Newsletter: July 17, 2018

Researched and written weekly by the editorial team of Food Technology magazine, the IFTNEXT Newsletter explores what are, arguably, the next big things in the science of food through original reporting of scientific breakthroughs, leading-edge technology, novel food components, and transdisciplinary R&D.

FDC Winner

Renewal Mill is the IFTNEXT Future Food Disruptor of the Year™
Six forward-thinking entrepreneurs pitched their companies in the inaugural Food Disruption Challenge competition at IFT18 on Tuesday morning, and Renewal Mill, which uses a by-product of soy milk production called okara to create a gluten-free flour ingredient, emerged as the winner of the $25,000 grand prize. C-fu Foods, which uses a patent-pending process to develop textured insect protein suitable for a wide variety of applications, was chosen by audience vote as the winner of the $5,000 People’s Choice Award. Successful fashion entrepreneur and bestselling author Daymond John, a panelist on the popular television show “Shark Tank,” served as emcee of the event.  

Sumit Kadakia, cofounder of Renewal Mill, began his 4-minute pitch by explaining that the company is “redefining mass market nutrition,” by utilizing the nutritious by-products left over from food processing. “This wasted nutrition has both environmental and social consequences,” said Kadakia. But, with the its patent-pending technology, the company can take that food waste and produce a variety of nutritious milled products. Starting out, Renewal Mill is working with soy milk manufacturers to utilize the pulp left behind to make Pure Okara Flour, but the company hopes to work with other food waste forms to create even more nutritious ingredients. For example, Kadakia shared that the company has a partnership with Ripple Foods—makers of pea protein dairy alternative products—to capture the split pea starch.  

For now, though, the company is focused on its okara flour, which offers a high-fiber alternative to refined flour and that, according to Kadakia, “doesn’t change the taste, texture, or appearance of the product it is used in.” To showcase okara as a “premium ingredient base,” Renewal Mill has created a single-serve cookie pack that is gaining traction in convenience and corporate food channels. At the end of the day, however, Renewal Mill wants to be an ingredient company. As Kadakia explained to the judges, in five years 70% of its sales will come from sales of its ingredient(s). The start-up expects to make $130,000 in revenue this year and be profitable (at about $2–$4 million in revenue) in about two years. In between now and then, “we need to create a market for these ingredients ourselves,” said Kadakia, by showcasing the technology and low price point that sets it apart from other alternative flours on the market.  

The Future Food Disruptor of the Year was chosen by a panel of six judges who quickly deliberated and cast their votes after the pitch session. While the audience waited to learn the judges’ decision, John shared some of his thoughts about successful entrepreneurship in an interview with IFTNEXT Think Tank member Peggy Smedley. Today’s entrepreneurs are focusing heavily on incorporating a social responsibility element in their business plans, he noted. “Young entrepreneurs are all trying to add social causes to what they’re doing,” he reflected. “Yesterday’s consumer was [about] ‘what have you done for me lately?’ Today’s consumer is [about] ‘what have you done for anybody lately?’” 

The pitch competition judges included Jennifer Bentz, senior vice president of R&D, innovation and insights for Tyson Foods; Jeff Grogg, founder and managing director of JPG Resources; J. Skyler Fernandes, cofounder and managing director of Venture University; John Ruff, IFT past president and former senior vice president of Kraft Foods; Nicole Schumacher, chief marketing officer, PRE Brands; and Natalie Shmulik, CEO of The Hatchery.  

Participants in the Tuesday morning pitch event were chosen in a process that spanned several months, featured two elimination rounds, and initially drew 65 applicants from around the globe. The six finalists participated in a six-week mentoring program in which each was matched with a mentor and received the benefit of insights shared by several subject matter experts on topics ranging from fund-raising to food processing.  

Other companies that participated in the pitch competition included the following: 

  • Inductive Intelligence, a start-up whose packaging technology makes it possible to safely and conveniently heat foods and drinks in disposable packaging using a wireless phone battery charging device. 
  • Nebullam, a food technology company that developed a new vertical farming system that employs a combination of high pressure aeroponics and artificial intelligence. 
  • Rise Products, which uses a patent-pending process to convert organic by-products into healthful food products, starting by turning spent barley from craft brewers into flour. 
  • Re-Nuble, an agricultural technology company that uses an inexpensive, patent-pending process to transform food waste into chemical-free, organic fertilizer for both soil-based and hydroponic cultivation.  


