Biozoon developed its smoothfood concept back in 2010 - food that is visually appealing, tastes good while the fact the 3D printers allow Biozoon to create any number of food shapes without having to completely change their production line.
CEO Matthias Kuck says: “We take fresh food items and transform them into different textures. The aim is that the smooth food looks very similar to the original food but can be eaten by anyone as it can be swallowed without chewing.”
Elderly patients with dysphagia - difficulty chewing and swallowing - in care homes are the target consumers but with Europe's ageing population growing steadily, this may not be as niche as it initially sounds.
According to project manager of the R&D department Sandra Forstner told FoodNavigator the printing process has no impact on the taste, and Biozoon only uses plant-based texturisers such as algae-derived carrageenan.
“It is very important to avoid the ‘pre-digestion’ of, for example, amylase in the mouth that leads to undesired liquefaction in the mouth. Therefore we do not use any starch-based texturisers.
“All ingredients are common ingredients used in many food products that can be found in the supermarket and we made sure already within the project to create meals safe for consumption for elderly people,” said Forstner.
These are chosen for their neutral taste profile so they do not alter the taste of the actual food, she added, and can withstand heating in a microwave or convection oven in temperatures of up to 100°C.
Biozoon also took part in the Performance project, which aimed to develop a holistic and personalised food supply chain for seniors in elderly care homes, and received around €3 million in EU investment.
“We aimed at the production of personalised food which shall be possible by using the 3D printing technology. Each meal or meal component is based on
data files which can on the one hand contain simply the portion size but also, for example, minerals or vitamins that are beneficial for the respective person.”
“I definitely can imagine that in the future such options [will] become ‘normal’, but still a lot of basic research has to be performed as we speak about very complex printing material,” said Forstner.
With the share of people aged 80 years or more in Europe is tipped to more double between 2015 and 2080, foods for special medical purposes (FSMPs) are another area that could see a boom.
According to trade association Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE), these are products that either replace the diet entirely or partially (such as with dietary supplements) to provide patients and seniors with the essential nutrients that they need to address nutritional requirements.
“[These] are used in all healthcare settings (in hospitals, care homes, clinics and in private homes) across Europe, and play a vital role in Europe’s fight against malnutrition,” said the association.