Developing an appetite for 3-D printed food

Discussion
May 22, 2015

A survey from Chubb Group of Insurance Companies found that consumers are open to 3-D printing across a wide range of products. For food, however, a hearty appetite hasn’t developed yet.

The survey found consumers were generally willing to consider using 3-D printed items, including: a prosthetic limb, such as an arm, leg or hand (77 percent); shoes or apparel (64 percent); an automotive part (58 percent); and even a house (51 percent). However, only 23 percent would eat 3-D printed food. Eight percent would not use any 3-D printed item.

3-D printing, also called additive manufacturing, continues to receive hype from the technology and investment community, although mass production appears at least a few years away. Costs, speed and the limits of the technology to work with certain materials, such as metal, are inhibitors, according to recent column from The Wall Street Journal.

According to FoodDive, 3-D printed food "is still in its early years and has a long way to go in terms of FDA approvals and updates to make the technology more affordable at the retail and consumer levels."

[Image: Hershey 3-D]

And yet, developers are actively experimenting with prototypes, especially using sugar and chocolate. The three primary appeals of 3-D printed food appear to be:

Purely aesthetic: Last week at the National Confectioners Association’s annual Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, Hershey showcased its latest 3-D printed chocolate iterations. And at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, 3-D Systems displayed examples of an edible wedding cake topper that matches the bride’s veil as well as a cocktail garnish that melts into a drink.

Purely nutrition: A Washington Post article earlier this year detailed how a wearable device could inform a 3-D food printer exactly what nourishment a body needs and come up with a customized meal. In Germany, 3-D printing enables vegetables to be pureed for senior citizens at a retirement home.

Both aesthetic and nutrition: Many potential food sources packing nutritional benefits but held back by the "ick" factor — algae, duckweed, mealworms and grass — could be made more appealing. Hod Lipson, director of Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab, told Digital Trends, "There’s an interesting advantage there — being able to make something that looks and tastes good from something that doesn’t."

Do you think consumers can be convinced to overcome their apprehension over 3-D printed food? What opportunities, if any, do you see around 3-D printed food for retail?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"An old adage seems to directly apply here — You are what you eat! In the age of "wholesome," "genuine" and "authentic," 3-D food seems to be the antithesis of non-processed healthy foods."
"Oh, come on now."
"Be great for space travel...print out an orange that tastes like an orange and a potato that tastes like a potato. Mmmmm. I can hardly wait."

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11 Comments on "Developing an appetite for 3-D printed food"


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Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

An old adage seems to directly apply here — You are what you eat!

In the age of “wholesome,” “genuine” and “authentic,” 3-D food seems to be the antithesis of non-processed healthy foods.

Max Goldberg
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

When I think of 3-D printed food I see an edible item filled with chemicals and stabilizers, not nutrients, and not something I want to put into my body. One could argue that many of today’s processed foods are already filled with these ingredients, but I’d rather take my chances with something directly from a manufacturer than a printer that was last cleaned a few weeks ago, if ever.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

Oh, come on now.

Lee Kent
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

When you think about the 3-D printer as just another kitchen tool that helps speed up the production of food then maybe it will be considered. It’s not there yet, not by a long way.

For my two cents.

Mohamed Amer
Guest
Mohamed Amer
6 years 11 months ago

People have a real visceral reaction to foods and the notion of eating 3-D printed foods is anathema to most. Yet the 3-D printing of food offers possibilities that transcend what we know and what we’ve experienced. There are excellent examples of turning unattractive but nutritious sources of food such as insects into a tasty a mélange. We’re just scratching the surface of the potential here and are only limited by our imaginations.

Our world is undergoing a digital revolution similar to the industrial and information revolutions. While I can’t foresee every kitchen being armed with a 3-D food printer, many people could not have imagined the wild success of the microwave in replacing the stove/oven — or at the very least being complimentary. Yet in some highly developed countries such as Germany, adoption of the microwave lags due to health concerns.

The progress of this technology will not be a straight line, but expect experts to be surprised by its unexpected popularity.

Vahe Katros
Guest
Vahe Katros
6 years 11 months ago

Finally the government can produce meals in the shape of a food pyramid with each section sized according to cloud-based health data. But seriously, regarding 3-D foods I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Pasta.

“Are you finished with your Moebius strip, sir?”

Ed Gilstrap
Guest
Ed Gilstrap
6 years 11 months ago

Star Trek had a food synthesizer — beam me up, Scotty.

I hope not.

alexander keenan
Guest
alexander keenan
6 years 11 months ago

Focus should be on additive such as industrial manufacturing. If you provided base cakes, cores, etc., you can add the visual details, just as base metal parts have details added to them in industrial applications.

You can also go beyond the visual to the flavor profile. Think of the ability to have different 3-D features with different flavor profiles. One can create custom flavors as well as custom colors.

If it was applied correctly with the right user interface and the cost was within range, it would be used a lot.

Gajendra Ratnavel
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

Specialty food items for special events. Cake toppers. These are where this will get started, but this technology has so much potential. Feels like the first step towards food replicators. Unfortunately we are still a quiet a ways off from that.

Lee Peterson
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

Be great for space travel…print out an orange that tastes like an orange and a potato that tastes like a potato. Mmmmm. I can hardly wait.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

This will definitely happen, and very quickly. I predict the 3-D printing market in general will accelerate as soon as the key “Ah-ha!” product is developed. Once that consumer adoption takes place, food is surely soon to follow. There are literally unlimited opportunities for 3-D food.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"An old adage seems to directly apply here — You are what you eat! In the age of "wholesome," "genuine" and "authentic," 3-D food seems to be the antithesis of non-processed healthy foods."
"Oh, come on now."
"Be great for space travel...print out an orange that tastes like an orange and a potato that tastes like a potato. Mmmmm. I can hardly wait."

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