Below is the latest installment of 5 Good Food Ideas – ideas that are reshaping our food system for the better:
- Swedish Company Pilots Self-Driving, Mini Grocery Store
- Mapping the Microbiome to Personalize Nutrition
- Helping Restaurant Kitchens Reach Zero Food Waste
- Putting a Farm in Every Grocery Store
- Menu Innovations Nudge People to Order Vegetables
1. Swedish Company Pilots Self-Driving, Mini Grocery Store: Moby Mart is an automated, self-driving mini mart the size of a school bus that’s currently piloting in Shanghai, China. While perhaps slightly creepy, the self-driving grocery store is innovative and does offer a vision for a futuristic last-mile food distribution model. The roaming store is accessed by scanning a mobile phone app. Upon entering, the consumer is greeted by an AI hologram who assists with finding and loading purchases, which are charged to the app holders’ credit card when exiting the vehicle. The Moby Mart is also equipped with two drones that can make more targeted deliveries.
2. Mapping the Microbiome to Personalize Nutrition: Israeli startup DayTwo creates personalized nutrition recommendations based on a user’s unique intestinal bacteria. The research behind the technology comes from the Weizman Institute of Science, which found that the same type of food can trigger different sugar responses in the blood of different people. According to the research, the varied responses are unique to the composition of each person’s gut microbiome, or intestinal bacteria. While one person may have a balanced blood sugar response to a certain type of food, for another the same type of food may trigger a heightened blood sugar level. Users are sent test kits to help DayTwo collect data and analyze the user’s gut microbiome. Once enough information is collected to properly understand glycemic responses, DayTwo provides insights and recommendations via its smartphone app. The startup just completed a $12 million financing round, which included Johnson & Johnson and Mayo Clinic.
3. Helping Restaurant Kitchens Reach Zero Food Waste: The Zero Waste Kitchen initiative aims to educate chefs and restaurants about how to prevent food waste before it happens. The program, launched by Blue Cart, is helping and documenting 3 chefs in 3 cities (Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen, in Oakland; Chef Tim Ma of Kiyrisan, in Washington, DC; and, Chef Jehangir Mehta of Graffiti Earth, in New York) as they implement zero food waste practices. Blue Cart calls it a “live case study,” whereby other restaurants can follow along at home to learn the most effective practices and witness the results. In Holland’s case, she spent two months testing and tracking various ways to eliminate food waste. Blue Cart is expanding the program to new chefs and other cities, and will also include a forum where users can share tips and techniques.
4. Putting a Farm in Every Grocery Store: Infarm, a startup based in Berlin, wants to bring vertical farming to a grocery store near you. In fact, the startup is bringing its modular approach to a host of customer-facing locations, including restaurants, schools, and shopping malls. The startup wants to make vertical farming affordable on a micro scale. It has already partnered with Metro Group and EDEKA to bring its solution to supermarkets in Europe. According to the founder, each site operates as an “individual ecosystem” backed by hardware and software platforms which allow the company to remotely monitor each farm and notify the supermarket when a plant is ready for harvest. Other tasks like replenishing plant food or water supply can be automated through Infarm’s system. They’re calling it ‘farming-as-a-service’ and collaborated with IDEO to help launch their B2B business model.
5. Menu Innovations Nudge People to Order Vegetables: A recent Stanford study shows how language and marketing can help people eat healthier. Ironically, as consumers, restaurants, and food manufacturers alike extol the virtues of healthier food options, the research finds that labeling foods healthy – emphasizing the health aspects of the food in marketing – actually dissuades rather than persuades people to choose vegetables and healthy options. People assume that foods labeled as healthy don’t taste as delicious as their more indulgent alternatives. The study recommends that menus use more exciting descriptors to highlight flavor and adventure. “Nutritious green zucchini” becomes “slow-roasted caramelized zucchini bites” as an example. Another study found that non-vegetarians are more likely to eat vegetarian dishes when they are listed among all the other dishes rather than grouped in their own vegetarian section of the menu. This behavior research could be part of a strategy for introducing healthier food in school lunch programs as well.