How technology changes the future of food: 5 trends to watch

Natural food scarcity amid the exponentially growing population of the planet questions the future of agriculture and challenges food manufacturers, engineers and bioscientists to discover new sustainable solutions.

Metalworks, the R&D branch of the media agency Maxus predicts that in the next decades technology will redefine the food and drinks industry as well as our attitude to nutrition. Among the biggest challenges of the humanity, the researchers name growing of biotech/engineered food with modified characteristics and smart food-waste management. Other trends to watch will include creation of new food experiences, new types of interaction with the «Internet of food», as well as innovative concepts of ready-to-consume and 3D-printed foods. None of these challenges and trends are new as such, most of them were analyzed and predicted by the Popsop team back in 2013.

Nevertheless, here are the highlights from the Metalworks food trends report, as follows:

1. Lab-grown foods and smart tools for personalized healthy nutrition are already a reality and they will be further developing. First engineered beef was cultivated from muscle cells of livestock in a London lab in 2013. As an alternative to real meat, two California-based innovative companies Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek produce plant-based substitutes of meat with the same nutritional value. Their produce is available in local supermarkets.

2. As conscious food consumption grows, numerous food-related platforms, apps and tools will appear massively. Some are designed to minimize food waste, such as LeftoverSwap, others inform consumers on GMO content, such as Fooducate. There are also electronic devices like Tellspec that analyzes the chemical composition of food and detects harmful ingredients such as nitrates or potential allergens.

3. Bars and restaurants will use technology to provide customers with data-based fast services or immersive emotional experiences beyond the taste of food and drinks. A handful of restaurants in Asia already uses robotic wait and cooking staff to save on wages. A San Francisco-based chain of smart restaurants Momentum uses a robo-cook that makes 360 deli burgers per hour.

4. The ‘Internet of Things’—app-connected smart devices—will find their places in the kitchen too. Samsung has already presented a WiFi-connected refrigerator; GE has partnered with an outsourcing incubator Quirky to fund the development of a smart jar that informs a user when the milk will go bad. Some start-ups also experiment with the ‘Internet of Food’, creating smart frying pans, such as Pantelligent, or Bluetooth-enabled thermometers to measure the temperature of the cooked food, such as iGrill mini for grilled meat.

 Photo: 3D-printed chocolate globes by the Dutch research company TNO
Photo: 3D-printed chocolate globes by the Dutch research company TNO

5. Food 3D-printers and nanopackaging may revolutionize the way the dishes are cooked and how the ingredients are stored. This year, Hershey’s created a chocolate machine CocoJet that ‘printed’ dark, milk or white chocolate.

The use of nanopackaging will give a longer shelf life to products without any preservatives, which results in less food waste, healthier nutritional options and lower costs for both manufacturers and consumers.

More thoughts on the impact of technology on food can be found in our research, while the full Metalworks’ trend report is available at SlideShare.