in R&D at Sharp. He has worked in sustainability for 6 years and researched diverse topics including circular economy models for mobile phones, up-scaling of niche innovations in the water-energy-food nexus, rearing insects for food and feed, and upscaling of smart local energy systems. All his research in CES has had a multi-disciplinary focus, including technical and social aspects throughout. He has expertise in life cycle assessment. His latest role is on the EU Horizon 2020 funded SWEET Project, researching the sustainability of replacing sugar with sweeteners and sweetness enhancers in food and drink.