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Yogurt encased in a WikiCells membrane.

2012-03-02

Co.Exist

In The Future, You Will Eat Your Food Packaging, And It Will Be Delicious

WikiCells is a new way to keep your food fresh and stop plastic waste: Make food packaging edible--and even part of the seasoning of the food.

Here’s a solution to our ever-growing plastic problem: package food and beverage items in edible packaging that’s actually good enough to eat. Dr. David Edwards, a professor at Harvard, is working on it. After creating Breathable Foods and an energy capsule, Edwards moved on to WikiCells, an edible packaging technology.

The WikiCells project began a few years ago when Edwards collaborated with French designer François Azambourg on an edible bottle that uses nature’s "natural packaging" as an inspiration for more artificial packaging.



Says Edwards: "The notion [of Wikicells] is that you are englobing liquid, foam, or something else in a soft membrane held together by food particles that are being connected by electrostatic charges to each other and to a small amount of natural polymer." The soft membrane could be surrounded by a harder egg-like shell if necessary--something made out of chocolate, rock candy, or even algae. If that’s hard to imagine, think of it this way: a tomato and basil membrane that houses gazpacho, a chocolate membrane holding hot chocolate, or an orange membrane containing orange juice.

"You can imagine that the yogurt will have a fruity kind of membrane. It could be raspberry, cherry, blueberry. We make something that looks like mozzarella cheese, but when you cut it with a spoon it’s all yogurt inside," he says.

Image by Phase One Photography.

The professor has constructed all of these creations, and some of them are available for adventurous souls to try at the Lab Store Paris, Edwards’s storefront where people can eat his food experiments. Based on reports from Lab Store visitors, he believes that the membrane taste is satisfactory; now the issue is "stability in an uncontrolled environment and getting this out at scale."

The hygiene of edible packaging is, of course, also an issue. But just as you would wash a membrane-enclosed piece of fruit before eating it, people could wash their WikiCell products before consuming.

In May, Edwards plans to release WikiCell products through a company that he’s forming (and at the W Hotel in Paris). Ultimately he hopes to design a WikiCell production machine that could be sold to restaurants, companies, and even villages in developing countries that want to manufacture their own products and ditch traditional packaging.

"Our perspective is that eventually, the packaging of tomorrow will be the fruit of today," says Edwards.

Phase One Photography

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8 Comments

  • Leigh Baker

    A great example of regenerative thinking - pretty close to no-waste thinking. 

  • Paul Richards

    ARIEL - This not a new idea, the pie, pasty, pastries and chocolates are just some examples of edible containers, packaging by shopping cartels has simply been applied to those. The challenge will be making advertising edible, and most find advertising hard to consume now.

  • Steven Moody

    So you enclose foods in food?  For example, you could take an orange peel, and hold orange pulp and orange juice inside?  Maybe you would also store seeds so you could grow trees from the leftovers?  Then you could grow these fruit factories, with orange containers taking water and turning it into orange pulp and orange juice?  Nah, too far fetched.

  • Sebastián Valencia

    the idea of eliminate a plastic packaging its great, but the function of this new packaging concept could have different approaches, maybe biodegradable material that you can compost for the new urban farming trends, or reusable packaging that you can refill by the same product and keep them in the refrigerator, its about chainging habits from the industry to the consumers, creating new ways of responsable product consumption. (sorry for my english if you find some mistakes on my grammar.)

  • deniseinark

    True story.  While you might eat an apple after only washing, it's hard to imagine an "in general" type of food packaging that keeps things clean enough to go ahead and eat.  Even M&M's come in a disposable package.  While eating foods as close to the way that they grow is a goal we should strive for, it makes more sense to encourage re-used packaging (whatever happened to returning glass coke bottles?) or just design more packaging so that it is easily biodegradable, then educate the public on that product's appropriate disposal.

  • Eplinovo

    The packaging is to protect food, he is in best case putting food, inside some other chemical compound which is essentially food. What will protect that one? Just an elaborate gimmick void of any connection to real world problems of waste and environmental damage due to the waste. It has been proven time and again that waste due to spoiled food has a much larger carbon footprint than the wasted packaging material,