The combination of the pandemic and new innovations in tech have contributed to huge changes within the food industry in recent years – and these developments are likely to keep coming in 2022 and beyond.
From ghost kitchens and lab-grown meat to vertical farming and super crops, the food industry landscape has changed almost beyond recognition, helping us to eat more ethically while safeguarding the future of the sector. We look in more detail at these advances below and also speculate on what is likely to be the next game-changing development in the food industry.
The Use of Biodegradable Packaging
With environmental concerns moving to the forefront of public consciousness over the last few years, the move to biodegradable packaging has become mainstream, with the majority of restaurants, cafes, and takeout establishments offering recycled and recyclable packaging.
Advances in this field are set to continue: there is currently a focus on innovating packaging from the waste products created by the food industry itself. For example, scientists are currently working on ways to turn the millions of metric tons of shellfish waste into a biodegradable, natural wrap that could be used for storing food.
Advanced Point of Sale Systems
Point of sale (POS) systems refer to the equipment and system used to process customer transactions; however, things have moved miles beyond this, simply including physical elements such as the cash register and handheld payment terminals. Now, advanced point of sales systems specifically designed for restaurants and bars allow customers to make and manage bookings online and for menus to be added and amended with a couple of clicks of the mouse.
Next-generation POS systems also feature inventory management features – with the option to automate many of the processes regarding this – and even customer relationship management tools that enable business owners to tailor specific offers and marketing drives to different customer groups. For an example of one such advanced POS system, take a look at this information on the Toast payment system, which has been designed specifically for businesses in the food sector. It offers a cloud-based solution, so there’s no need to worry about storage and security, either. Toast also features an impressive array of reporting features and a scannable dashboard that makes for easy interrogation of the stats and figures.
Meat Grown in a Lab
Again, environmental concerns have led to innovations in the lab-grown food sector, with more people than ever before becoming aware of the environmental damage that factory and mass meat farming can cause.
The first lab-grown burger was presented to the public in 2013, and it’s estimated that by 2040 more than half of the ‘meat’ we eat will either be lab-grown or made from plant alternatives. Continuing advances in this field have led to lab-grown meat entering the mainstream market and becoming a popular choice for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
The Rise of Ghost Kitchens
While ghost kitchens were growing in number pre-pandemic, it was Covid 19 that created a huge spike in the businesses choosing to operate using this new model.
As a way to cut costs and boost efficiency, ghost kitchens are perfect. They’re a delivery-only proposition and often operate out of an existing restaurant’s kitchen. Sometimes a single ghost kitchen will host the production and delivery of several different food brands, thereby cutting back on waste and optimizing staff time. With companies like Deliveroo potentially taking a commission of around 30% of an order’s value, ghost kitchens have been a useful way for food businesses to cut out the middle-man and protect their profit margins.
The Use of Vertical Farming
Vertical farming is the term used to describe crops that are grown indoors, in urban areas – often in large warehouses, for example. As well as requiring less land and water, it is believed that this method can generate a significantly higher yield than traditional farming is able to – partly because of the close monitoring of the plants and the inherent protection from pests that indoor growing facilitates.
At present, vertical farming is in its infancy, and progress will be dependent on the sector’s ability to find ways to harness renewable energy – although growing crops on rooftop terraces are also being increasingly used as a way to produce food for a city.
The Future -Super Crops
With the world’s population growing and increasingly extreme weather wiping out swathes of crops on a regular business, one of the key innovations of the next few years will be the development of super crops that can withstand heat, drought, and flood, and pack a bigger nutritional punch.
Scientists in Dubai are already modifying crops like quinoa so that they can grow and thrive even in desert conditions, while the aptly named ‘scuba rice’ can survive when submerged in water for up to two weeks.
Selective breeding, biofortification, and genetic engineering are all expected to play a part in the creation of these super crops, which could be game-changing – and life-saving – in areas of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa, where the threat of malnutrition is often ever-present.
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