Candy 4.0: A sweets company launches 3D printing, by Dieter Dürand.
German candy manufacturer Katjes lets customers use 3D printers to create their own confections. The technology is making rapid inroads into gastronomy and foods.
At the Magic Candy Factory near Hackescher Markt in Berlin’s trendy Mitte district, gummy candies have entered the 21st century. Inside the newlyopened sweets store, customers can use iPads and 3D printers to create their own sticky concoctions. Possible shapes include hearts and butterflies, octopuses and frogs. A few more touches on the screen select flavors, including mango, lemon, raspberry and apple, plus a sour or glittery coating. Then, behind a glass wall, a 3D printer forms the candy, layer by layer, by ejecting warm fruit-gum mix through a thin, computer-controlled nozzle. A 10-gram candy, measuring a few centimeters across, will set you back $5, gift box included.
The store, which opened in September, is the latest venture of Katjes, a family-owned maker of gummy candies, licorice and other sweets headquartered in Emmerich, a small town on the Dutch border. Katjes is Germany’s third largest candy manufacturer. In Berlin the firm is testing its newest innovation — the world’s first 3D printer whose gummy products are certified commercial food grade.
With each candy taking five minutes to print, it’s a lot of effort compared to conventional production, where industrial machines churn out gummy bears by the millions. Yet the Berlin store is another milestone in the fast-evolving world of 3D printing – one that is now making inroads into gastronomy and food. “With the progress in 3D printing, we’re entering a new era of customized food products,” says Hod Lipson, director of Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab in Ithaca, New York.
Researchers have already used 3D printing technology to print out pancakes, marzipan, and even pizzas with toppings. At the recent World Fair in Milan, Italy, pasta maker Barilla unveiled a prototype machine that printed out a dish of custom-designed noodles in only two minutes. Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn and American chocolate manufacturer Hershey are also testing the technology. At last year’s 3D Print Show in London, Michelin-starred chef Mateo Blanch awed attendants with a 3D-printed meal. Mr. Blanch already uses the technology at his restaurant, La Boscana, in Lleida, Spain, to create shapes he could not make by hand.
Novel food sources like algae or insects could be 3D-printed into more marketable shapes.
At Berlin’s IFA consumer electronics fair in September, the Taiwanese company XYZ printing presented a 3D food printer that prints chocolate and cookie dough for cake designs and baking. The machine costs $500, or €444.82 in the United States. Naturally, the cartridges containing dough cost extra.
But the most closely-watched entry into the food-printing market may be the German start-up Print2Taste, based in Freising near Munich. The founders, a team that includes food specialists, have developed the technology to print an almost endless array of foods – from chewing gum to caramel to mashed potatoes or even liver paté. The company has raised more than €40,000 on the Kickstarter crowd-funding platform, and hopes to start selling its machines in early 2016. While it’s not certain how many consumers will want to put a food printer next to their espresso machine, companies like Print2Taste are also aiming at professionals in restaurants and pastry shops.
It’s very early days for food-printing technology, but that hasn’t stopped scientists at the Netherlands Organization for Applied
Scientific Research (TNO) from thinking far into the future. Kjeld van Bommel, one of TNO’s team leaders, thinks this technology could one day feed billions. Alternative and more environmentally-friendly sources of nutrition like algae or insects could be 3D-printed into more recognizable and appetizing shapes and textures. Then these ingredients will no longer frighten anyone, Mr. van Bommel says.
At Katjes, plans are more modest. Melissa Snover, a New York native who heads the 3D-printing project, says her goal is to have 100 of her machines printing gummy candies in department stores worldwide. Ordering the customized, all-natural candies online is in the works, too. And she has other plans, such as renting out the machines for birthday parties and other occasions. Thanks to 3D printing, it seems that gummy candies have just become even more addictive.
At the Magic Candy Factory in Berlin, candy company Katjes is testing 3D-printing technology to create custom-made confections.
Dieter Dürand covers green technologies for the business weekly WirtschaftsWoche, where this article first appeared.