Black Allium: Open innovation to transform traditional food products

Black Allium: Open innovation to transform traditional food products

Black Allium

Black Allium

Simple everyday products like garlic can lead to interesting innovations. In this post we will talk about Black Allium, a food output result of Open Innovation, which has reached the market thanks to the collaboration between the companies Innofood and J.R. Suárez Monedero S.L., and which is an example of how innovation and technology can transform traditional food.

Black Allium is a type of black garlic made with fresh purple garlic from Las Pedroñeras (Cuenca, Spain), with no chemicals added. It is obtained through an industrial process in which the Spanish variety of garlic undergoes a natural fermentation, based on a controlled maturation process under certain humidity and temperature conditions. This means that it is a technological result, developed entirely by the company Innofood with a high quality raw material, and not a variety of garlic that can be obtained by culturing methods. “It is very simple, it is about putting garlic in a stove and you get something completely different”, says José María Fernández, Director of Innofood.


  • A healthy product

The raw material, the purple garlic from Las Pedroñeras, despite being a native variety of garlic, it is not the most consumed in the Spanish market where the white garlic reigns, a much more neutral product. By contrast, Black Allium is a food with a distinct texture, properties and flavor, easier to consume. It has a different taste, sweet with balsamic hints, named umami (“tasty”) or fifth flavor, a characteristic conferred by soy sauce used during fermentation. “It tastes like licorice, but you cannot catalog it because you don’t know if it’s salty, sweet, bitter…”, says Fernández.

Moreover, part of the innovation in this product is in its healthy properties. The black garlic has an antioxidant capacity ten times greater than that of raw garlic and between five and seven times higher polyphenol content, and it has been proved beneficial to the immune system and against obesity. The developers of Black Allium have also managed to minimize effects such as itching or odor after eating in a product such as garlic, whose consumption is linked to its cardiovascular properties.

Black Allium has many applications in haute cuisine too and, in fact, Spanish bloggers have already developed a recipe book for the consumer to include it in their kitchen.


  • The idea and the process

The origin of black garlic is in Korea. Innofood began to work on the idea of bringing it into the Spanish market three years ago after a trip to England and it took about a year of perfecting the technology that reduces the black garlic production time of three to four weeks by 30% to 40%.

They began working on the technology as part of an internal product development project. With the first marketable results in hand, they went to different companies until J.R. Suárez Monedero showed interest, beginning a relationship of mutual collaboration to bring this food product to the market. Innofood made an exclusive transfer of know-how to develop it and J.R. Suárez Monedero established the facilities to start the production on a large scale. In March 2013, the first batch of Black Allium, a process resulting from Open Innovation, was ready.

José María Fernández confesses to being a strong advocate of Open Innovation since his company develops products for third parties using this approach. “For us the collaboration with an industrial partner was essential to get to the market. Once we had the concept of the Black Allium developed, we opened our innovation through a technological offer to manufacture the product”, he explains.

The advantages of the collaboration for J.R. Suarez Monedero are also evident. A considerable saving in terms of time-to-market. “We gave them a turnkey product that they would have taken months to develop”, says Fernandez.

The Director of Innofood exposes his success story as an incentive for those companies who are still reluctant to resort to open innovation and to open themselves to collaborate with other partners in the food industry. “There are many companies which if they do not do something themselves, do not contract the service either, and that makes them lose a lot of opportunities. It is also an attitude that allows to justify certain jobs within companies and that indicates that there is still a significant lack of culture of innovation, openness, outsourcing and R &D”, he concludes.

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