This fact sheet on new technologies around food summarizes some facts deemed significant by our Fellows as part of the Presans Platform activity.
The value chain of food products extends from the farm to the kitchen, to finish on our plate. Many links in this chain are likely to be disrupted by new technologies. As part of this fact sheet, we will focus on three particularly relevant segments of this value chain:
- Products from the science of food (food science)
- New distribution experiences
- The rise of the automated kitchen
1. R&D is making a strong comeback in food
The food sector is currently making a strong return to science to boost its innovation:
- Nutrigenetics, metagenomics, data science, and social sciences will be combined in the future to better integrate the genetic factor, both human and microbial in the diet. Innovative food products will be better adapted to our genome and/or our health.
- New genetic engineering techniques will be used to create more nutritious foods.
- The technology will aim to arouse new taste sensations, for example in order to eliminate the meat or milk while maintaining their taste, but also to develop new directions of taste such as fermented flavors (fermented foods without fermentation).
- Develop the taste experience through neurogastronomy.
- New ways of processing food will appear, for example, to make chocolates or ice cream that would no longer melt in the sun.
- Nanotechnology will be more and more mobility in the service of taste.
- The neural interfaces will aim to transmit olfactory and taste information directly to the brain.
Improved knowledge of the endocrine system will allow eating without guilt.
2. Distribution rethinks
The adoption of new technologies by consumers is driving supermarkets to invest heavily in order to apply the latest gadgets to facilitate online and offline purchases. Consumers also want more transparency about their food and shopping. Technologies such as digital screens displaying more than the price will be used more and more in the future. Demand for organic products is increasing but is not an essential requirement for future consumers of food products. The sustainable origin of food and drink will become more and more of a necessity in the years to come. Consumers want more variations of fresh and chilled products that are not yet cooled and that last a long time (such as pasta and pasta sauces). Although the demand for prepared foods and prepared foods is increasing, consumers want to consume fewer processed foods. This creates opportunities for food producers who produce tasty and fresh “take-away” products.
If we take into account some sociological factors, we can note that the generation of millennials considers the supermarket of 2025 as a “supermarket of experience”, in which the shopping constitutes a true exit. A supermarket is fully robotic and delivers at home. Its physical store functions as a meeting place where employees provide nutrition and health advice. People from older generations believe that supermarkets will in future be small, local supermarkets able to respond quickly to local needs for fresh produce. Groups of young people and seniors converge on two topics:
1) a sustainable, environmentally aware and healthy way of life
2) purchases that are done on an automated virtual interface
Distribution and food services are an important aspect of these online purchases. This is consistent with the future of retail and the new consumption patterns currently being explored by start-ups in the foodservice sector seeking to apply digital transformation to the food value chain. The most visible of these startups compete in the areas of delivery and catering.
3. The kitchen becomes more and more automated
Automated cooking will have a big impact on the future. Chefs prepare exhilarating dishes, but few culinary masterpieces of this type arrive at home because of the special equipment used and the professional skills required. This will undoubtedly change: in the future, we will be able to create our own food formats and enhance the cooking experience by using affordable robotics at home. Portable vacuum machines and spiralisers are now available at affordable prices. Tomorrow, the kitchen could be equipped with a spherifier or a foam gun. When cooking skills are lacking or for convenience, a robotic sous-chef can help out. Kitchens will become even more creative by adopting technologies such as 3D printing. Until recently, 3D printing of foods was based on sugar, but technology is emerging that reliably prints salty and fresh ingredients. In addition, 3D printing can help reduce food waste.