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4 Food Tech Trends That Could Find Their Way Into Your Kitchen This Year
2017 was another landmark year in the ongoing merger of food and tech.
Companies like 23andMe, EverlyWell, and Habit shook up the diet and nutrition space by offering at-home diagnostic testing and personalized dietary recommendations. "Convenience" became the name of the grocery game as more brick-and-mortar and online retailers launched fast, affordable home delivery services. And we capped off the year with Walmart and IBM’s pledge to take on food traceability by developing a blockchain food safety alliance in China.
While 2017 brought some significant changes to the food tech space, there are still plenty of trends poised to make their own (potentially bigger) splash this year.
4 Food Tech Trends to Watch for in 2018
Personalization and customization will continue to be major themes in food tech. As the industry keeps searching for new and better ways to provide consumers with the food they want, when and where they want it, we’ll see even more instances of food tech in the kitchen, in stores, and on the go.
Here are four trends that will bring personalized food to a new level in 2018:
Artificial intelligence and robotics in food
Expect to see great advances in automation and AI in kitchens around the world this year. Many of your favorite foods — from pizzas to gourmet burgers — will be automated, making prep and personalization easier than ever. We’ll also see more businesses integrate delivery robots into their operations, granting a larger population of consumers access to more food diversity than ever before. And 3D printing will modernize meal prep as devices that print everything from individual ingredients to complete (and customized) food items go mainstream.
Although new gadgets, robots, and machines are cool, the most compelling thing to watch this year might be how these devices change the way consumers interact with food.
Technology has connected us to practically every part of our homes in recent years, and now the kitchen is getting in on the action. This year, we’ll see a wave of cloud-connected kitchen appliances that users can layer with existing tech and manage remotely. Other devices, like Inirv, will make our current appliances “smart” without the cost of a full-scale upgrade.
As the icing on the cake, celebrity chef Tyler Florence — in partnership with Innit — will launch an app that can help anyone become the chef his or her smart kitchen deserves. But this app is more than just a library of customizable recipes and cooking videos; it also takes on some of the meal prep by scheduling grocery deliveries and connecting with smart appliances to regulate cooking times and temps.
Transparency in food
This year, consumers will escalate their demands for transparency in the food industry by pushing brands, stores, and restaurants to explain how their foods are made, grown, processed, and prepared. Whether they're politically or socially motivated, more and more consumers will use the food they eat and where they buy it as a way to shape the world around them.
Expect brands to respond by emphasizing how health-forward and socially conscious they and their offerings can be. Think Brandless and its promise to eliminate the "BrandTax"; provide high-quality, safe foods and household items at a reasonable price; and donate meals through Feeding America.
Expect to see lots of new marketing, labeling, product placement, and consumer education throughout the year. There could even be an uptick in brands going green and foods gaining notoriety for their medicinal properties.
With food allergies and intolerances on the rise, there’s a growing demand for healthy, tasty alternatives to traditional foods. Although many plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and industry-free items already exist on the shelves of health food stores, we can expect to see more of these alternative offerings go mainstream this year.
Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods will lead the way with their plant-based, protein-rich foods, including alt-burgers, chicken strips, and sausages. Many of Beyond Meat's offerings will even start popping up in restaurants and grocery stores across the country in the coming months. And watch for more alternatives to things like traditional milk and flour to hit market shelves as the year progresses.
There are tons of new and exciting programs, products, gadgets, and foods coming our way. But with so many companies striving to make personalized food more convenient, who knows what other twists, turns, and surprises we might encounter in 2018. Stay tuned!