Technology is having an impact on nearly every industry, leaving practically no stone unturned. The food market is one of the latest to dip its toes in the tech arena. With the advent of 3D printing technology, it was just a matter of time before a company saw the opportunity to combine the two to develop a unique offering.
Founded in 2014, 3D food printing company BeeHex was the brainchild of a NASA-funded project focused on providing nutritious food with a long shelf life to astronauts, which was then expanded to a larger-scale offering. We discussed the company and its plans for the future with one of BeeHex’s four Co-Founders and CMO Jordan French, who also shared what the inspiration was for starting the company.
“BeeHex started as a NASA-funded project intended to feed astronauts on their way to Mars. Marketing showed broad uses across foods and especially in fresh food assembly and production,” French said. “BeeHex’s current markets are as a marketing tool for retailers and as a production tool for customizing baked goods at food companies.”
Given the nature of today’s technology pushing forward a demand for both instant gratification and personalization via data collection, a food product like this would be great for various use cases. BeeHex’s 3D printer focuses specifically on pizzas and uses actual food materials like dough, tomato sauce and mozzarella to print out custom servings. Depending upon preferences, the system can be modified for individual needs.
At this time, BeeHex is looking to target the restaurant industry over direct consumer selling to help save costs via automation’s impact on prep time reduction. Through helping restaurants bring down the cost of labor, those choosing to use BeeHex’s pizza printing are likely to see increased profits. While this 3D printer isn’t available until later this year in September, the company has already successfully debuted it around the restaurant trade show circuit, including Austin’s South by Southwest convention, to taste its pizza creations.
In 2017, BeeHex is planning to take steps toward its B2B strategy, and French commented on specifics to PYMNTS: “Following its seed funding round, BeeHex will soft launch at International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Enterprise-level pilot programs are in the works.”
There are companies all over the world helping to advance 3D food printing, from Natural Machines in Barcelona to Food Ink in London and Choc Edge in China. While 3D printing isn’t new to the food industry, BeeHex is one of few to print out pizza on a personalized level to help meet almost any dietary restriction.
One of the key aspects that helps the appeal of 3D food is its ability to freeze the food rotting process, which extends the shelf life of what’s being printed while maintaining its nutritious value. French also commented on the company’s plans to possibly venture into retail: “We’re planning on using our 3D printer as a tool for retail chains to use to both feed and attract more customers.”
All over the world, there are areas where food shortage is occurring where 3D food printing technology can be of assistance. Whether due to droughts, floods or financial woes, the ability to produce and distribute food can be impacted on a moment’s notice. The technology behind 3D food printing offerings, like BeeHex, are likely to help alleviate any potential food crises in the future.
3D food printing isn’t being used in this way currently, likely due to the fact that the industry is still in its infancy. It would be no huge surprise, though, if this new technology moved into helping with food shortages in the future.
On BeeHex’s current plans for the future, which aim to help boost nutrition wherever it can, French said, “BeeHex is part of an interconnected world that allows a greater variety of fresh food options faster, offers personalized nutrition and aids farmers up and down the food supply chain with end-user data.”
Through its plans to work with enterprises later in the year, BeeHex has the opportunity to not only enhance the food-making process but also disrupt it. By using data from the businesses it will potentially partner with, there’s a real chance to help create a customized 3D food printing ecosystem beyond its initial pizza foray.