As president of the CEN group, this is clearly not the first entrepreneurial rodeo for Pr. François André Allaert. In 1995 he founded CEN Biotech followed by CEN Nutriment in 2006 and CEN Nutrition Animale in 2014, CROs in their respective areas of biotechnologies, functional foods and animal nutrition. The latest addition to his group was created at the beginning of 2017 – CEN Connect, a company specialised in health-oriented digital applications.
A market with a high potential, with lessons for the food sector. Read the interview.

What is the CEN group?  

Pr FA AllaertThe CEN group is an aggregation of four companies dedicated to the evaluation of medications and medical devices (CEN Biotech), health foods and dietary supplements (CEN Nutriment), and animal nutrition (CEN Nutrition Animale). CEN Experimental, a clinical research centre for dietary clinical studies was created in 2012 and has French health ministry accreditation.
These companies are based in a 3000m² site in Dijon. Today, we have around 30 employees carrying out research in various areas of health and wellness.  

Why did you found CEN Connect?

Pr FA AllaertCEN Connect was founded following a partnership with BtoWeb, a Dijon-based digital services company. It is dedicated to managing and developing existing products as we are already running five health and food mobile apps.
The idea behind CEN Connect is above all to retool current evaluation techniques of the food and pharmaceutical sectors, and to offer secure smartphone-based monitoring of chronic pathologies. We are also innovating new training tools for current and future health professionals.
In addition, in terms of business potential, the market related to the health-related smart devices is already over 10 billion euros and its growth is in double digits. In the next 3 to 5 years, it is estimated that 7 billion people throughout the world will be using a smartphone with at least two health apps.

How can we transfer the lessons of health apps to the FoodTech sector?

Pr FA AllaertIn 2015, in partnership with BtoWeb, we developed the app NursTrial®, a new tool for gathering data via smartphone, for use by the pharma sector in the case of clinical trials on healthy subjects.
The advantages were numerous: real-time data collection, fully secure transmission, intuitive entry, paper-free, use of notifications and alerts… It was a huge advance on a paper-based approach! Today, more than a third of our studies use this app.
Smartphones represent an ideal tool for close monitoring: photos, direct evaluations, increased ease of use. To show we our belief in the relevance of these tools for the food sector, in 2016, we took a step further towards “total digital” by developing FoodTrial®, the equivalent of NursTrial® for data collection from questionnaires related to dietary clinical trials.
CEN Connect is a great example of what’s happening around FoodTech in Dijon and its region. With the creation of this network and the launch of the accelerattion program AcceleRise, the FoodTech sector is developing fast and we are delighted to be part of this ecosystem.

FoodTech, understanding consumers, data collection… What are the opportunities for food business of apprehending the potential of digital?

Pr FA Allaert: The contribution of smart devices and the IoT is hugely strategic for the food sector. Thanks to real-time Big Data collection, we are moving from the traditional strategies of representative sampling to carrying out consumer tests on a whole new level. 
We are now able to enlarge our targets to include all users in a multi-sector analysis. We can shed more light on the complexity of consumer/user profiles, define the decisive criteria for repeat purchasing. At stake with this type of data mining is a much closer understanding from a marketing point of view than the small samples used to answer the basic question “ who is buying my product?”. 
Of course, this requires the tools to process huge quantities of data – alone, smart devices only allow us to collect the data. But this opens a whole new dimension of analysis and understanding.

By Christophe Breuillet

Managing director of Vitagora and AcceleRise, Christophe is the big boss! His various areas of expertise cover innovation and food business development, internationalisation and influence strategies… basically Food “Business” with a capital B! You can contact him at: