Issue 52

Is 3D printing the next big thing in food?

Arla Foods Ingredients explores the opportunities for future food production using novel printing technology – and invites customers to discuss ideas

Remember the scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Willy Wonka prints a piece of chewing gum that tastes like a three-course dinner? The concept of 3D food printing is today no longer a fantasy. In the years ahead, it could set a new direction for producing high-quality, personalised foods efficiently and with minimum waste.

Arla Foods Ingredients has installed a prototype 3D food printer in the application lab to explore the possibilities.

That’s where the comparison with Willy Wonka ends. According to application scientist Hanne Bak Jensen, the focus is on investigating the opportunities to use whey ingredients in 3D printed foods.

Potential for convenient customisation
“Our tests already show that whey ingredients are suitable for this technology. In the long-term, we think it could become a valuable tool for improving the quality, stability or nutritional value of food products that target specific consumer groups.

“One interesting aspect is the possibility to control the macromolecular composition and perhaps the microstructure of food,” she says.

Possible application areas include food service, medical nutrition and sports nutrition. Looking further into the future, 3D food printing could be a convenient way to produce fresh, clean-label food products in developing markets or for astronauts in space.

A novelty where speed is still a challenge
At the moment, no one knows whether 3D food printers will become a must-have household appliance or whether they will solely be adopted by industry. Before the technology comes into widespread use, one of the challenges developers must overcome is speed. Food printing is still a novelty that takes time.

Arla Foods Ingredients has so far experimented with cream cheese, dairy creams, dulce de leche, fresh pasta and decorative toppings, and printed complex recipes that combine several products.

On tour in 2017
“We’re very interested in discussing ideas with customers. Our plan is to take the 3D food printer with us to trade fairs during 2017 and showcase the recipes we’ve been working with,” Jensen says.

IFT Food Expo 2017 is likely to be the first destination for the 3D food printer. The event will take place on 25-28 June 2017 in Las Vegas, USA.

For more information, contact, ingredients@arlafoods.com.