A Welsh consortium has secured £350,000 in funding for research into using an apple by-product to reduce levels of sugar and saturated fat in items such as cakes.

The funding, from the Welsh Government’s Food and Drink Division and Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative, will be used to develop a method of utilising apple pomace – the solid residue that remains after milling and pressing of apples in juice and cider production.

The resultant ingredient would then be able to provide texture in certain food products.

Products aimed at children are a primary target of the research, as more than 40% of children in Wales are either overweight or obese by age 11.

“Apple pomace is a wonderful natural ingredient and we’ve discovered that it can be used to replace certain high-calorie ingredients such as fat, while enhancing the fibre content in popular school menu food items such as cakes, savoury dishes, gravy and sauces,” said Dr Jonathan Hughes, MD at sustainable food technology specialist Pennotec.

“A key aim of the project is to make food and drink healthier and cheaper without sacrificing the flavour. It also intends to address the global issue of food wastage by making use of apple pomace, which would usually be disposed of, bringing a number of environmental and cost benefits.”

The company, based in Pwllheli, is undertaking the research in collaboration with Bangor University’s BioComposites Centre, Coleg Menai’s Food Technology Centre and Cork company CyberColloids.

Hughes added that the consortium was already in talks with retailers and food manufacturers.

“Like the rest of the UK and Europe, Wales generates thousands of tonnes of surplus fresh food resources like apples, a rich source of natural fibres, that never make it to the supermarket shelves because they are out-graded, surplus to requirements or are processed and only partly utilised,” added Dr Adam Charlton of Bangor University’s BioComposites Centre.

“In this project we are targeting the potential to use apple pomace to provide the texture for food instead of high-calorie ingredients such as fat.”

Apple pomace is gaining traction as an ingredient. A team of students from the University of Nottingham recently won the gold prize at Ecotrophelia UK – a Dragons’ Den-style competition that challenges students to create an eco-friendly food and drink product – for Pom Puffs, a snack made from extruded apple pomace and maize.