George Jetson drove to work in a flying car, his son Elroy had a jetpack, and wife Jane used a food replicator to prepare dinner for her family. The first might still only exist in the world of science fiction, but jetpacks are on the horizon and food replicators may not be far behind. An Israeli company has invented a device called The Genie that can create almost any type of meal in just 30 seconds using dehydrated ingredients.
Being able to prepare dinner with a push of a button isn’t the only innovation in food that you should prepare for. Food scientists are hard at work developing all kinds of new products that will help us produce healthier, more sustainable food. Here are five of the biggest innovations in food that could soon be coming to a kitchen near you.
1. Lab-grown meat
Lab-grown meat (also known as cultured or in vitro meat) may be coming soon to a steakhouse near you, since Dutch scientists have succeeded in using stem cells to grow a burger in a lab. Though the prototype cost $215,000 to make, the team behind the future meat says it’s working on perfecting the process and hopes to have a product on store shelves within five years. After they perfect the lab-grown hamburger, they hope to move on to steaks, which may be created with the help of 3D printers.
Traditional methods of raising beef use a lot of natural resources, and lab-grown protein could help meet demand for the meat while reducing the environmental impact of producing it. One study found that lab-grown meat would produce 96% lower greenhouse gas emissions that conventionally raised meat.
2. Coffee flour
People who want a little more zip in their breakfast may soon be able to reach for a muffin or donut infused with caffeine. Dan Perlman, a biophysicist at Brandeis University, has developed a process for turning coffee beans into flour.
Aside from a pick-me-up, coffee flour pastries could have other advantages. Studies have shown that drinking coffee can have health benefits, but not everyone enjoys the bitter taste of a cup of joe. Plus, traditional roasting of beans causes the amounts of the antioxidant that’s thought to provide most of the benefit drop dramatically. Perlman’s method of roasting the beans before milling preserves the higher concentrations of antioxidants. Ultimately, Perlman says he hopes to see the coffee flour combined with traditional flours to create healthier baked goods, cereals, and snack bars.
3. Algae protein
Would you eat pond scum? You may in the near future. Scientists at California company Solazyme initially wanted to turn algae into fuel, but ultimately discovered they could also turn the green stuff into fats and protein. The new products — marketed under the name AlgaVia — can be used to replace butter, eggs, and fat in a variety of products. They’re lower in fat and cholesterol and are vegan, yet still taste good, according to Solazyme.
Currently, you can’t run down to the grocery store and pick up a bag of powdered algae, though the goal is ultimately to turn them into an ingredient people use in their kitchen just like flour or eggs, a company representative told CNN. Right now, AlgaVia’s innovative ingredients are popping up in baking mixes, coffee creamers, and chocolate, mostly in the vegan and health food markets.
4. Allergy-free peanuts
About 6 million kids in the U.S. suffer from food allergies, with peanuts being the most common allergen. Accidental exposure to the nuts can be deadly for these people, and the allergy is often lifelong. That’s why people got pretty excited in 2014 when researchers from the North Carolina A&T’s School of Agriculture announced they had invented non-allergenic peanuts.
The researchers were able to render peanuts less dangerous by using enzymes to break down the allergy-triggering proteins in the legume. Though the allergy-free peanuts haven’t hit the market yet, once they do millions of worried parents and allergy sufferers will be able to breathe a little easier.
To call insects a future food isn’t quite accurate. People have been eating bugs for centuries, but creepy-crawly critters usually don’t often make their way to the table in Western cuisine. Yet a turn to entomophagy could be coming. Bugs like crickets and grasshoppers are high in protein and other nutrients, and farming them causes a lot less environmental damage than raising herds of cattle. Cricket flour is showing up in protein bars and the U.K.’s first all-bug restaurant, Grub Kitchen, opened last fall.
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