Zume Robot
Photo courtesy of Zume Pizza

Robotic pizza maker aims to disrupt food delivery
Zume came onto the scene in April 2016 when its first truck hit the roads of San Francisco and delivered its first pizza. But unlike a normal pizza delivery company, this pizza was cooked on the way to the hungry customer who ordered it—all with the help of robots. The automated helpers can handle the dangerous task of removing the pizzas from 800°F, equipped with the ability to recognize when a pizza crust has hit “peak par bake perfection” before taking it out of the oven and moving into a pie rack. It can fill a rack in under five minutes, and analytics are used to recognize which pie corresponds with each rack slot.  

Delivery drivers then load the racks onto Zume’s food delivery vehicles, based on predicted demand for each neighborhood that the company serves. Inside the truck, another robot spreads sauce and adds the toppings on the dough before it puts the pizzas back in the oven to finish baking.  

“Training robots to do things they never had before was a big challenge,” explains Alex Garden, CEO and chairman of Zume Inc. “Our robots had to be dynamic and flexible to work collaboratively with humans, but they also had to be delicate so they wouldn’t tear the dough or lose toppings. But creating a 'co-botic' kitchen where humans and robots work together has led to the ability to produce over 370 pizzas an hour working at max capacity.” 

But Zume has grander visions than just being a robotic pizza delivery company. In fact, the company recently announced a partnership with Welbilt, a designer and manufacturer of hot and cold category commercial foodservice equipment worldwide, to expand into other areas of the food industry.  

“With this partnership, we are able to make Zume’s platform accessible to more people and food companies, enabling us to change the nature of food delivery by bringing our technology to the masses. As Welbilt transitions the majority of their appliance catalog over to be compatible with our platform, it opens the door for any food imaginable to be prepared in our patented food delivery vehicles.” 

The Zume platform ranges from its patented Baked On The Way food delivery vehicles, the technology that powers “co-bot” production facilities, predictive AI systems, and hundreds of other inventions. While Garden could not comment on the specifics of its talks with food companies, he did say that “there’s a lot of excitement from a variety of companies, even food businesses we didn’t originally think of have come to us with interesting ways to use our platform to meet their needs.” 

In the meantime, Zume Pizza continues to expand its service area in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay area. So, while we wait to see what food category Zume will disrupt next, we can enjoy a hot, freshly baked slice of pizza.  


Fruit Pulp
Fruit and veggie pulp and skins

Scientists create protein-polyphenol ingredients for food applications
A team of researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State) have combined polyphenols and proteins into colloidal particles that can be used to increase functionality in food products. 

Even though proteins and polyphenols do not normally occur together in nature, a natural attraction exists between the medium polarity of polyphenols and proteins. Having determined this phenomenon, the researchers were able to combine edible plant and animal proteins with polyphenols from plant foods to create stable colloidal particles that possess the health-promoting properties of polyphenolic phytochemicals and high-quality protein. “This phenomenon can be a problem in some applications (for example, when protein-polyphenol binding causes beer to become cloudy),” says Mary Ann Lila, director of the Plants for Human Health Institute at NC State, “but when strategically implemented to combine health protective protein and polyphenols components, it creates a high-value ingredient for stable functional food applications.” 

Despite the fact that protein-polyphenol colloidal particles can be made with a variety of food proteins (e.g., peanut or soy proteins), their use in functional foods does not pose a risk to consumers who have food allergies. “Food allergies are caused when immunoglobulins (IgE) in the human body react adversely to specific parts of allergenic proteins called protein epitopes. Exposure to these epitopes on the protein triggers a cascade of allergic reactions which range from mild to life threatening,” Lila explains. “We believe that the polyphenol binding to the proteins masks the epitopes and actually changes the conformation of the proteins such that the human IgE doesn’t recognize the protein as an allergen.”  

According to Lila, the protein-polyphenol colloidal particles can be used to increase the phytochemical intake of individuals on high-protein diets while incorporating physiologically relevant doses of protein. “[T]he strategy makes a value-added ingredient out of surplus or waste materials that otherwise would not have market value,” Lila points out. “[For] example, the presscake or pomace left over after juicing fruits can be reused as a rich source of additional high-quality polyphenols. Also, some of the proteins in protein bars that are unpleasant to eat acquire a pleasant [fruity] flavor … and a … softer eating texture.” 

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Published every Tuesday, this newsletter explores what are, arguably, the next big things in the science of food.