Eye on AI - April 29th, 2022
Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!
This week, our focus is the future of food production and engagement, including an in-depth look at the 3D printed food industry and how food and beverage makers are leveraging the metaverse in creative ways to engage and connect with customers.
3D Printed Food: How it Works & Why It May Grow into a $1B+ Market
3D printing is the process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. It’s commonly used to produce metal and plastic specialty items. It’s also used to create food, real food. According to the article “The 3D printing of foods – from concept to reality,” the 3D printed food products market is estimated to grow to around $1 billion in the bakery space within two years. But 3D printed food is not limited to the bakery space. In fact, it’s positioned to disrupt every facet of the food production industry as we know it.
“Recent advancements have meant that more complex and multi-ingredient food products can be fabricated using 3D printing with customized colour, shape, flavour, texture, and nutritional loading,” writes ECOS contributors Dr. Amy Logan, Dr. Peter Watkins, and Prof. Bhesh Bhandari. “... current research to develop suitable food ‘ink’ ingredients has led to the reality of using 3D printing to prepare on-demand foods in kitchens or elsewhere such as in restaurants.”
If you’re having trouble imagining 3D printed food, it may help to picture a traditional printer, one with cartridges, ink, paper, etc. Where traditional printers use ink, 3D food printers use liquid or powdered food products, which they deposit onto a particular surface and apply various forms of heating or cooling, depending on the product, to control the internal structure of the product and regulate textural attributes and material quantity (calorie intake) per piece of the product. This process requires less land use, reduces deforestation, and can be personalized to match an individual’s desired caloric and vitamin intake.
“The concept of personalized nutrition involves the tailoring of dietary advice and diets specifically to meet an individual’s needs, with 3D printing providing one technology that could be used to prepare on-demand foods of customized texture and nutrient loading,” continue Logan, Watkins, and Bhandari. “Projections indicate significant growth and demand for personalized products, with annual revenues as high as $64 billion by 2040.”
Imagine a nursing home where the nutrients and calories each patient needs are printed into a personalized meal each day or a fitness club that measures your nutrient levels and prints out a meal that matches your needs and desired fitness goals. These concepts are all possible with 3D-printed food. UK-based company Nourished already manufactures customized vitamin ‘Nutrition Stacks’ using 3D printing. Numerous other companies are developing plant-based meat replacements through 3D printing. Then there are those that have begun using 3D printing to grow actual dairy and meat-based products at the cellular level, eliminating the need for expansive and unsustainable agricultural growth. One such company, called MeaTech, just released a multi-nozzle 3D bioprinting system they’re hoping will increase cellular-based meat production to industrial-scale production.
According to a recently released report by the UN, we’ll need to double food production by 2050 to meet global demand. 3D food printing will no doubt help us reach that goal in a more sustainable way. The big question I have: how open will the population be to consuming alternative foods? Time will tell.
Food & Beverage Brands Find Incredible Value in the Metaverse
While food production evolves with 3D printing, food interaction is transitioning through the metaverse. According to the article “Restaurants and Customers Step into the Metaverse for a Taste of Opportunity,” brands, chefs, and creatives are using the metaverse as a way to expand their reach and become more accessible to a new generation of consumers.
“The neat thing about the metaverse is that while many people will go there simply to escape and potentially play games or live out fantasy lives, you can also go there to make purchases using digital currency or NFTs,” writes Restaurant Technology News contributor Jori Hamilton. “The metaverse can also be used to experience something that exists in the real world but that a person doesn’t have easy access to — like touring a winery.”
Wineries, breweries, restaurants, and others can create digital versions of their locations within the metaverse to lead customers through virtual tours and experiences, where customers can purchase NFT tokens of their wine to exchange at physical locations. Chefs can offer virtual tasting classes and sell NFTs for private dinners. Growers can walk participants through growing techniques and sustainable food production practices. There’s even an NFT restaurant concept called FlyFish Club that allows users to join through the purchase of a limited number of NFT-based membership tokens.
For those food and beverage marketers still hesitant about investing in the metaverse, look to the examples for points of entry. Start with simple NFT concepts, then continue expanding from there.
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