People want to know what's in the food they eat. They peer at labels in markets, email food manufacturers, and grill their servers in restaurants. And now, a new food technology may give them the tools they need to learn more about their food at the molecular level.
A handheld spectrometer called SCiO recently met its funding on Kickstarter. The device topped its $200,000 goal by more than tenfold, with a final funding total of $2,762,571, and the first models are set to ship in December 2014.
How Does SCiO Work?
SCiO is a small handheld device, not much larger than a USB drive. And while the technology that powers SCiO has been around for many years, this is the smallest of such devices that is offered to the consumer public to date. It’s also the most affordable.
According to the Kickstarter project, SCiO uses near-IR spectrometry to analyze materials. Every molecule vibrates in its own individual way, and SCiO uses a light source and an optical sensor on the device that collects and breaks down the light readings to determine the molecular composition of the sample. It then sends the information to the SCiO app on the user's phone.
The information that is captured can be used for a wide range of applications. The device can be used to discover the contents of an unknown substance. A dressing can be looked at to see whether it contains olive or vegetable oil. A beverage can be analyzed to see whether or not it is alcoholic. SCiO can even show how much fat, sugar or protein is in a small sample of food.
American Eating Preferences Are Changing
People are getting more concerned about the ingredients in their food and the effects those ingredients have on their health. Some choose to reduce fat in the pursuit of better heart health. Others are more worried about the effects of simple carbs. Still others go further and attempt to remove all wheat and gluten from their diets.
At the same time, there’s at least one recent food survey which shows that many Americans do not feel confident about their abilities to make the healthiest food choices.
- 52% of those interviewed think that it is difficult to figure out the best foods to eat
- About 50% were trying to eat better to lose weight or become healthier.
Many were avoiding specific foods or macronutrients.
- About 67% said they tried to eat as little fat as possible.
- 49% say that they are specifically avoiding unhealthy trans-fats.
The popularity of the SCiO concept shows that many diners are willing to try new food technology gadgets to find out what is on their plate and make adjustments accordingly.
What Does This Mean for Food Service?
To accommodate these evolving preferences, those in the food service industry will need to pay more attention to quality assurance and sourcing than ever before.
Consumers care about the nutrition content of their foods, so you can expect them to contact you about ingredients. They will have questions not just about what is in their foods, but how they are prepared. Make sure that all of your staff—not just representatives in the contact center— have answers that will make your end customers happy.
Instead of feeling threatened by new food technology that puts more information in customers' hands, use it as an opportunity to showcase the healthful qualities of the products you offer. Ensure that you source the best ingredients available. Happily share your own chemical analysis results and invite consumers with devices like SCiO to share theirs, as well.
By working with the dining public, you can turn what's in your foods into a public relations and marketing winner.