How Technology is Transforming the Food Industry and Our Eating Experience

In our lifetime, innovations in food-related technology often took a backseat to advancements in fields like communication, storage, vehicles, and construction. These areas received the latest breakthroughs and high-tech gadgets, while our kitchen appliances, like smart fridges or microwaves, lagged behind. However, we’ll explore some genuinely novel food technology innovations. These innovations revolve around reducing calories, saving time, understanding food content, and integrating with smartphones.

3D Printing Food

Lynne Kucsma, co-founder of Natural Machines the creator of Foodini, a 3D printer mentioned later, has explained the main advantage of 3D printing food: “You might ask, why would you want to print that? You can get that in the supermarket.” The key idea behind this technology is to reduce the hidden ingredients in food, such as preservatives, salt, and oil, which are often present in packaged foods.

While the thought of 3D-printed food might not immediately make your mouth water, it’s expected to become an essential tool in various culinary fields, including space travel. The Foodini is an excellent example of how this technology can be used in everyday kitchens. Users blend the ingredients, and the printer can create shapes like burgers, pizza, and desserts. Although it doesn’t handle all the cooking yet, there are plans for the device to cook the food as well.

Even large companies like Hershey’s are exploring the potential of 3D printing. They are using the CocoJet 3D printer to create intricate chocolate designs through an iPad.

These printers are also contributing to environmental efforts by producing plant-based meat alternatives, which can significantly reduce carbon emissions and spare animals. Modern Meadow is already working on this concept.

In addition, NASA is testing the use of 3D printers to make meals for astronauts in space, including pizza.

Food Scents & Mobile Plug-ins

Pairing scents with food and food experiences is an intriguing concept.

In the world of food, approximately 80% of what we think is taste is actually related to smell. So, it’s clear that reproducing the smell is a great way to replicate the taste without actually eating the food.

This concept is especially important for dieting. Using scents or sounds while eating low-calorie or bland foods has been proven to enhance taste and overall quality, making up for the lack of flavor.

Oscar Mayer has recognized this potential. Their “wake up and smell the bacon” campaign involves a device that connects to your iPhone’s headphone jack and an app that releases the smell of sizzling bacon when your alarm goes off.

Robotic Staff in Restaurants

Waiting for your meal can be frustrating and can spoil your evening, especially when it’s busy. Eliminating this wait time sounds like a great idea to me, and many people seem to agree.

Robotic waiters are being used as an alternative to human waitstaff in restaurants worldwide. For example, in a restaurant in China’s Harbin province, robots prepare the dishes and deliver them to the tables.

Even something as simple as a tablet can improve the dining experience. Applebee’s, a restaurant chain, has introduced 100,000 Presto tablets powered by Intel in their establishments to reduce the time it takes significantly

Apps and Infrared (IR)

Apps have changed the way we interact with food. Big restaurants, like Domino’s, have apps for ordering takeout, and there are more sophisticated apps for monitoring daily food intake.

Some apps use image recognition to identify food items, providing details like weight and calories. However, these apps have limitations, especially with vegetarian or lower-calorie options.

Companies like Consumer Physics are developing advanced food scanners like SCiO. SCiO uses near-IR spectrometry to analyze food composition. It directs a near-IR beam at the food, bouncing back and revealing an app’s nutritional details. Different food molecules absorb varying parts of the near-IR spectrum, allowing the app to determine food content.

Virtual Reality Combines with Food Science

Virtual reality is expanding into many areas of our lives. Project Nourished is using this technology to revolutionize dining. Their motto is, “Imagine enjoying any food without the guilt.” They offer a unique dining experience that allows you to savor your favorite foods without the calories or health concerns.

Here’s how it works: They use a virtual reality headset, a device that releases scents, and a special tool that transmits the sounds of eating to your ears. They even have a utensil that moves with your hand, a 3D printer for creating low-calorie textures, and a virtual cocktail glass to simulate the feeling of being tipsy. This innovative approach lets you enjoy your favorite dishes like never before.