Season 4, Post 2: Food’s fascinating future
Food is a passion of your author, so much so that beyond the Future Trends Blog, he has been penning a restaurant review Blog for close on a decade. When food and future trends coincide, there is particular reason then for excitement. Feeding the planet sustainably is arguably the key priority for the world as we discussed in more detail last year, but other recent developments afoot highlight how food-tech is evolving in interesting directions.
Among the many product announcements at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show, which took place in Las Vegas last week (your author attended in 2017), one which caught our eye was from Beyond Honeycomb. This Korean start-up is developing a kitchen robot that learns to reproduce dishes cooked by top chefs from around the world. It almost sounds too good to be true. The system works by using sensors that acquire the molecular data of a dish while cooking. It then takes 48 hours for the robot to learn – via artificial intelligence – the skills necessary for replicating the dish. The food sensors apparently allow the robot to digitise the texture and taste of the original dish and then replicate it bottom-up. Your author is intrigued but will probably have to wait some time before trying his first Beyond Honeycomb dish. The larger prize that the company sees within its sights is the opportunity to potentially reconfigure commercial kitchens. A digital platform provided by Beyond Honeycomb might allow chefs to replicate their dishes up to three times faster than at present.
Technology will likely be increasingly instrumental in the food service industry, particularly in the light of currently rising costs. One executive who is a passionate believer, Brian Nicol, the Chairman and CEO of Mexican Chipotle Grill, highlighted in a recent interview its potential for yielding improvements. Chipotle is, for example, using vision technology to help it understand how many ingredients to prepare for meals. The system deploys machine learning and an analysis of previous demand patterns to minimise the risk either of running out of certain products or having wasted leftovers. Day-old guacamole doesn’t taste good. An unrelated area where tech can improvement outcomes in the restaurant industry is to use digital systems for scheduling job interviews and helping ensure worker safety. Chipotle is pioneering both.
Back to food proper and one final anecdote of particular note was that, as of 9 January, over half a million people globally had signed up to ‘Veganuary’, a month of committing to giving up meat and dairy. By comparison, the total figure in 2021 was 582,000 (more people typically sign up as the month goes on). It’s an indication of the direction of travel along the path to greater sustainability. All we need now then is robot chefs to prepare perfect quantities of top-quality vegan food with no waste…
13 January 2022
Alex Gunz, Fund Manager
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