OPINIONWholesalers & Distributors

How Supermarkets Can Solve Personalized Nutrition, Food Waste


I have been touting the opportunity in 3D-printed food since I witnessed and tasted Oreos being prepared this way at SxSW five years ago.

We’ve showcased how other foods, like pizza, can be 3D printed in videos here at WGB, and offered up the idea that 3D printing food in retail stores as well as home applications could be one of the biggest tools in our fight against waste.

Imagine how a 3D bank food of food printers could change the bakery department in your stores. For decades personalized birthday and wedding cakes have driven huge profits to the department but imagine how being able to personalize a lot more than a photo or greeting on the top of the cake could change the dynamic even further.

Bakery display cases are beautiful and as retailers like Hy-Vee are expanding them and putting them in the front of the store, they are setting the stage for a culinary extravaganza for shoppers. Displays also, unless properly managed, can create a lot of product and profits that are wasted at the end of the day when unsold. Why not have just one cake of each variety and design on display and have a customer’s custom-made as they shop.

Today, the average person has 3.3 nutritional avoidances and being able to custom create a cake (in just minutes) that can accommodate these could be huge. Create a cake, in any size, for paleo, gluten-free (of course) FodMap, or the avoidance of certain allergens would increase the customer base as well as profits. And it’s not limited to bakery – think prepared foods and pizzas just to start. Sound interesting?

Now it gets even more exciting.

Jin-Kyu Rhee, associate professor at Ewha Womans University in South Korea, presented his research findings at the 2018 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting, aimed at applying 3D technology to the creation of customized food that would fit individuals' unique nutritional needs.

"We built a platform that uses 3D printing to create food microstructures that allow food texture and body absorption to be customized on a personal level," Rhee said in a press statement. "We think that one day, people could have cartridges that contain powdered versions of various ingredients that would be put together using 3D printing and cooked according to the user's needs or preferences."

In Rhee's research, he and his team re-created the physical properties and nanoscale texture of real food and figured out how to turn carbohydrate and protein powders into food with microstructures that can be adjusted to control texture and absorption by the body.

Take this concept, match it with the DNA results of nutritional tests from Habit or 23&Me that many retailers are already selling in-store, have your retail dietitian explain the results to your customer and set up an eating plan and profile that is entered into your 3D printer food bank; and we might be 20 steps closer to what nutraceuticals were meant to be.

WGB Contributing Editor Phil Lempert, known as the Supermarket Guru, is a leading food marketing and consumer trends analyst for the grocery and retail sectors.


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