Capsule Meals Coming Your Way
November 2, 2015
A Polish company hopes to create a revolution in the food industry by bringing to market a new type of food concentrate in a capsule and a machine for turning these concentrates into healthy juices, soups and meals.
The machine resembles a coffee maker and makes it possible to produce a glass of juice, soup, milk, hot chocolate, tea, and even an alcoholic soft drink from a capsulated concentrate.
The innovative company is called Mokate and is based in the southern Polish town of UstroŮ.
The machine, tentatively named Matheus, is offered in two versions: a large one for offices and small food service outlets such as gas stations, and a smaller version intended for households.
Mokate’s project has been subsidized with public money on account of the ambitious technological challenges involved as well as environmental considerations.
As part of the project, Mokate aims to provide consumers with semi-finished food products in capsule form, which is expected to help bring down transport costs, says the project manager, Marek Tarnowski. If all food products were delivered to consumers semi-finished in the form of capsules, he says, the total weight of cargo hauled by trucks would be reduced by two-thirds, which would also cut down damage to road surfaces caused by excessive loads.
Food concentrates are widely used in the food industry, but they have not yet reached the consumer in this form, Tarnowski says. A carton of orange juice is nearly always made from a concentrate imported into Poland from countries such as Brazil, he adds; in fact, 99 percent of the juices available in Polish stores are made from imported concentrates. The point, Tarnowski says, is why can’t consumers make their own juices at home. Why do they need a food processing company to step into the picture? The machine built by Mokate enables consumers to quickly and easily turn the concentrate into a glass of juice, for example, in the comfort of their homes.
To reach consumers, Mokate plans first to install 40 prototypes of its machine on the market, says Tarnowski. The machine is the size of the average coffee maker, but has more complicated electronics. Based on a simple design, it consists of a water boiler, a heater, an air pump and a water pump—much like a coffee maker. The main difference is electronics. The device is more complicated electronically because it must handle many different processes. For example, making a meal from a soup concentrate requires very precise temperature, pressure and air settings. The capsule itself must also have a special design.
Now for the bottom line: how much will it cost the consumer? According to Tarnowski, meals prepared from concentrates using the Matheus machine will cost no more than a carton of juice costs now, because the new system will produce savings on transport and storage costs. Capsules will help reduce the weight of products by two-thirds on average, and their size will be reduced as well, Tarnowski says. Concentrates occupy far less space than traditional cartons in warehouses, stores and homes.
“We are announcing a revolution in the food industry,” says Tarnowski. “If there is money for further stages of the project, we will stage this revolution. We are working on various improvements of the Matheus. For now we are offering hot drinks. In a little while we will create a version of the machine that will also produce cold drinks,” says Tarnowski.
For starters, 40 test prototypes of the Matheus will be installed at gas stations in order to identify and remedy any imperfections. This will take about a year. Gas stations will not pay for using the system; they will only pay for the capsules.
Concentrated soups in capsules are likely to prove the biggest hit, Tarnowski says. These are made from natural liquid concentrates which are then pasteurized. Unlike powder soups, they do not contain preservatives or monosodium glutamate and do not upset the stomach, Tarnowski says.
Water is removed from the product before it is shipped and is added back in by the consumer. This means the product is 100 percent natural, Tarnowski says. It does not need preservatives.
As food concentration technology develops with processes such as nanofiltration and ultrafiltration, the costs of obtaining food concentrates are decreasing. Natural and healthy products in capsule form are obtained in this way. The ingredients are filtered under pressure. Water passes through tiny nanomeshes and consequently only the dry mass remains.
Modern packaging technology prevents bacteria and air from entering products. As a result, products do not become stale and do not lose their smell and flavor.
A classic Tetra Pack carton made from aluminum foil, paper and polypropylene is not subject to recycling. Food capsules, meanwhile, will be made from homogeneous materials and will consequently be recyclable, Tarnowski says.
A team of 15 engineers worked together to design the Matheus. The machine will carry an only slightly higher price tag than the standard coffee machine. A coffee maker costs around zl.500, while the Matheus will cost around zl.700, Tarnowski says. Production is due to begin soon.
Mokate has obtained patent protection in Poland for the machine design as well as for the electronics. It has also filed for an international patent for the capsule design and for the protection of the intellectual property involved.
Mokate has obtained co-financing under the European Union’s Innovative Economy Operational Programme to carry out the project. The “Innovative technology for the manufacture of products from a liquid and/or loose concentrate enclosed in a capsule” project began in August 2012 and ended this past June. Its total cost was more than zl.8.27 million, including zl.3.16 million contributed by Poland’s National Center for Research and Development (NCBR) as part of the European Regional Development Fund.