“Food trend” doesn’t just mean avocado toast and grapefruit shandy.
At the National Restaurant Association Show, more than 2,200 exhibitors painted pictures of the future of the food industry, portraying some major trends that have less to do with food and more to do with how it gets to the consumer.
Within three years, drones could be the new pizza delivery boys. CookTek tried one out, sending a takeout meal to a boat in the middle of a lake. But the world doesn’t have to wait until 2020 to benefit from CookTek’s cool tech: the company is already making insulated delivery bags with induction heating that keeps meals hot on the road.
Robots could become bigger players within restaurants, too, as labor costs continue to rise. Sally will customize a bowl dinner using 21 ingredients that diners can choose on a touchscreen. At $30,000, the fresh food-dispenser is in many ways a smarter, healthier vending machine.
There are also robots for slicing meat and rolling the perfect sushi.
One inventor has created a way to fill beer glasses from the bottom up to avoid creating too much head on the top. Not only does the ReverseTap pour a better pint; it also reduces waste by preventing overflow, and the hands-free tech frees up bartenders to attend to other tasks, increasing efficiency. And the same technology can be used to serve up another trendy beverage: nitro coffee.
Hatco has contrived a cook top that automatically adjusts its output based on the weight of the pan that’s been placed on it. The most important auto adjustment? If there’s no pan on it, the cooktop eventually times out and shuts itself off, improving cook safety in the home.
Finally, earning a Kitchen Innovations Award for its creation, Alto-Shaam introduced the Vector Multi-Cook Oven, which can cook four different products at different temperatures in the same oven by placing the foods in four separate, stacked cavities.
The Show also featured a wide range of innovators working with the food itself, rather than the tech that prepares and serves it. Coca Cola, Skinny Pop, and the Impossible Burger were all represented.