Technology and food may seem like an unlikely combination. But the benefits of pairing the two may take you by surprise. Advancements in health, the variety of available products, and sustainability are gaining traction the more that science and food intersect. Similar to how your tastes and food preferences change throughout your lifetime. So do the systems and technology orbiting the food industry. If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of food technology, here are seven top trends you can expect to dominate in 2021.

A growing reliance on SCADA systems for food and beverage manufacturing

As the variety of food products continues to expand, manufacturers are turning to systems that will increase efficiency and provide greater control. SCADA, which stands for supervisory control and data acquisition, is a system that allows food and beverage manufacturers to control their processes remotely, monitor and process collected data, and directly link hardware and software systems. More manufacturers in the food industry can expect to begin working with companies like Telstar Instruments, which can provide a custom SCADA system design and implementation.

Sustainable packaging

Say goodbye to using Ziploc bags, cling wrap, and plastic straws. Sustainable packing is the new normal. Consumers are turning to reusable and biodegradable options rather than settling for single-use plastics destined to end up in a landfill for millennia. As a result, silicone bags, paper straws, and beeswax wraps are becoming staple household items as people search for eco-friendly solutions.

Food safety and transparency

With nutrition labels becoming virtually indecipherable, health-conscious consumers’ appetites for food transparency have reached ravenous levels. To satiate these cravings for optimum food safety, manufacturers have served up smart labels and food grading devices on silver platters.

For those shoppers who meticulously study 20+-ingredient labels, the smart label can squash the mystery involved in the typical shopping trip. Whether it be an RFID tag or a QR code, these smart labels can give consumers a more in-depth overview of their favorite snack’s contents with the quick scan of a smartphone. These smart labels can also promote traceability–which is a life-saving benefit in instances of food recalls.

For those conscientious consumers, end-to-end-traceability can grant those fluent in food label verbiage much-needed peace of mind. Using The Internet of Things (IoT) technology, consumers can track the freshness of a product. Also can take a behind-the-scenes look at the journey from farm to fork.

Ghost Kitchens

With the ebb and flow of COVID, ordering food for takeout and delivery remains as popular as ever. Ghost kitchens offer chefs and businesses the space to lease a professional kitchen and food preparation area without the additional costs of running a storefront restaurant. Ghost kitchens, like ComCom Kitchen, are popping up in most major cities across the United States and are expected to continue rising.

3D-printing-powered alternative proteins

Vegetarian and vegan diets have become more commonplace than ever, meaning that plant-based food products are here to stay. The Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have become household names. But vegan protein options will take on a future-forward form in years to come.

Thanks to state-of-the-art advancements in 3D printing and molecular biology. Alternative proteins will gradually scale their way up the food chain and rightfully claim their title as the future of plant-based meat. But how?

With alternative-protein startups fighting neck-in-neck to replicate the texture, taste, and appearance of meat using plant-based fats and vegetable proteins. It’s only a matter of time before 3D-printed, plant-based filets scrape bloody steak tartars from the plates of restaurant-goers. Because the 3D printer can mimic the structure and toothy texture of hearty steaks and chickens using plant proteins like pea powder, compliments to the chef will be plentiful.

Regenerative agriculture

Sustainable agriculture practices are vital for reducing human impact on the environment and climate change. However many organizations have further pushed the envelope. Using methods that can sustain the environment and further regenerate it are becoming game changers in agriculture. Composting and agroforestry are just a few practices that create healthier, diversified, and nutrient-dense soil to continue growing food and healing the land.

Utilizing waste products

The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” begins to take on a whole new meaning. Foods that would typically get tossed in the garbage, like the strawberries in your fridge that turned moldy or restaurant leftovers destined to turn soggy if reheated, can be converted into usable energy. Anaerobic digesters convert food waste into biogas that local energy companies can use and fertilizer for local farming operations.

Final course

As food and beverage options continue to expand, so do the technologies defining the food industry. From a manufacturing perspective, SCADA systems are the way of the future. Ghost kitchens and functional beverages are the next waves of food and health trends. Lastly, sustainable practices continue to boom, and consumers search for eco-friendly, plant-based alternatives to their nutrition and food products.