Food science and technology are coming together to produce some trends that might surprise you: a handheld scanning device that can give you nutritional and other information about the food in front of you; robots that flip burgers; eco-friendly food waste alternatives; plant-based proteins; and edible insects.
Motivating these innovative trends are environmental and healthy eating concerns. With the ability to raise funds using Kickstarter and other capital-raising forums, entrepreneurs are able to realize their visions for better eating. Take a look.
- Nutritional information at your fingertips. Just scan your food with a hand-held device and get a complete view of ingredients, calories, and even allergens in mere seconds. This can be a lifesaver for people requiring special diets. While these devices, manufactured by TellSpec, are pricey, like all new technology, prices should come down to about $50 a device in a few years for everyday consumer use.
- Burger-flipping robots. Imagine 360 perfectly-cooked burgers an hour. Robots manufactured by Momentum Machines can blend ingredients into a beat-all burger, cook it in an oven (no grease!), slice and layer lettuce and tomatoes, and pop it all into a bag. Other manufacturers specialize in robotic production of noodles, pancakes, and some ethnic foods.
- Eco-friendly food waste alternatives. The statistics are staggering: the United States alone wastes 40 percent of our food production. One company, LeftoverSwap, offers an app that enables you to take a picture of the food you no longer want to eat and upload it to an online marketplace because “your neighbors are hungry.” There’s been a lot of controversy over this one, because it requires taking leftovers from people you don’t know, with the potential of health hazards.
- Plant-based proteins. With Bill Gates and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel behind this movement, it’s sure to be a winner: replacing eggs in a new mayonnaise product called Just Mayo. Soon to follow are veggie-based cookie dough and a scrambled egg alternative. Other manufacturers are producing meat-free protein alternatives, promoting superior taste to the tempeh, tofu, and saitan products in popular use today.
- Edible insects. In some cultures, this is nothing new. Insects are plentiful and offer protein. One company made protein bars with cricket flour. In the western culture, the desire to eat bugs will most likely come slowly, but manufacturers are optimistic, especially when they combine this protein alternative with traditional, palate-pleasing ingredients like almond butter and dates.