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Transformative Appetite

Imagine if your groceries were delivered not in shopping bags but in flat boxes filled with printed edible discs and strips, which transform into three-dimensional shapes on your plate.

Inspired by IKEA flat packs, a team of inventors from Tangible Media Group (MIT Media Lab) wondered what would happen if we could flat pack our food. By digitally printing compressed food made of protein, cellulose or starch, they set out to reduce the costs – both actual and environmental – of shipping products around the world.

Using ethyl cellulose strips, which ingeniously stop the discs from expanding in certain directions, they created shapes that transform autonomously, yet in pre-defined ways.

Next, they enlisted Matthew Delisle, chef at L’Espalier, to create dishes featuring flowering pasta, self-disassembling noodles, and transparent cannoli that curl like clams to encase beads of caviar.

Not only are these transformations beautiful to watch, they “liberate” us from tedious tasks like stuffing cannoli or chopping noodles into tinier strands.

This project is supported by Food + Future, a collaboration between IDEO, the MIT Media Lab, and Target (although Target it now winding back its involvement in this coLab).

It shows what’s possible when technologists, designers and scientists get together to rethink the future of dining, reducing our ecological footprint in the process. Brands like IKEA and Target aren’t the only ones dabbling in the sensory realm of food design – expect lots more to get involved in future.


Transformative Appetite:

Photography: Michael Indresano Production