UMass Amherst Food Scientist Receives Nils Foss Award in Denmark

Distinguished Professor globally respected for groundbreaking research
David Julian McClements, right, after the ceremony in Denmark, where he received the Nils Foss Excellence Prize; with Qian Janice Wang of Aarhus (Denmark) University, who  received the Nils Foss Talent Prize.
David Julian McClements, right, after the ceremony in Denmark, where he received the Nils Foss Excellence Prize; with Qian Janice Wang of Aarhus (Denmark) University, who received the Nils Foss Talent Prize.

AMHERST, Mass. – University of Massachusetts Amherst Distinguished Professor David Julian McClements was honored Monday in Hillerød, Denmark, with the 2019 Nils Foss Excellence Prize for his pioneering work in food design and nanotechnology.

The annual award, named after the late founder of FOSS, a multinational food tech company, was established in 2016 to recognize a globally respected scientist for innovative research that leads to “remarkable improvements” in the quality, safety, nutrition and sustainability of food.

The award includes a cash prize of 100,000 euros ($110,000), which McClements says he will use to move his research program into new directions. The funds will help support new equipment and resources, particularly in the area of future foods, such as plant-based foods, 3-D food printing and nano-enabled nutraceuticals.

“I am really honored to receive such a prestigious award,” says McClements, author of the new book, “Future Foods: How Modern Science Is Transforming the Way We Eat”  (Springer Nature, 2019). “It is an extremely exciting time to be a food scientist, and there are many innovative scientific and technological approaches being developed to tackle problems linked to the food supply, such as feeding a growing population, ensuring our food is safe, minimizing the harmful impact of the food production system on the environment, and improving human health and well-being.” 

A committee of academic and industry members selected McClements for the excellence award and Aarhus (Denmark) University assistant professor Qian Janice Wang for the Nils Foss Talent Prize for her research into the psychological aspects of flavor perception and food liking.

“This year’s winners have made significant contributions in food science and have brought some truly new ideas to the table,” says Per Falholt, committee chair. “It is crucial that we understand both the composition of foods and the drivers of the human flavor system in order to design a healthier future – at the nanoscale and through the senses.”

The Nils Foss Excellence Prize is the latest of many awards bestowed on McClements, who is among the world’s most highly cited researchers. Earlier this year, he received the Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) Nicolas Appert Award, a lifetime achievement recognition named after the French inventor known as the “father of canning.”

McClements’ research focuses on designing functional foods at the nanoscale that are fortified with nutraceuticals, vitamins, minerals or probiotics to address malnutrition, combat chronic disease and keep astronauts healthy in space. This requires understanding the physicochemical breakdown of foods within the gastrointestinal tract. 

The award committee emphasized that an important strength of McClements’ work is how it has been applied.

“Professor McClement’s research in functional foods has contributed to improved quality, safety, sustainability and healthiness of the food supply, and has served as a paradigm for many other researchers in the field,” a FOSS statement says. “Further, broad collaborations with the food industry has led to implemented research findings in practice.”