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Food Trends to Look Out For in 2018

In any business, it is important to watch consumer and industry trends. This is one way to keep ahead of the competition; another is to create the trends and lead the industry. The struggles to lead are as important, or even more important than the problems of being a competitor trying to play catch up. The following are some bold ideas and food and nutrition trends which started in 2016 or 2017 but will be more evident in 2018:

Mushrooms. The use of mushrooms has gone beyond food, but also as an infusion in beverages. This trend has already started in Asia, where mushroom-infused coffee and tea have been increasing in the region. Some even use red mushrooms as additional ingredients in various drinks. In addition, mushrooms as food continues to gain in popularity. Mushrooms are a rich source of umami flavor, and more mushrooms types have become more popular in recent years. Western countries have used mushrooms for years; however, they have been slow to innovate the use of mushroom other than in food. The popularity of mushroom will grow to include non-food products, like soap and shampoo.

 

Technology. Food safety is getting bigger. Food technologies in various countries have put an emphasis on keeping food fresh. These include diverse technologies to determine the freshness of food, as well as other technologies meant to keep track of food or ingredient history. The new food technology includes sniffers which can detect the level of spoilage of greens and other vegetables.

Blockchain technology is also under development to keep track of food history, including where it came from and how it got to the vendor and the end-user. These methods help keep the food secure, and safe. Other technologies help keep the food fresh by keeping track of date of purchase, and date they were harvested or manufactured. This helps the user to determine which package of fresh vegetables to use first. These new food technologies will soon be on the market without the consumer knowing it.

Focus on the Individual. Coke started a campaign where the bottles have names on them. Soon the bottles will not only have first names, but also last names. This is not a far-fetched idea. With the help of big data and enormous data collection efforts, it is now possible to have a soda pop bottle with your name on it. The technology exists to have total customization, which would also enable the product with your name on it visible where you would normally buy it. Customization does not only mean a name – it can also be a trigger. Some people will buy anything with a Hello Kitty logo, while others will buy only purple items. This kind of information is currently available to marketers online via social media. The information borders on privacy issues, but since it is a trivial matter, the consumer does not notice it.

More Plant-based Products. Plant-based meat has been gaining traction. This trend will continue in the years to come. Soy-based artificial meat will expand marketing channels to groceries everywhere. More people will have access to this innovation. Although currently an expensive product, the economics of scale will pull down the prices with more consumers buying these products.

The underlying concept here is technology and innovation. In fact, for mushrooms, consumers are following a trend which has been growing for more than a decade. It is time that the U.S. consumers caught up with the rest of the world. The rest is about innovation addressing issues and concerns, and have grown enough to be a marketing handle.

Taiwan Firm Uses Blockchain Technology to Track Food

Blockchain is currently the hottest commodity when it comes to the finance industry. It is beginning to revolutionize the world economy by introducing secure transactions to different companies and customers. Now, the technology behind bitcoin is taking another step towards the new future – the food industry

The use of a tracking software on food would help food producers, processors, inspectors, and consumers know if there is any safety concern.

Just recently, OwlTing, a well-known e-commerce platform for safe food products that connects reliable local farmers and fine-quality food vendors in Taiwan, has made history after it successfully leveraged blockchain technology for the food industry. OwlChain is the very first Ethereum-based food provenance system in the world. The system has the capability to deliver transparency, integrity, immutability, and deep domain expertise for different food supply chains that will surely develop a new standard for better food safety.

AMIS, a FinTech firm, developed the blockchain infrastructure that OwlTing uses for the system.

How Does OwlChain Work?

Users of OwlChain only need to scan a sticker on the food, allowing them access to everything about the food. For fruits and vegetables the data would include date of harvest and any pesticides utilized. For meats and poultry the data would include the date of birth, antibiotics (if any), vaccines, and the date of slaughter.

The use of a tracking software on food would help food producers, processors, inspectors, and consumers know if there is any safety concern. For stakeholders, these pieces of information are secondary to keeping the food fresh. In case of food poisoning or contamination, companies can trace the food’s history and any inconsistencies flagged.

A Bitcoin and food products

According to Darren Wang, the founder of OwlTing, “I am doing this new business to provide fresh milk and healthy foods for my kids.” He also mentioned that “We are extremely meticulous when it comes to food. Products with additives, artificial coloring or flavoring cannot be sold on OwlTing. While this business approach may seem unwise and cumbersome, our approach has identified over 1,5o0 farmers and merchants, and that’s just in Taiwan.”

Besides saving lives, blockchain tracking can also help in saving food from spoilage. Food processors, restaurant owners, and logistics personnel know to deliver on strict first in, first out basis. This level of detail has never been available. Although restaurateurs and food manufacturers try to keep the oldest stock processed first, most of the time there is not enough attention to detail to ensure this happens.

Securing the safety of supply chain infrastructure is a very complex and the incorporation of blockchain technology could be the solution to that. This collaboration will create not just an awareness, but a bold impact to industries around the globe.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs: Tech On Top Of The Pyramid

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, published in 1943 as part of “A Theory of Human Motivation,” is a theory in psychology visualized in a pyramid form. Proposed by Abraham Maslow, this theory still appears in psychological discussions and analysis of human behavior to this day. However, experts believe in the bold idea that this tier of basic human needs now includes technology.

