Nutraceuticals, or products stemming from food sources aimed to provide extra health benefits, are becoming more and more popular following COVID-19. Coined by Stephen DeFelice, MD in 1989 when he combined the words nutrition and pharmaceutical, nutraceuticals are popular among those who are looking to up their essential nutrient intake and lead healthier lifestyles.
Nutraceuticals go beyond supplements in that they are used as a main meal source. In addition to contributing to a healthy lifestyle, nutraceuticals have the capability to help fight and prevent diseases. Examples of nutraceuticals include probiotics, citrus fruits found in orange juice, fortified dairy products like milk, green tea, soy, Vitamin E, and lycopene.
Many start-ups have already begun to produce and test nutraceuticals, and many are doing so sustainably. For example, Danish start-up Kaffe Bueno uses biotechnology to produce upcycled flour, cosmetics, and other products from used coffee grounds. They are currently working on producing their first nutraceutical. US based start-up Canomiks tests various nutraceuticals with the help of AI, bioinformatics, and genomics to see their effects on human genes.
Food Waste Reduction
Food waste is one of the biggest problems affecting not just the food industry but everyone as a consumer. Whether it be due to expiration dates, bad packaging, overproduction, or buying too much, every year companies and individuals, worldwide, end up throwing away almost one-third of produced food. However, food waste can be easily avoided if action is taken.
A number of start-ups are developing technology that aims to reduce food waste and, eventually, support zero waste. These tech driven systems not only minimize a company’s environmental footprint, but also lower company costs.
Examples of food waste reduction technology include food waste trackers and platforms that connect surplus food to local groups. For example, British start-up Food Drop is helping to link stores with extra supplies to local charities and schools. For the individual consumer, there are now apps like SuperCook that give you recipe ideas based on foods you have already purchased.
3D Food Printing
3D food printing is one of the most exciting sustainable food tech trends beginning to appear on the market. Much like FDM 3D printing, 3D food printing works by feeding viscous material into a syringe-like container. After, the material is deposited on a surface in different shapes to make the final product. While material extrusion is the most common method, food can also be printed using laserjet, inkjet, and bioprinting.
Food printing technology is currently limited to paste-like foods and is not yet advanced enough to cook food, but there are already many applications for 3D food printing including edible wedding cake decorations, 3D printed pizzas (cooked in an oven following printing), and plant-based meat. You can even have a gourmet 3D food printed experience at FoodInk, the world’s first 3D printed restaurant located in London. Even the furniture and dinnerware is 3D printed!
If you would rather try your own 3D food printing at home, there are also a number of companies already producing retail food printers. Take the Foodini for example. Not only is 3D printing presenting foods in an attractive way, but it is also promoting sustainability and allows more nutrients to be added into a meal. For this reason, 3D food printing is becoming a popular solution for seniors who cannot process solid foods.
Advancements in 3D printing, as well as fermentation and molecular biology, have allowed for the increasing availability of alternative proteins—plant-based substitutes for animal and seafood products. The market has already seen cultured meats, mycoprotein-based foods, plants, and edible insects as alternatives to meat products.
As consumers are looking for food with more health benefits and living more sustainable, animal-friendly lives, alternative proteins have grown in popularity. Plant-based milks are now found in almost every grocery store, and plant-based meats are common even in fast food chains. In fact, alternative proteins are set to capture 11% of the global protein market in the next 15 years.
There are no shortage of start-ups in the market creating alternative proteins, and each has their own innovative approach. For example, one Danish start-up is making food literally out of thin air. Solar Foods has created a protein called Solein® that is made with mineral nutrients, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide. All it takes to grow this protein is air and electricity—which means it will never run out and can be grown in any environment. Talk about sustainable!
Even robots have a place in the sustainable food tech shift. Robotics is being used in multiple areas to increase efficiency and consistency in the food industry. From food production to delivery, robots help to cut back on food waste by maintaining consistent food quality and ensuring timely delivery.
Applications of robotics in the food industry include autonomous drones to deliver food, food serving robots used in restaurants and hotels, and robots for food sorting and packaging.
Companies like Canadian startup YPC Technologies have grown during the pandemic by offering kitchen-as-a-service units to clients that can cook food on demand. This technology allows for safe touchless food preparation and aids with labor shortages caused by the pandemic. Sustainable, hygienic, and efficient, robotics is a field that will only continue to expand in the food industry.
The future sure does look foodtastically sustainable!