Exploding meat and other new food technologies

There is a range of new technologies that are set to take the food and beverage industry by storm. We list what we believe will be the next big five technologies that will change the way food and bev does business.

Shockwave Technology
Being developed by Australia’s own CSIRO, shockwave technology is at proof-of-concept stage. The idea of shockwave technology for meat applications first came around in 1997 when scientists decided to put pre-packaged meat under water and detonate explosives to see if they could tenderise meat.
Shockwave technology is where high pressures are applied for a short time – micro seconds – to meat. In previous studies, 100gms of explosives, placed underwater, were used to tenderise meat. Scientists thought, ‘this is great, but how can we commercialise something with explosives?’
In 2001, dielectric discharge came into being, which helped recreate the shockwave. The technology uses two electrodes to generate a similar effect to the explosives. The scientists put voltage through the electrodes and the resulting arc causes very high pressure under water.
The CSIRO thinks it might cause tissue disintegration, which can accelerate the tenderisation of meat.
When it comes to modelling and pressure, scientists aimed to understand shockwave distribution in the treatment chamber and to identify the area of maximum impact. There was a tenderisation effect that was measured objectively using a Warner Bratzler shear test, where the peak force required to cut through treated meat samples is recorded. The CSIRO is now working towards optimising this effect.

Lab-Grown Meat
VOW in Sydney and Brisbane-based Heuros are two Australian companies who are delving into the lab-grown meat space. Using stem cells from animals, the two Australian firms join a growing number of enterprises around the world that are looking to make meat-based protein without using abattoirs. While progress has been relatively quick, none of the companies have been able to make lab-grown meat a commercial reality due to the costs of producing it. Apparently the growing of the meat is not an issue, but scaling up production is. However, once that issue is solved, the next one will be trying to persuade consumers how ‘natural’ the meat’s taste and texture can be. Watch this space.

Compostable Packaging
Not to be confused with its biodegradable cousin, compostable packaging is being worked on by an array of companies in the food and beverage space. The winner of this year’s Packaging Innovation category at the Food & Beverage Industry Awards was PA Packaging Solutions’ home compostable packaging that breaks down completely after 26 weeks in a home compost bin. The issue with biodegradable claims is that all items can wear that label, after all, every product is biodegradable – it’s just a matter of how long it takes; 1 year or a 1000. Compostable packaging is aiming to target the greenie in all of us. There are a couple of issues, one being the bigger a piece of compostable packaging becomes, the more compromised it is – ie, it has issues holding the weight of the contents.

Personalised Food
Not only is technology processing our food and drink faster, and getting it to market quicker, it will soon be able to customise individual food needs of consumers. In an era where allergies and intolerance to certain ingredients are growing, there will soon be a demand for foods that meet the requirements of individuals within a family as opposed to the whole family group. It will be a challenging prospect but already companies like Sunbasket and Platejoy are tapping into the healthy/organic arena with their offerings.

Data mining
Not strictly food and beverage-only related, but something that will be happening more as the world becomes more and more digitally connected. Whether it is a local café, or a multi-national food outlet like Starbucks or McDonalds, data is currency. AI will be the key driver as food manufacturers and the outlets they sell to try and find out more about the consumers of their products. Is the Venti big in Sydney’s western suburbs, or is it the Trenta? Where are most Big Mac’s consumed? Perth or Adelaide.

And while some may think that it has a feel of Big Brother about it, there is also an upside. It should lead to less food waste and packaging as certain sectors of the community can be targeted and their specific needs met without oversupplying a particular outlet.