As always, the natural products industry is light years ahead of the conventional food galaxy when it comes to sustainability and authenticity. Even so, I think the following new technologies will blow the organic-wool socks off of even the most well-informed natural-food fanatic. Want a hint of what’s coming? Consider the following innovations that could define 2011.
- Craft foods. Don’t confuse this innovation with the other Kraft Foods. In July, Anya Fernald, director of Live Culture, a food and agriculture think tank based in Oakland, Calif., coined the term “food craft” to mean “the transformation of raw ingredients with techniques that change and build flavor, make foods last longer, and increase the impact of land and place on flavor.” The ultimate goal of this movement is to revitalize and reenergize American food. Look for more food products made directly on farms, and for artisan food makers to label their products Craft Foods.
- Protein power. Protein will continue as one of the most sought-after ingredients for preventing and controlling diabetes and managing weight. A growing body of research shows the human body functions best with protein supplied throughout the day rather than in just the evening meal, when Americans tend to get most of their daily intake. To meet this growing need, the quest is on for sustainable and plant-based sources of protein. Fonterra, a sustainable and organic dairy based in Auckland, New Zealand, has introduced whey-based protein isolates suitable for clear beverages. Similarly, a newcomer company, It’s Moringa, based in South Orange N.J., is introducing Moringa, a plant protein from the African Morgina oleiferatree with nine times more protein than yogurt, 15 times more potassium than a banana and 17 times more calcium than milk.
- Energy conservation in a can. Imagine enjoying a cool drink miles from a power source. Instant cooling technology developed by Bradenton, Fla.-based Tempra Technology allows consumers to twist the top off the company’s I.C. Can and within minutes enjoy a perfectly chilled beverage. The can is divided into two parts; the top contains a vacuum seal and a water gel that lines the inner surface of the can. The bottom part of the can is a heatable chamber with a natural clay drying agent. When the can is twisted, the vacuum draws the heat from the beverage and is absorbed into the heatable chamber.
- Sleep shots. The pumped-up energy-drink market won’t collapse any time soon, but consumers are increasingly looking for beverages to help them S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. With more than 350 relaxation drinks on the market, shoppers are likely to reach for a buzz-free beverage with melatonin, valerian or rose hips to help them relax, improve concentration or get over jet lag.
- In-store candy bar. Food-loving geniuses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a prototype Digital Chocolatier that creates customizable chocolates in minutes. An interface allows users to select and combine ingredients such as nuts, dried fruit and granola from carousel containers. The carousel extrudes the ingredients into a thermoelectric cup that quickly cools and hardens them.