Food technology is a branch of food science that addresses the production, preservation, quality control and research and development of food products.
Early scientific research into food technology concentrated on food preservation. Nicolas Appert's development in 1810 of the canning process was a decisive event. The process wasn't called canning then and Appert did not really know the principle on which his process worked, but canning has had a major impact on food preservation techniques.
Louis Pasteur's research on the spoilage of wine and his description of how to avoid spoilage in 1864, was an early attempt to apply scientific knowledge to food handling. Besides research into wine spoilage, Pasteur researched the production of alcohol, vinegar, wines and beer, and the souring of milk. He developed pasteurization – the process of heating milk and milk products to destroy food spoilage and disease-producing organisms. In his research into food technology, Pasteur became the pioneer into bacteriology and of modern preventive medicine.
Developments in food technology have contributed greatly to the food supply and have changed our world. Some of these developments are:
Technology has innovated these categories from the food industry:
Innovation in the food sector may include, for example, new types for raw material processing technology, packaging of products, and new food additives. Applying new solutions may reduce or prevent adverse changes caused by microorganisms, oxidation of food ingredients, and enzymatic and nonenzymatic reactions. Moreover, healthier and more nutritious food may be delivered as well as the food may taste better due to improvements in food composition, including organoleptic changes, and changes in the perception and pleasures from eating food.
In the 21st century, emerging technologies have included cellular agriculture, particularly cultured meat, 3D food printing, and use of insect protein.
With the global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, there is an urgent need for alternative protein sources that are sustainable, nutritious, and environmentally friendly. Plant-based proteins are gaining popularity as they require fewer resources and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to animal-based proteins. Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have developed plant-based meat alternatives that mimic the taste and texture of traditional meat products.
Approximately one-third of all food produced globally is wasted. Innovative food tech solutions are being developed to address this issue. For example, Apeel Sciences has developed an edible coating that extends the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, reducing spoilage and waste.
Historically, consumers paid little attention to food technologies. Nowadays, the food production chain is long and complicated and food technologies are diverse. Consequently, consumers are uncertain about the determinants of food quality and find it difficult to understand them. Now, acceptance of food products very often depends on perceived benefits and risks associated with food. Popular views of food processing technologies matter. Especially innovative food processing technologies often are perceived as risky by consumers.
Acceptance of the different food technologies varies. While pasteurization is well recognized and accepted, high pressure treatment and even microwaves often are perceived as risky. Studies by the Hightech Europe project found that traditional technologies were well accepted in contrast to innovative technologies.
Consumers form their attitude towards innovative food technologies through three main mechanisms: First, through knowledge or beliefs about risks and benefits correlated with the technology; second, through attitudes based on their own experience; and third, through application of higher order values and beliefs. A number of scholars consider the risk-benefit trade-off as one of the main determinants of consumer acceptance, although some researchers place more emphasis on the role of benefit perception (rather than risk) in consumer acceptance.
Rogers (2010) defines five major criteria that explain differences in the acceptance of new technology by consumers: complexity, compatibility, relative advantage, trialability and observability.
Acceptance of innovative technologies can be improved by providing non-emotional and concise information about these new technological processes methods. The HighTech project also suggests that written information has a higher impact on consumers than audio-visual information.