3D food printing: Verstegen becomes the world's first supplier of cartridge fillings

3D food printing: Verstegen becomes the world's first supplier of cartridge fillings

11 Jan 2018 --- byFlow, a Dutch company selling and producing 3D Food Printers, has announced a new collaboration with its new partner Verstegen Spices & Sauces. Verstegen is one of byFlow's partners for the Horecava 2018, which concludes in Amsterdam today, providing 3D food printing Fillings for their 3D food printer, the Focus. The first available flavor of the paste, beetroot and cardamom, was developed in collaboration with Jan Smink, byFlow's ambassador and top chef (winner b’Ocuse D’or, working for 3 star Michelin Restaurant De Librije).

A spokesperson for byFlow notes that the biggest interest in 3D food printing so far has been among chocolatiers, pastry chefs and high-end chefs, also thanks to their reseller Beko Techniek and the collaboration with Jan Smink. “The benefits of 3D Food Printing are very quickly visible for high cuisine, as the printer makes it possible to experiment with shapes, flavors and differentiate from competition. However, we do target, and wish to continue [doing] that, all professionals from food industry, including smaller bakeries, patisseries etc., as the printer and customization of food it offers can be valuable for everyone,” they note. “Thanks to cooperation with Verstegen, we are planning to get also more into catering industry, where we're already present thanks to Maison van den Boer.”

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Manfred Lukkezen, Director Professional Markets, Verstegen

The company claims that 3D food printing is no longer a technology of the future – it’s a revolution happening on our plates right now. It is an innovative method of food preparation, with fresh ingredients only. Vegetables, meat, dairy, chocolate, sweets – they can all become a beautiful 3D-printed dish, designed in shapes which are not achievable by hand or a mold. The technology contributes to a whole new experience of dining but also supports the fight against food waste and provides solutions for healthy and personalized dieting. byFlow's first 3D Food Printer, the Focus, is on the market since the end of 2016 and already this year byFlow was celebrating its 100th sale.

“We saw that there were all kinds of ingredients like chocolate being used that you could build with, but in terms of other food components, it was more difficult,” Manfred Lukkezen of Verstegen tells FoodIngredientsFirst at Horecava. “So we developed together with them some pastes you can build your dish with. For now we started with one cartridge with beetroot and spices and the structure is made in a way that you can build up anything you want in a 3D way. We also developed a curry and hollandaise sauce, but those are only to trigger potential customers to develop new ideas with us.”

Verstegen has an approximate €130mn turnover, 75 percent of which is in the Benelux region. The rest is international, albeit predominantly EU. While Lukkezen admits that it is early days for this technology, using it helps to boost the innovative image of the company, but he also believes that 3D food printing will have a role to play in the future of foodservice. “Verstegen wants to be innovative and using 3D printing helps us to promote our innovative image, but also we think there is a future in it. There are less skilled people working in the foodservice space and we think that this is the only the beginning of making dishes for foodservice or healthcare to making dishes customer based, where we deliver the different cartridges to combine different tastes together into a dish. And it is a little bit early now, but we believe that innovation will be there and we want to be there from the beginning, because everything has to have a good taste to food.” 

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst at Horecava, Nina Hoff, CEO of byFlow explains the partnership, which is non-exclusive: “Verstegen really sees a market for the middle segment of the food industry where people really do want to do 3D food printing, but do not have the time to create their own recipes. Together with a Michelin star chef they developed a few recipes. This is now being sold to medium-sized restaurants or bigger hotel chains that have to do a lot of production and they want to speed up the whole process of 3D food printing.”

Hoff believes that there are many different platforms to 3D food printing in foodservice. “It could either be in beautiful shapes that are not possible by hand or by mold, or it is about personalizing your dish by taking a picture of your guest and printing it as a dessert for example, logos are especially popular, especially in butter or chocolate. We can print over 50 different ingredients, so there are many possibilities for 3D food printing.”

The company presented dishes that were created in just 2 minutes at Horecava. “You can make multiple dishes together and make 4-5 prints in one print, which means that you need about 10 minutes. If you have 4-5 dishes you have 15 dishes in 10 minutes – so less than 1 dish per minute.”

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Nina Hoff, CEO of byflow

Investment in a 3D printer is currently about €3,500, but Hoff believes that this can be easily recuperated through the potential margins. “It is still quite unique, people are willing to pay more. So your margins are also higher and because we have a portable machine, you can put it on a table at a restaurant and show people the experience of 3D food printing, you earn it back in a few dinners,” she claims.

Technically, there are several considerations to take into account when developing a solution for a 3D printing cartridge. “It has to be a puree or paste kind of material. It has to be soft, with no bits and pieces included that can clog the nozzles and it can also not be too liquid in nature as then it will all flow. It has to be a stable paste, but for food suppliers this is usually not a problem,” Hoff explains. “Verstegen makes sauces as well as spices and have lots of experience when it comes to the consistency of sauces and right now they are launching new sauces and investigating more into puree, because they understand that it needs to be healthier with less or no sugar and no preservatives, fresh vegetables and fruits,” she notes.

Lukkezen further explains that while 3D food cartridges can be sold chilled, the first products that they have developed are made in a way that they can also be available ambient. “The structure has to be in a way that when you print it, it can be in 3D structure. So it cannot be too liquid, but if you use a lot of binding you lose a lot of taste, so you can compensate for that by using the right ingredients, through spices and herbs,” he says, adding that the beetroot recipe, for example, includes a fiber for the structure and a mix of spices. 

“We think that vegetables are the most appropriate ingredient because a lot of people need to eat more vegetables. Even for children, when it is a puree it is easy to eat and when you make it into an interesting dish by the shape then children also like eating it,” he says.

Unsurprisingly, Hoff believes that 2018 will be the year of 3D food printing, with hopes for a significant increase in their machine sales. “There are more and more people seeing the advantages of it – not only the marketing value but also the experience within dishes. We expect that it can help in different segments, such as in the healthcare industry to really personalize dishes, not only in shapes, but also in dishes and in the type of food,” she says. 

“You can add health ingredients, more protein and vitamins. For people with swallowing problems, it could really help. They could also get the experience within food. Or in the sports industry where people have special diets, 3D food printing could help. We see it going more toward the industrial way to make customized production,” she concludes.

3D food printing, although still a niche, will certainly be worth watching out for this year and beyond as it starts to find its feet in product development on the foodservice front. 

By Robin Wyers

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