In an earlier article on ConfectioneryNews Dr. Liang Hao, the founder of Choc Edge, said: “We do not intend to develop 3D machines to compete with mass production.” The performance of 3D printing will rise at an increasing rate, improving speed and quality. Still, as an emerging technology, it is unfair to compare food printing with moulding, which has been developed for so long.
The technology will not disrupt moulding by competing head-on, it will do so by offering novel values to users. Moulding delivers chocolate relatively cheaply. Printing, however, opens up a new market disrupting the established one. The latest trend is personalization, but it is a daunting task to gap the disconnection between consumers and producers.
The customised confectionery business is valued at €12bn ($13.4bn) by Canadean, but in reality these buyers are offered only some options and not tailored products. In the information age everything is shared, thus consumers want product that reflects themselves and their feelings. The real value of 3D food printing is to serve a niche that is most difficult to satisfy.
A 2006 study shows that in contrarily to conventional economic theories customers do not have fixed preferences, they value mundane things much higher when they think of them as their own. 3D printing liberates designing and manufacturing from traditional assembly lines and gives influence to individuals.
The take-off point
Consumers just started realize that when looking for special treats they can get more than hand-piped treats. New opportunities are leading to a whole new world of customer experience. Soon new type of products will let end consumers to interact with the material in other ways besides tasting it. The tipping point is when the end users recognise the option of creative and interactive contents.
For practical applications the only limit is imagination. Christina Zheng, CEO of Choc Edge, sees a wide variety of uses that the technology is already capable of. “We receive many requests for corporate and personal gifts, also we are developing applications for building kits and wedding packages.”
It is easy to imagine the young ones to playfully assemble the Eiffel tower (or any building) from parts made of pure chocolate. She admits that designing 3D files can be a barrier for users. “There are apps which make designing simpler, but there is a need for even more. We will soon release a text creator.” Making content generation easily accessible is a vital part of 3D printing.
An appetite for the future
Decreasing waste through on-demand productions is a step towards sustainability. People throw away 3 million tonnes of food and drink every year in the UK that could have been eaten. Wasting this food costs the average household £470 a year. The economic plans of future companies will have to include environmental and social impact, with intention to cut waste. Storing chocolates in a generic form a delay production until the purchased by a consumer is today’s answer for sustainable manufacturing.
The potential is even more special, an example is personal nutrition. 3D printing is fostering individual solutions, thus giving the option to deliver personalised dietary options. Technology, such as that measures blood sugar level, soon will be able to tell the current level of vital minerals of the user. This will allow individuals to change from taking pills to a chocolate dessert that includes elements, such as magnesium or B6.
Current applications and future possibilities signal that 3D food printing is not just a fashionable term, it is here to stay. It can change people’s life for the better by offering alternate production solutions.