Irradiated and Modified: Foods of the Future Reach the Supermarkets

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New food products created with artificial intelligence and or processed to last longer are arriving in the Argentine supermarkets; The question is who will bear the extra cost of marketing.

Mayonnaise without eggs, milk, and yogurt but made with vegetables, meat irradiated long life, are some of the foods that will be seen in Argentine supermarkets soon and that will force the consumers to learn to distinguish between them on the shelves.

In principle, the idea behind the companies responsible for these launches is to target young people, but the ultimate target would be the general public.

They want to be the Danone of the Millennials, one of the founders of The Not Company, the company that for three months has sold into 120 supermarkets in Chile Not Mayo, a mayonnaise made with vegetables that is now coming to Argentina via the Jumbo chain in early 2018.

When they started two and a half years ago they wanted to create a healthy product “without changing people’s eating habits.” “We do not try to replicate the protein with expensive technology as the big companies do, we do it in a more ethical and honest way, we made a study of eggs, meat and other foods to obtain the data of what gives them that flavor, texture, color, and we developed an algorithm that tells us how to replace that with vegetables. ”

“The plan is to raise US $ 5 million to be in 700 locations in Chile, and arrive in the first half of 2018 to Argentina, Peru and Colombia, then to Brazil within two years.

For now, the only food product they are commercialising is Not Mayo, but in the United States they are developing milk and vegetable yogurts, and dulce de leche and chocolate desserts with egg white replicas, which will be sold in 150 Whole Foods stores now owned by Amazon.

As for the marketing of the brand, since its name is Not Company, the company and its products are defined by using the negative so the packaging has a black cross. “The cross is a seal of tranquility for the customers, we are against what the rest of the industry is doing.” Today food quality is poorly seen, so we have the challenge of taking a symbol like the cross and making it positive. “This is very important because it is not a niche, it is people who want to eat better, to whom we give the same flavor for the same price,” he added.

Martín Blanco, director of the consultancy specializing in food and beverages Moebius Marketing, explained that all these foods are “too new” in Argentina and “it will take a long time for people to know them.” Asked about the ways to market the products, he said that there are a lot of possible paths: the brand, the positioning, the slogan, the symbols, the design, the aesthetics and the “No Tacc” signs.

In the case of irradiated products, the symbol that distinguishes them is that of the green “radura” that looks like a plant inside a circle, whose upper half has the dotted line. The word “radura” is derived from radiation, a combination of the word “radiation” with “durus” meaning lasting in Latin.

Food irradiation consists of exposing them to electromagnetic energy to reduce or eliminate microbiological contents to make food more durable. It has been permitted now for about thirty years for potatoes, onions, garlic, dehydrated vegetables, spices and condiments, dried mushrooms and asparagus. However, the difference now is that the National Administration of Medicines, Food and Medical Technology (Anmat) has modified the Argentine Food Code to allow the irradiation of new categories of food: among them fish and seafood; poultry, beef, pork, and goat meat.

According to Ionics, the company that performs the procedure, it could triple shelf time of meat by reaching up to a year of conservation without freezing.

The changes of shelf space in the supermarkets are likely to happen slowly. It may happen as with the long life milk, which in its beginnings was in refrigerated storage and then moved to those at room temperature and no one noticed.

Martin Blanco made the same comparison. “The ionized meat is still very niche, you do not see it often in the United States and there is no marketing about it. If there is going to be cuts of meat in a non-cold storage shelf, this is going to need some aesthetics and a strong message. Nobody is afraid of milk in a Tetrapac container.  And the good thing is that the container is biodegradable. With the meat, it will be the same. It’s all about time, branding and communication. ”

However the problem according to Blanco, is, who pays the costs of communication. “In 2006, we hired a US  packaging company to sell the idea of boxed wine to Argentinian wineries. At that time, the 3-liter wine in box accounted for 70% of the market in countries like Australia, but not in Argentina where quality wine is sold in bottles with cork tops.

They do not sell it for fear that a good wine will be confused with a Tetrapack. No cellar wants to pay the cost of educating the consumer for others to take advantage of.  It is an investment in time and communication.  In the case of ionized meat it is the same. Who is going to pay the cost? This could cost millions in communications to the freezing works that prepare the meat. ”

Communication costs must be added to production costs, according to Conicet researcher Gerard Leotta. “Once the approval comes out in the Official Gazette, it will be necessary to see who absorbs the costs of production and the impact on the prices, it is a valid technology that is widely used in the European Union, I would apply it in food of high risk of bacteria like hamburgers, but you have to do the tests to see how long they will last without freezing. Food kept in a chest of drawers in the home, I do not see it viable.Today what I know is the combination with refrigeration is the best plan.

Irradiation technology can double or triple the commercial life of food, as it is packaged in the current condition of conservation, practically without making any other modification than to radiate in the original containers. Food preservation can also be achieved with the combination of methods, injected, vacuum packed and irradiated, with extensions of the commercial shelf life that exceed a year in tropical conditions outside a refrigerator, but in these cases, specially designed packaging must be used.

Market Penetration

4.1% is the market share that “Not Mayo” has in the supermarkets of Chile in only three months of its launching.

Source: La Nacion

Comment. Irradiation technology has been around for a very long time and there is no doubt it is safe for humans but is it harmful to the foods nutritional value. This article discusses the contra argument.

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