A handful of food and nutrition products containing invisible nano-scale additives are already commercially available. Hundreds of companies are conducting research and development (R&D) on the use of nanotech to engineer, process, package and deliver food and nutrients to our shopping baskets and our plates. Among them are giant food and beverage corporations, as well as tiny nanotech start-ups.
Estimates for How Much the Worldwide Nano Food Market Will Be Worth
According to Jozef Kokini, the Director of the Center for Advanced Food Technology at Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA), “Every major food corporation has a program in nanotech or is looking to develop one.” A 2004 report produced by Helmut Kaiser Consultancy, “Nanotechnology in Food and Food Processing Industry Worldwide,” predicts that the nanofood market will surge from $2.6 billion today to $7 billion in 2006 and to $20.4 billion in 2010.
How Many Companies Worldwide Are Developing Nano Food Products?
In addition to a handful of nano food products that are already on the market, over 135 applications of nanotechnology in food industries (primarily nutrition and cosmetics) are in various stages of development. According to Helmut Kaiser, more than 200 companies worldwide are engaged in nanotech research and development related to food. Among the 20 most active companies are five that rank among the world’s 10 largest food and beverage corporations, Australia’s leading food corporation, and Japan’s largest sea food producer and processed food manufacturer.
The Food Industry Seems To Be Cautious When About Discussing Nanotech Food Products
Despite the obvious enthusiasm for nano-scale science and its applications to food engineering and processing, the food & beverage industry is generally conservative and cautious when talking about the future of nanotech and food. Most industry representatives interviewed by ETC Group declined to provide specific details about the level of funding and industry partners. We spoke to scientists at giant food and beverage corporations (Kraft and Nestlé), as well as university researchers and representatives from small nanotech start-ups (often one and the same). After witnessing widespread rejection of genetically modified foods, the food industry may be especially skittish about owning up to R&D on “atomically modified” food products.
What Are Industry Experts Saying About the Future for Nano Food?
“The food industry is more traditional than other sectors like IBM” (where nanotechnology can be applied), explains Gustavo Larsen, a professor of chemical engineering and a former consultant to Kraft. “My take is that there are good opportunities and it’s often more feasible to realise these opportunities [in the food sector]. You can make nanoparticles and use them in foods - you don’t have to assemble them first.” When asked what he believes will be the first products of nanotech R&D related to food, Larsen said that consumers are likely to see packaging composed of nano-scale materials before novel food products. “I think the packaging is a safer bet,” said Larsen.