What’s New in Food Technology?

What’s New in Food Technology?

3 June 2024

A recent article by Food Navigator’s Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe billed 2024 as ‘The Year of Convenience’ for advancements in food technology. She went on to say that as consumers become accustomed to time-efficient products and tools, they will be more receptive to adopting technologies like augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI). Another report by the Digital Food Lab identified twenty food tech trends to watch out for and grouped them into six categories: resilient farm, sustainable proteins, food as medicine, the smart supply chain, instant retail and food automation.

As a result, investment in food tech start-ups has been unprecedented and large-scale funding has become available to several entrepreneurial companies.  German food start-up, Torg, has raised an impressive €2.7 million for its AI platform to revolutionise the F&D sourcing process. Torg’s ethos is to use AI ‘to build the largest and most enriched database of suppliers in the food and drink industry. Consequently, buyers can set up a product request to hundreds of relevant manufacturers in a matter of minutes. Torg’s CEO and co-founder Hans Furuseth commented, ‘We democratise private label products by opening up the market, creating more transparent supply chains, and putting less-known, quality suppliers on the map. Our goal is to create meaningful business connections for both sides of the market.’

Israeli start up MadeRight attracted two million dollars of seed funding to reduce the environmental impact of plastic using mushrooms. The unique process of fermentation technology cultivates fungi from organic industrial waste to produce a biodegradable, recyclable plastic alternative for packaging. Co-founder Rotem Cahanovitc explained, ‘Fungi serve as nature’s recyclers, thriving on what we consider waste.’ As plastic waste is predicted to have tripled by 2060, MadeRight’s innovation will reshape packaging production for manufacturers within the food, cosmetics and other industries.

Planetary Group AG was the first Swiss-based protein fermentation plant to launch in 2024. The company builds, owns and operates a global network of fermentation facilities to produce bio-based products at scale, enabling the sustainable production of a wide variety of end applications ranging from food to textiles. The Geneva-based food tech company raised $8.1 million in seed funding, spearheaded by leading agrifood investor Astanor Ventures, together with other investors.

An exciting development for healthcare workers is the UK’s first automated food court at the Royal Stoke University Hospital, Stoke-on-Trent. Developed by Sodexo to provide cashless self-service kiosks for staff, patients and visitors, plans are afoot to roll out the 24/7 deli across relevant sites throughout Central England. Food and beverages on offer include smoothies, soups and healthy hot meals. Sodexo’s Strategy Director Simon Lilley and Head of Product innovation, Militsa Pribetich-Gill commented, ‘Through our new automated retail solution, we’ll be able to play our part every day, by serving frontline teams, visitors and patients. Together with Worldline, we are happy to provide an innovative and smooth end-to-end user experience, from nutrition – our core competence – through user-friendly kiosk distribution all the way to payment.’

A disturbing statistic on UK potato crisp brands revealed that more than eight billion packets of crisps sold each year in the UK will end up in landfill, largely due to single use crisp packets. To combat this problem, Tom Lock founder at The British Crisp Co has joined forces with Evopak to launch the world’s first fully recyclable crisp bag that consumers can dispose of in the same way as other recyclable items. The key to the invention is a thin layer of vacuum deposited aluminium which keeps the crisps fresh without impacting the recyclable component of the packets. Now that the packaging has been officially certified by OPRL it is authorised to carry the green recycle logo.

Launched in USA but also in UK, the app dubbed as ‘Fridge Night’ by Hellmann’s is helping consumers save food, time and money. In a study carried out by Hellmann’s and WRAP, findings revealed that one in three people throw away the equivalent of a whole shopping bag of food per week. As well as addressing this worrying statistic, the app assists consumers with shopping budgets and the reduction of food waste. Chef and TV personality Liam Charles hosted the app to showcase new flexible recipes – or ‘flexipes’ to encourage the efficient use of leftovers.

Following the pandemic, Japanese restaurants devised a flash freezing process for takeaway orders, enabling consumers to reheat frozen meal choices at home, including sushi.  This reduced waste in quiet periods and ensured the freshness of the food. Some brands partnered with celebrity chefs to promote exclusive frozen meal options and many renowned chefs launched brands of their own. In Japan, a mouth-watering range of chef prepared courses became available at Aeon’s @Frozen stores.

Going forward Mintel predicts that daily interaction with tech will transform AI, AR and other tools into essential kitchen timesavers, ensuring brands and retailers provide the optimum experience for consumers.  Marketing strategies will evolve from targeted advertising to sophisticated produce placement, with AI, AR and recipe providers suggesting specific brands for personalised meal plans.

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