The impact of technology in the food production process
From health and nutrition to environmental impact and quality control, there are several hot potato issues currently shaping the food production. In many cases, breakthroughs in food processing technology are helping to tackle these crucial challenges.
So what are the significant trends affecting production, and what role is technology playing in reshaping how we produce food across the world?
The personalization of food
Consumer-grade medical technology, like smartwatches, is set to drive a wave of demand for increasingly personalized foods. People with diabetes might alter their eating habits in response to readings from their glucose monitors; vegans could look for additional B12 and Omega-3s in their ingredients; and seniors might want foods with higher levels of B12, calcium, and vitamin D.
Personalization may seem like the enemy of the large-scale food production industry; however, that doesn't have to be the case. We could see manufacturers either teaming up with third-party data providers or even introducing their own nutritional apps. Production facilities could soon be supplying 'foundational' ingredients, such as milk, or fruit juice, or even baked goods, to which retailers or even consumers themselves add the right quantities of vitamins and minerals, based on insights from their connected fridge.
Fighting fraudulent foods
The food industry is now the fourth most valuable counterfeit market, with fraudulent foods, such as coffee, olive oil, vinegar, cheese, fish, and honey, accounting for as much as 10% of global grocery trade. Fighting this is likely to see new technologies finding a place in production facilities.
First, smart weighing, testing, and label verification will assure manufacturers that the ingredient they're processing is what it claims to be. Expect fully-integrated software that tracks, monitors, and reports on the supply chain to hit production sites soon. This technology will enable faster and more accurate issues management or speedier recalls in the worst cases.
Additionally, food producers will invest more and more in innovative labeling – from holograms and embossing to UV, radio frequency identification, or even tactile labels – to reassure consumers that the goods they're buying are authentic.
A Sustainable Future for Food
Finally, new non-thermal processes allow companies to kill pathogens and extend shelf life while reducing the need for artificial preservatives and retaining freshness, texture, and nutrition. Just as importantly, as these processes are more energy-efficient, they'll enable a move towards state-of-the-art, low-energy, zero-waste manufacturing plants.
These plants won't only have a much lower environmental footprint but, thanks to lower energy and heat needs, the reduced requirement for oils, and the automation of processes such as butchering and washing, they'll also provide safer and more pleasurable working environments for employees.