Americans are finally eating fewer TV dinners, largely because millennials are more interested in eating fresh food. Still, that sometimes means we might be more likely to get takeout after work than actually cook for ourselves. A futuristic new food system aims to make convenient food that still uses fresh produce from a local farmers market.
In the new system, a set of appliances is connected to an app that answers the perennial question of what to eat for dinner, and then makes it for you. The app considers the basic facts–maybe you ran for 32 minutes earlier in the day, the fridge is well-stocked, and you’re recovering from a cold, so you need a little extra vitamin C. Then it calculates the perfect meal.
“Flavor pills,” tiny water-soluble pods filled with organic spices and nutritional supplements, get added to one of the appliances along with fresh produce and some water. Using sensors and a microprocessor, the appliance cooks the food for exactly the right amount of time and at exactly the right temperature.
“The ingredients and condiments are perfectly dosed, and the recipe is ‘contained’ inside the flavor pills,” explains Marco Susani from Koz Susani Design, the firm that created the new system. “So, the preparation is faster and requires fewer skills than traditional cooking.”
By developing the food and appliances simultaneously, the designers wanted to make it simpler to control nutrition. They also wanted to better connect fitness tracking with what people eat.
“Today, even if you combine fitness and diet apps with fitness trackers, the weak point is properly tracking your food planning, preparation and consumption,” says Susani. “To cover this gap we conceived the touch-screen based, networked appliance that is aware of your fitness profile and suggests the right diet and recipes. Different from today’s solutions–smartphone-based dietary apps–our app is directly integrated with the appliances, so the recipes can be directly executed.”
Unlike most convenience food, the system still requires shopping at a farmers market. “Sourcing the main ingredients fresh and locally has multiple advantages: It supports local farming, ensures the best quality, supports seasonal variety, and supports zero-miles logistics,” Susani says.
The flavor pills, which contain only a tiny amount of food and are packed using techniques from molecular gastronomy, can be shipped to consumers with little carbon footprint. They can also “be perfectly dosed to prepare perfect recipes and balance nutritional values,” Susani explains. “We wanted to explore the space between homemade, high-quality food–which is good but requires skills and effort–and the industrial prepared food that is still perceived as unhealthy and low quality.”
The designers are working to make the concept real. “The challenge is a cultural one,” Susani says. “The food industry is like the digital industry 15 years ago, when hardware manufacturers–PCs and phones at the time, kitchen appliances today–were acting in isolation from the ‘software’ industry–the music and content industry at the time, the food industry today.”
“Today in the food industry nobody is able to see and manage the big picture, supporting the entire nutritional experience,” he adds. “Until of course, a disruptive innovation comes and transforms the industry. That’s what we aim to do.”