Through technology, a human being can combine two distinct sciences – human biology and computer science – into one. This involves the integration of hardware and software into the human flesh and mind, a rare opportunity that may allow humans overcome their known physical limitations.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory on motivation covers five tiers of human needs, stating that human beings act in order to satisfy some needs and that some of the needs are considered more important than others. Under this theory, the most basic human need is for physical survival, the first motivator of human behavior. Once the first level has been fulfilled, a person being moves towards the second level, and so on.

Maslow’s five levels is broadly divided into two: deficiency needs and growth needs. The first four levels from the bottom of the pyramid going up are the deficiency needs, while the top level refers to the growth or being needs.

Many experts in the field of psychology believe that Maslow’s hierarchy is incomplete. The experts claim that even Maslow, later in his life, started working on the final stage of human motivation. This means that there is the realization that self-actualization is not the pinnacle of human needs. It is not the apex of human achievements either, where the person will be comfortably resting upon reaching this stage and doing nothing but enjoy what he had accomplished in life. That leaves the person unmotivated to do anything productive anymore.

And Then There Was Tech

Maslow reportedly wanted to add self-transcendence to be the pinnacle of the pyramid. This means that a person pushes further than the stage of self-actualization through spiritual meditation, self-denial, and recently through technology, that will challenge the definition of consciousness to expand his body of knowledge. The goal of technology is to expand beyond self-knowledge, which will be the ultimate stage of human development.

Through technology, a human being can combine two distinct sciences – human biology and computer science – into one. This involves the integration of hardware and software into the human flesh and mind, a rare opportunity that may allow humans overcome their known physical limitations.

Science is currently doing extensive researches on how to prolong human life using technology. In the past decades, lives benefited from organ transplants, already cutting-edge technology that is nothing but recycling one part from a person to replace the damaged part in another person. Science keeps pushing the boundaries of knowledge farther and farther. Studies are underway to artificially replace damaged organs through bionic hearts, kidneys, and other vital organs of the body.

Human intelligence is moving beyond its limits by the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Robots with artificial intelligence can easily perform tasks that are difficult for humans.

Technology has become so basic and fundamental that people will feel deprived once their access to it has been taken away. Many people today cannot imagine living in a world without Internet and smartphones.

The only question is placing technology in the different tiers of the pyramid. Many people will consider technology as important as food, air, and water. There will be those that will consider technology on the same level as safety needs, and so on. Still, there are people that will consider technology to be at the top of the pyramid, the culmination of human achievement. The jury is still out.

Power-to-Gas for Long Term Energy Storage

Solar, wind, and other renewable energy production systems have proven to be viable systems. Electricity from solar energy has almost reached parity with the cost of electricity from coal power-to-gas plant. The problem which remains is that these renewable energy systems are dependent on the weather or the sun. For solar energy, there is no power generated during the night or very cloudy skies. For wind farms, there is minimum wind speed and maximum wind speed. In a way, this is also the same problem for hydroelectric power plants. When the water level goes critical, electricity production is also limited.

The benefits of power-to-gas plant include: the ability to transfer electricity to other sectors on demand, flexibility for the electricity system and support integration of additional renewable energy, and the use of existing technology and infrastructure.

The solution needs a bold action: install batteries to store the excess energy produced, and then release this when there is no energy production. Solar energy power plants can produce more during the day and distribute electricity at night. For hydroelectric power plants, batteries may not be the solution. Long term energy storage does not yet exist in its pure form. However, there are other ways to store excess energy besides batteries.

A long term energy solution is now being tested in Europe and Colorado. Known as “power-to-gas plant” it uses electricity to collect hydrogen from water and then combined with carbon dioxide. Microbes convert the mixture and produce methane. With a power-to-gas plant, solar and wind energy power plants can store hydrogen or methane for future energy production.

U.S. Energy Storage Projects

In the U.S., the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in collaboration with Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and Burns & McDonnell is studying power-to-gas plant project using microbes, clean electricity, and hydrogen.

Another project is ongoing at the University of California, Irvine (UC-Irvine) with support from SoCalGas. Their plan makes use of an electrolyzer to produce hydrogen from electricity and water, which feeds into the natural gas infrastructure. The stored hydrogen is capable of speedy ramp-ups, similar to when thick clouds dampen solar energy production.

Compared to batteries, storing hydrogen can be cheaper and have more uses. It allows for long term storage, ready for use at any given time. It can either be transported to another utility company or for any other method besides power generation. Hydrogen is also used for transportation purposes via fuel cells. This bold innovation is a step up from batteries, which could not keep energy for long-term storage; transporting large batteries is also not possible.

Financial Impact of Energy Storage

Storing excess energy has a significant economic impact on producers. Energy markets have been set up for trading electricity between utility companies. Excess supply is sold on the spot market; when one electric utility has a shortage, they buy the slack supply from the market. If an electric company has long-term energy storage, they can use it when they have a shortage instead of buying from the spot market.

The benefits of the power-to-gas plant include the ability to transfer electricity to other sectors on demand, flexibility for the electricity system and support the integration of additional renewable energy, and the use of existing technology and infrastructure. Experts believe it is the ultimate source of energy storage capability. More importantly, it is a mature technology and is now ready for use.