A scientific approach to cooking has been popularised by chefs like Heston Blumenthal in recent times. However, science has always played its part in our consumption of food. Given that we are now more conscious than ever about the provenance and the nutritional benefits of what we eat, the technology looks set to play an increasingly bigger part. One technology that seems likely to play a significant role in the future is 3d food printing. And in our view, this provides a big opportunity for forward-thinking manufacturers.
The creative role of 3d printing: from Michelin stars to care homes…
NASA has already been using 3d printed food to concoct powdered consumables for astronauts for a number of years now. And in more down to earth uses, the most obvious areas where 3d printers are being used is in manufacturing processes like chocolate production. Commercially, 3d printing’s ability to create fun shapes and bring down the costs of producing more niche, small batch products, is clearly beneficial to such manufacturers. However, 3d printing is making its mark in the food industry in increasingly creative ways.
An oft-quoted example of how 3d printing is being used creatively in the food industry is the well-renowned Spanish chef, Paco Perez. Perez has been using 3d printing to concoct creations that have led to two Michelin stars in his Barcelona restaurant. His signature dish, known as ‘Sea Coral’, is intended to encapsulate the taste of the ocean bed. He uses 3d printing to arrive at the perfect blend of flavours and ingredients and to directly project the dish into an artistic coral pattern on the customer’s plate. This may seem novel now, but restauranteurs seem destined to catch on.
3d printing looks set to revolutionising food consumption beyond the remit of eating out too, as it has the potential to influence our consumption habits more pragmatically – and for social good. An elderly care home in Germany for example is using 3d printing as a way to ensure its residents get their greens. 3d printed food has enabled the care home to deliver nourishing, yet easy-to-swallow recipes to its customers, which can also be produced offsite – avoiding mushing solids into an insipid and unappetising soup. And while we have spoken of the environmental benefits that 3d printing offers in terms of food packaging in another post, the same must be said of using 3d printing as a way to create food, where wastage can also be cut to a minimum.
In the home 3d food printers are now available at relatively affordable prices. Just consider the potential here, where we are living in the age of big data. Our connection with technology means that data is driving our habits, from our exercise to our food consumption. So, being able to layer and mix ingredients in perfect measurements might mean that in the future we can have more control over the nutrients we ingest, while making food consumption more creative. While companies like Foodini might be frontrunners in the market, it is not hard to see how 3d printing really offers a vision of the future.
Beyond the creative: 3d printing for healthy and sustainable living
All of the above examples are scratching the surface of the potential of 3d food printing. Researchers at Columbia University in the US have been working on a 3d printer that cannot only print food, but which can simultaneously cook it too. Imagine the possibilities in terms of time and efficiency that this offers to the food industry. Plus, imagine what can be done by combining 3d food printing with the growing popularity of the ‘internet of things’ – where the connectivity between devices increases efficiency and uses data to create outputs. Thus, it seems highly possible that soon we will be able to link our health data to a 3d printer that will create nutritious food outputs that tie in with our own wellness needs.
In terms of the environmental benefits, it could also prove to be part of the solution to the global food production dilemma. With the consumption of cattle one of the major causes of greenhouse gases, does 3d printing offer a significant opportunity to turn what might at present be unpalatable sources of protein, such as insects, into tasty, nourishing dishes? The prospects are huge when we consider that modern agricultural practices are being blamed for depriving us of crucial vitamins and nutrients.
Nourishing a global population is set to remain one of the planet’s biggest challenges, and in this sense manufacturing processes such as 3d printing could well play a role in the solution. Thus, with the rising demand for customisation and our increasing awareness of individual dietary needs, combined with global food production pressures, the opportunities that 3d printing offer the food manufacturing industry are more than evident.
Financing new technology
Forward-thinking food manufacturers are sure to be exploring the possible role that 3d food production might have on increasing revenue and cutting costs. Of course, for many smaller firms, budgeting for innovative technology can be a challenge. In many instances, traditional bank loans are too risky. They might even be totally inaccessible due to the stringent lending requirements and low appetite for risk from the large financial organisations.
At Somerset, we have extensive experience in purchase, management, sales and disposals of a wide variety of commercial equipment. We are focused specifically on helping businesses and their clients raise suitable and flexible finance. Whether your business is looking for short-term, early replacement or flexible financing, we are all about helping you find a way around finance to fit your growth needs and budget.