From automobiles to dentistry and even the art world, technology has been affecting countless industries. Now it has set its sights on the food sector. In a time where Gordon Ramsey’s hilariously cut throat tweets about other people’s food have gone viral, innuendoes about cakes are the new norm and Heston Blumenthal’s creations push the boundaries of conventional fine dining, food is certainly an industry for innovative and creative people.
One technique that is becoming increasingly popular in the food industry is 3D printing; the process of creating three-dimensional objects from digital designs by applying thin layers of a material to build the desired object. With countless different materials and colours to choose from you have the scope to create anything you like. The technology is currently used in the medicine, the military, architecture and many other sectors. One question, however, remains: how is 3D printing applied to food? 3D printing has become a way to encourage children to eat a healthy diet through printing beautiful moulds and appealing shapes.
Vavia Katinaite, founder and CEO of Cambridge based Dovetailed, aims to ‘design future experiences that make sense now’. This vision has materialized into Nu Food which, you guessed it, prints food. It works in two simple steps. First step: you load the appliance with any liquid ingredient you like which you can purchase from their website. Second step: you select a recipe and shape using the Nu Food app. It really is that easy! Now you can sit back and watch as your next meal is built right before your eyes. From sweet, savoury, even alcoholic, it seems as though your dream of hosting a flawless dinner party with minimal preparation really is on the horizon. Gordon Ramsey’s tweets aren’t looking so clever now…
The thing that really excites me about Nu Food is how you can literally tailor nutrition to suit your dietary needs as well as selecting the flavours you want. I loathe brussel sprouts but my gosh, they’re just so good for you. Like many other people, I would much prefer to eat chocolate all day, every day. The idea that we can manipulate food to have all of the nutritional value we need is incredible. Did Nu Food just solve obesity? It’s not actually that much of a far-fetched idea. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Health at a Glance 2017 report ranked the UK as the most obese country in Western Europe. Nu Food can be used to tackle this issue by providing people with flavours to beat their sweet tooth whilst also giving them the vitamins and nutrients they need. Perfect for fussy eaters or cooks who love experimenting with flavour and food, (enter Heston) Nu Food certainly looks as though it is about to shake things up.
The environmental implications are also potentially far-reaching too. The United Nations predicts the global population will rise to 9.8 billion by 2050, an indication that there is a real need to find a way to continue food production in a sustainable and ethical way – just ask a vegan! 3D printing is a viable solution for reducing packaging and food waste as it allows you to create food that you want to eat and in the exact quantities you need. It also has an additional benefit of reducing the pollution that is caused by global food transportation.
If this appliance and others like it sweep across the globe there are many benefits to be had but also some negatives. If we rely on these appliances could our kitchens become redundant? Thanks to apps like Waze and City Mapper I often feel I no longer know the way around my city as I am so reliant on technology to show me the route. Could the same thing happen with cooking? Personally, I do not think so but it is important to consider how much of our daily routine we hand over to technology. However, I feel that 3D printers for food are not at the level where we need to worry too much about them drastically changing our everyday lives.
So, will you buy one? You can pre-order your own Nu Food 3D printer now through their website or even hire one for a party to really dazzle your guests. Of course, there will always be the sceptics who say ‘it will never catch on’ or that ‘we are playing with nature,’ but technology does just that. It creates easy, time-saving and occasionally fun solutions. Once upon a time microwaves were seen as a novelty, something scary, and now there are billions of them sat in our kitchens. Could Nu Food have the same effect?