Foodtech: what will we eat in the future?

Laboratory-grown meat, protein bars and algae drinks … Startups are working hard to make food for the future. Artificial foods that are sometimes good, sometimes bland, when they do not completely remove any pleasure from eating.

Will foodtech and Silicon Valley revolutionize our plates? Laboratory-made artificial meat, protein bars and algae drinks that can substitute for a meal, vegetarian steaks that are bleeding … the food of the future is already there, or almost. What will we eat in a few decades? Do we all eat synthetic products, like the vitaminized protein tablets imagined in the novel (then film) “Soleil Vert”? Welcome to the era of high-tech food. Foods that will not necessarily always give you very hungry.

In the Silicon Valley, the agri-food industry is on the rise. Finished “low-tech” food: California startups are currently creating a “high tech”, “2.0” food, manufactured in the laboratory, equivalent or richer in nutrients than natural foods. The aim is to make meals “healthier”, “more efficient”, and better for the environment.

Our planet is 7 billion people, and we should be 9 billion by 2050. Faced with a projected shortage of resources and a probable rise in food prices (unless we produce twice as much meat by 2040, as the WHO predicts, to the detriment of the environment), synthetic food, manufactured in the lab, seems to be the miracle solution …

Burgers cooked in the laboratory

Will our hamburgers contain laboratory-grown meat one day? In 2013, the first steak of artificial meat was unveiled – “cultured meat” made from stem cells taken from the shoulder of a cattle. Not as good as a “real” steak, but it goes. In San Leandro, Memphis Meats is developing chicken meat in the laboratory and plans to commercialize it by 2021. “Our current agriculture is destroying our health, the environment and animals, and we are now able to produce better meat for health, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, “said Uma Valeti, CEO of Memphis Meats.

Even better: vegetarian chopped meat, which succeeds in imitating the texture and taste of beef. “The Impossible Burger” (made from wheat, coconut oil, potatoes, soy roots) was designed in San Francisco by a former Stanford professor, Patrick Brown, with the support of Bill Gates and Google, just that. Eco-friendly and healthier, this vegan burger is currently served in a handful of Californian restaurants (for 19 dollars). But Impossible Foods is planning to expand internationally in the near future, and to market this alternative to meat in grocery stores. Goal: “transform the world food system” and dethrone the meat industry.

In Silicon Valley, other startups are following the Impossible Food model, such as Beyond Meat in Los Angeles, which sells herbal burgers and chunks of soy-based chicken. For its part, in San Francisco, New Wave Foods designs (in the laboratory), with the support of Google, shrimps … based on algae. Fake shrimps that you may be able to taste one day with mayonnaise substitute Just Mayo. Manufactured not with eggs, but with vegetable proteins, Hampton Creek’s flagship product is already on sale in 30,000 US stores. The startup carton so much that it would have recently refused an offer to buy from Google.

Soylent Meal Replacement Drink, the “beverage of the future”

In the future, we will not eat anything but artificial meat. We will also probably eat “superfoods”, made up of a cocktail of nutrients, good for our health, able to increase our energy tenfold, while avoiding getting fat. This is the idea of ​​the designers of Soylent, a drink made up of “all the nutrients of a balanced diet”.

The Soylent would be the solution to the galloping overpopulation and hunger in the world, for its creator, the former computer scientist Rob Rhinehart – who originally created this drink to replace meals, eat faster, and thus saving time and money … He believes that this “drink of the future” could be a food substitute of choice in the South, but also in the kitchens of “those who have little time and who have not no time to think about what they will eat “.

Concretely, Soylent (the name of which refers to “Green Sun”) contains oatmeal, maltodextrin, rice and soy protein, rapeseed oil, fiber. In this powder (dissolved in water), “there’s everything you need, vitamins, minerals, macronutrients,” says Rob Rhinehart in VICE. And it does not matter if the mixture obtained does not, in fact, really taste …

The Soylent is still a bit pricey ($ 54 per month), the computer specialist also proposes a version “2.0”, which does not require preparation – this ready-to-use, bottled mixture contains “20% of the inputs daily “vitamins and minerals, with a” low glycemic index and vegan ingredients “. These ingredients include soy protein. Oatmeal and rapeseed oil of version 1.0 have given way to alga oil and isomaltulose, a sugar present in honey – “which will reduce the impact ecological food production “, and” moving towards a world where optimal nutrition is the new standard, “promises Rob Rhinehart. However, unlike the original powder, the Soylent 2.0 (price, $ 3 a bottle) is considered by its creator as “a food supplement, more than a meal replacement.”

And the pleasure of eating, in all this?

For nutritionists, a drink like the Soylent, due to the lack of variety of food ingested caused by daily consumption, is a nightmare. Already on the table of many Silicon Valley workers who do not have time to eat at noon, this food substitute also exists in a European version, tested by your servant. Formerly marketed as Joylent, this drink is called, since 2017, “Jimmy Joy”.

Like the Soylent, this powder, mixed with water in a shaker, corresponds to a complete meal, assures the eponymous startup, based in the Netherlands. If drinking this kind of drink saves time in its day, and if it provides a slight boosting effect (no “blow of the bar” at noon), the disadvantages are still numerous. First lassitude, which settles quickly: difficult to motivate to drink only this drink to taste rather bland, when your body demands solid, sweet or salty, and your colleagues eat, in front of you, steak grilled with potatoes. As a result, to be able to consume only Jimmy Joy (35 euros for 5 bags of 15 meals), the best is to eat alone, while trying to forget the pleasure of eating, which is more in society.

Remain the protein bars. Jimmy Joy also offers “Twennybars”, chocolate or vanilla, containing “proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, so your body stays healthy,” from a mixture of ” oats, sugar, coconut oil and milk powder, as well as a “cocktail of 27 essential vitamins and minerals”. According to Jimmy Joy, it is “a real meal, not a snack”, which will allow you to “save time and save money” (a Twennybar costs 2 euros). Difficult to say, but there is a lot to bet that there, too, lassitude can quickly settle, at the end of the fourth swallowed bar – the body being this time no longer lack of solid, but just lacking variety …

In Los Angeles, artist Sean Raspet created “Non / Food”, a start-up that develops the “Non-Bar”, a protein bar of the same type as the Twennybar, but based on microalgae – microscopic plants available in large quantities in the ocean, and making it possible to “feed a planet of 8 billion people, lacking protein”. Sympa, but hope all the same that it does not remain that to eat …

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