Innovations That Matter

Top 7 Food and Drink Innovations From 2019

Sustainability

With the emergence of new technologies and a lot of non-linear thinking, innovators found new ways to respond to both consumer trends and the planet’s health.

While more consumers are taking an interest in how their food is sourced and are striving to make better choices based on this, paradoxes still exist in areas of food sustainability. 

There is clearly a greater demand for locally-sourced products and transparent supply chains, as well as a growing recognition of food waste. Yet, at the same time, demand for higher-quality, carbon-neutral proteins and personalised foods continue to accelerate despite the increasing urgency of climate change — avocados are not as “green” as you think.

Thankfully, with the emergence of new technologies and a lot of non-linear thinking, innovators are finding new ways to respond to both consumer trends and the planet’s health.

With this in mind, here are seven of our favourite food and drink innovations from 2019. 

1. SWEDISH STARTUP DEVELOPS A SMART REFRIGERATOR TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE

Photo source Karma

Swedish startup Karma, whose app connects consumers with businesses such as restaurants and grocery stores wanting to sell their unused food at a discount, is now developing a smart refrigerator to help further reduce food waste. 

Grocery stores and restaurants taking part in the project can store their surplus food in the fridges, which will be located in places such as underground stations, for users to pick up on the way home. However, food is not the only thing saved. Apps like Karma and Too Good Too Go are also helping both consumers and businesses to save money, which creates win-win scenarios.

2. DEVICE ANALYSES SKIN HEALTH TO CREATE BESPOKE SMOOTHIES

Photo source Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

Panasonic and Layer Design have created a two-in-one device that makes bespoke smoothies based on your skin type and nutritional needs. The SHOT device uses AI technology to make the perfect drink to improve personal health, the designers say.

SHOT was created around the concept of nutrition-based care. It uses AI and a built-in camera to diagnose the health of your skin. The device turns that information into a recipe for a custom-made smoothie, creating the perfect personalised drink to improve health, the designers say.

The device is part of a series of inventions by Panasonic’s design team, in collaboration with UK-based Layer Design. The series, known as “Balance of Being”, was on display at the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin in September.

3. AUSTRALIAN STARTUP CREATES THE FIRST DUMPLING MADE FROM LAB-GROWN KANGAROO MEAT

Photo source vowfood.com

Australian startup Vow is taking clean-meat to the next level by offering a greater variety of lab-grown products such as dumplings and tacos. Vow aims to provide a greater variety of meat without killing animals or compromising limited resources.

Currently, lab-grown meat is mostly limited to beef and more recently also chicken. Vow is taking lab-grown meat a step further by focusing on exotic animals that are largely inaccessible for general consumption. For example, the startup has created the world’s first dumpling made from cultivated kangaroo meat. However, their kangaroo meat is still to be approved for human consumption.

Vow aims to become the “Indiana Jones” of clean-meat, searching the globe for “unique textures, flavours and sensations, without the harm” the company says. 

Why aren’t more people consuming sustainable alternatives? Fake-meat is currently seen as a “compromise” rather than a new and thrilling experience. However, by offering the possibility to consume meat from a wide variety of animals, Vow makes consuming fake-meat exciting – an element that is mostly missing in this industry. 

4. SPOILAGE SENSORS KNOW WHEN FOOD WILL GO BAD

 Photo source Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College, London.

Researchers at London’s Imperial College have developed a low-cost, eco-friendly spoilage sensor. The sensor can alert consumers when meat and fish are about to go off.

The new sensors cost only pence to produce. They are made by printing carbon electrodes directly onto paper, making them biodegradable and non-toxic. They detect gases like ammonia and trimethylamine, which build up in meat and fish when they spoil. The sensors can be connected to an app so that by holding their smartphones up to the packaging, consumers can find out instantly if packaged food is safe to eat.

The researchers hope that the sensors could eventually replace the ‘use-by’ date on packaging, and lead to lower food costs. They are also working on sensors that can detect different chemicals. This could give them applications beyond food processing, such as a sensing chemicals in the air or water, or detecting disease markers in breath. The technique for making the sensors could also be scaled up using methods such as screen printing to allow their widespread use.

5. VEGAN ‘CHICKEN’ NUGGET COMPANY OPERATES LIKE A TECH STARTUP

Photo source NUGGS

The startup NUGGS operates like a software company, offering customers the opportunity to provide feedback to improve their products. Customers, also known as “NUGGS users,” can submit feedback directly on the company’s website, Instagram or even via text message. NUGGS not only uses customer feedback to develop new versions of the product, it also keeps users updated about any changes. 

NUGGS is not the only vegan nuggets on the market. However, it may be the only food startup that allows customers to participate in product design after the product has been launched. Just like an app that is continually updated with bug fixes, the NUGGS formula is constantly improved.

NUGGS is offering a completely new approach towards business-to-user interaction. Ben Pasternak’s strategy is customer-centred, allowing for dynamic market adaptation. NUGGS may just be selling nuggets, yet they are setting a new tone for customer interaction. 

6. PLASTIC WRAP ALTERNATIVE MADE FROM SHELLFISH WASTE

Photo source Unsplash by Elle Hughes

Scottish biotech firm CuanTec is planning to replace plastic food wrappers with a biodegradable material extracted from shellfish waste. The material is made out of a natural biopolymer derived from fermenting shellfish remains.

The fermentation process, which resembles that of alcohol or yogurt, gives rise to a natural biopolymer called Chitin. Chitin is then transformed into a more malleable material known as Chitosan, which is used to make the clear food wrapper.

While the product is still in the research stage, it has the potential to biodegrade within 90 days and could be composted at home. Waitrose supermarkets have already shown interest and may use the new packaging to be used for wrapping fish. 

7. FOOD-TECH COMPANY CREATES PROTEIN POWDER FROM CO2

Photo source Gesina Kunkel on Unsplash

Finnish food-tech company Solar Foods has launched a protein-powder made from air pollution. The texture and taste of “Solein” powder are similar to flour; however, production is completely different from that of traditional agriculture. Arable land is not needed, nor is unsustainable volumes of water. One kilogram of Solein requires only 10 litres of water, compared to the 2,500 litres needed to create a kilogram of soy.

The captured C02 is transformed into a single-cell protein through a natural fermentation process facilitated by electricity and water. The company powers the fermentation process with renewable energy, creating a carbon-negative product. What’s more, unlike most resources, it’s unlikely that carbon dioxide will run out. 

Solein is based on a concept developed by NASA. The powder is 50 per cent protein, 20 to 25 per cent carbohydrates and 5 to 10 per cent fat. Solar Foods is currently working with the European Space Agency to release Solein globally by 2021 and provide two million meals a year by 2023. In future production could take place anywhere, particularly in regions where climate change has made agriculture defunct.