It may sound like something out of Star Trek, but Nestle is developing a food replicator that will create customised consumable items based on the users’ dietary requirements.
The company’s research arm, the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS), has launched the programme, code-named ‘Iron Man’, as part of an effort to combat health issues using new foods and drinks.
The idea behind developing a way to create custom consumables is to provide food with vitamin and nutrient levels optimised for certain disorders – for instance, diabetes or heart disease.
NIHS director Ed Baetge told Bloomberg that one of the company’s proposed ideas involved an affordable coffee machine-like system, where pods filled with nutrients are used to create customised foods.
“Out comes your food at the press of a button,” explained Baetge.“If we do this right, it can be the next microwave in your kitchen.”
NIHS already has a nutrition department making nutritional products for conditions like Alzheimer’s and genetic disorders with a budget of $11bn (£6.5bn).
The project, codenamed Iron Man, is seen more as a short-term way to find out what is missing in diets and provide supplements to help.
The company says it is around 5-10 years away and could resemble the replicator that made meals on starships like the Enterprise in Star Trek.
“In future, these tools will help to better define the specific nutrient needs of people with different diets and lifestyles around the world,” said NIHS researcher Serge Rezzi.
“In the past, food was just food. We’re going in a new direction.”