10 Innovative Food Science Startups: From 3D-Printed Candy to Burger-Flipping Robots

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Protein-rich insect food. Mushroom tea. Home-grown animal-less meat. Juice made from misshapen fruits. The food science industry is replete with unimaginable yet promising innovations, and is one of the fastest-growing industries today. Through Kolabtree, we’ve got to see a wide range of food science projects that have needed the expertise of our PhD-qualified food technologists – from making gluten-free bread to formulating the perfect ice-cream.

Food tech startups are changing the way we source ingredients, formulate recipes, and process, package and store food. Which of course, changes the way we consume it. Given that ‘you are what you eat’, one has to admit that this is something to be both excited and concerned about. Who ever thought we’d one day be chomping on crickets or eating chicken-less chicken?

We’ve been keeping an eye on some of the emerging startups in this space, and here are some of the most fascinating food science innovators we’ve come across.

1. ChugaChaga
Chaga is a kind of mushroom that grows on birch trees in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s thought to have miraculous healing properties, and has been brewed into tea by the Chinese and Russians since ancient times. ChugaChaga, a New York based startup, aims to make and sell bottled chaga tea, which reduces the wastage that comes from typical loose-leaf tea or tea bags. Chaga tea is believed to be a cure for certain types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more.

A new type of superfood ‘shroom? With its immune-boosting properties, we’d say it offers a different kind of magic!

chaga

Sample of chaga fruiting body on a dead birch (Image by Olli Niemitalo , Wikipedia)

2. Memphis Meats
Love your chicken but concerned about the impact of the meat industry on the environment? Memphis Meats has got a solution. Using stem cells that can develop into animal tissue, this San Francisco company aims to make sustainable cultured meat. Lab-grown meat removes the need to breed, feed and provide for animals, as well as eliminates the need to slaughter an actual animal itself. So you can relish that piece of kebab, guilt-free.

3. Get Wonky
It turns out that human beings are not the only creatures subject to body image issues. Misshapen fruits and vegetables are often discarded by supermarkets in favour of their better-looking cousins. The Welsh company Get Wonky makes bottled juices from these “unfortunately shaped” fruit and veggies, showing us that the world can be truly inclusive. Coupled with environmentally-friendly packaging and bottles made from recycled glass, the startup aims to support growers that can’t shift wonky produce.

Because it’s never about the looks, y’know. It’s what’s inside that counts.

4. Winnow Solutions
While we’re talking about food wastage, here’s a company that’s helping kitchens reduce their food waste by implementing a simple but powerful strategy: recording what goes into the bin. Winnow Solutions has developed a ‘smart meter’ that measures the value of the food being thrown into the bin and displays it in real-time. The data is analyzed and presented such that the restaurant can understand and implement a comprehensive waste reduction plan as well as save on food cost. Winnow’s technology can help kitchens cut their food waste by 50%!

5. Foodini
What do you do when you want to whip up a fresh meal but dread having to bake, roast, stuff, toss, saute and shape? The answer might seem obvious a few years from now – you just 3D print the dish of your choice. Foodini’s kitchen appliance helps users make food from fresh ingredients, using 3D printing technology that can make breadsticks from dough, or stuff individual ravioli. Based in Barcelona, Foodini is all set to help users save time and energy, while creating healthy foods in all kinds of funky shapes. Sounds like these guys have accomplished impossible feats, right? Well, so had Houdini.

6. Exo
Protein bars made of peanut butter and jelly sound pretty good, until you learn that they’re made of cricket flour. But hey, somebody’s got to solve the world food crisis, and insects are increasingly being considered as one of the key foods that can help feed billions of hungry mouths over the coming years. According to  Exo, crickets produce 1% of the greenhouse gases that cows do, are a complete protein source and also contain twice the amount of iron as spinach does. Don’t think it’s recommended that you pop a jumping critter into your mouth, but served in apple cinnamon or blueberry vanilla flavours, it sounds almost tempting.

7. Flippy by Miso Robotics 
Putting together a burger requires skill, speed and precision – from grilling the patty to perfection to adding just the right amount of sauce. If you’ve ever admired the expertise of a fast food joint worker, you’ve got something even more interesting in store – a burger-flipping robot taking on the job. LA-based Caliburger has hired Flippy, a hamburger-making robot designed by Miso Robotics. Flippy’s been slogging away behind the scenes at Caliburger’s Pasadena outlet. Automating the burger-making process means better productivity, better hygiene, and easier customization. High school kids looking for part-time jobs, you’ve got some serious competition here!

No more hand-grilling: Flippy automates the burger-making process

Miso Robotics has developed a robot that takes on the entire burger-making process with no human intervention. Say goodbye to manual patty-grilling and lettuce-stuffing

8. Madame Shugah
California-based Madame Shugah makes the “happiest cookies around”, which are vegan, gluten-free and soy-free. The unique thing about this shop is that not only do they sell cookies, but also cookie dough, which is a guilty pleasure for many of us!

9. Plenish Cleanse
With the way the world is headed, it seems that we need detoxes and cleanses more than ever. UK-based Plenish Cleanse comes to the rescue with organic, cold-pressed juice cleanses that are devised for various purposes such as weight loss, skin health, etc. Their cleanses come in 6 500 ml juices a day, which replace solid food and fill your body with essential minerals and vitamins. The manufacturing process uses pressure and not heat, and is designed to produce a fine juice that is absorbed into the blood stream within 10 to 15 minutes. It seems pretty replenishing just reading about it, so the real thing must work wonders.

10. Magic Candy
Imagine a world where kids could design their own candy bars and see their imaginations come to life. That’s what Birmingham-based Magic Candy is doing – 3D printing customized candy! You can print anything from dinosaurs and turtles to cartoon characters and giant geckos. And let’s not forget, you can even 3D print your own selfies in candy.

Judging by the list above, the future of food science looks well-stocked with exciting innovations and research. Startups especially need to consult experienced and qualified food scientists who can propel their business in the right direction and validate the results of their research. Kolabtree’s global pool of food science experts are helping restaurants and food manufacturers formulate the right recipes, increase product shelf life, identify organic ingredients and boost their businesses.

Have a food science startup you’d like to recommend? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet to us!

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About Author

Ramya Sriram manages digital content and communications at Kolabtree. She's had about 8 years of experience in publishing, advertising, and digital content creation. She loves all things science and tech, and moonlights as a cartoonist and travel writer.

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