3D printed food, SavorEat and Sodexo commercialize Robot Chef food 3D printer for US universities

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3D printing food start-up SavorEat has teamed up with global hospitality firm Sodexo to carry out a pilot of its Robot Chef food 3D printer at select universities in the US from 2022.

The aim of the pilot is to examine, test, and eventually commercialize the Robot Chef system and the first alternative meat product developed by SavorEat, a plant-based protein burger. Following this, the partners hope to reach a distribution agreement to deliver SavorEat’s products throughout the US market.

“Sodexo’s choice, as a market leader, to partner with us – is a vote of confidence in SavorEat’s solution and in its unique value proposition,” said Racheli Vizman, SavorEat Co-founder and CEO. “I am convinced that Sodexo’s expertise in the international catering market and particularly North America will significantly contribute to the development and acceleration of the penetration rate of our products in the international market, with an emphasis on the US market.”

SavorEat's Robot Chef food 3D printing system. Photo via SavorEat.
SavorEat’s Robot Chef food 3D printing system. Photo via SavorEat.

SavorEat’s food 3D printing technology

Founded in 2018, SavorEat uses a combination of 3D printing technology and advanced cooking methods to produce plant-based alternatives to meat products. After receiving significant investment midway through last year, the company carried out an Initial Public Offering (IPO) to become listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in December, raising $13 million in the process.

The company’s Robot Chef simultaneously extrudes and cooks plant-based proteins to form alt-meat products that imitate the taste and texture of meat. The technology also enables the printing of alt-meats that cater to a person’s preferences regarding allergies and other genetic modifications. 

Having completed the development of its Robot Chef, the firm has carried out one other pilot project with one of Israel’s well-known burger franchises, BBB chain, to further develop the system and its alt-meat products, while testing its marketing reach throughout Europe, Asia, and the US. 

SavorEat's 3D printed plant-based burgers. Photo via SavorEat.
SavorEat’s 3D printed plant-based burgers. Photo via SavorEat.

3D printing food at uni

While the idea of foregoing shopping, preparing and cooking in favor of 3D printed meals on-demand may appeal to some university students in the ‘flexitarian’ camp – those seeking to cut down their meat intake by adhering to a mainly vegetarian diet – they may still have to wait some time before this becomes reality.

Initially, the pilot with Sodexo will see the installation of SavorEat’s Robot Chef at selected universities in the US, where the system and initial alt-meat products will be examined. During the coming year, and following a preliminary planning process and feedback from Sodexo, the pilot will get underway at the chosen universities in 2022. 

Here, several of the Robot Chef systems will be in operation, and SavorEat hopes that the exposure it gains from its target audience of 20-30-year-olds will be advantageous as the technology moves closer to commercialization. According to the company, almost half of this target group declare themselves to be flexitarians and will likely make up a large percentage of the firm’s customer base if and when the products are commercialized. 

Beyond the university pilot, Sodexo and SavorEat have expressed their wish to look at additional pilots and more long-term cooperation in the future, a move that the food printing firm sees as a critical step towards the commercialization of its technology and products within the US market. 

“Sodexo’s partnership with SavorEat will further extend our ability to deliver the plant-based foods our clients’ customers are demanding in increasingly growing numbers,” said Husein Kitabwalla, CEO of Services Operations and Food Transformation at Sodexo North America. “In 2020, US retail sales of plant-based foods grew 11.4 percent to a record $5 billion and Sodexo has long been a champion of plant-based alternatives – both from an environment and revenue perspective.

“This partnership between Sodexo and SavorEat will only further our ability to offer consumers choice.”

The SavorEat team. Photo via SavorEat
The SavorEat team. Photo via SavorEat

Israel’s blooming 3D printed food scene

Israel has become somewhat of a hub for 3D food printing start-ups who are all vying for a market share of the emerging sector. While few have made commercial gains with their technology thus far, there has been plenty of activity recently as the demand for alt-meat offerings continues to grow. 

One firm that has managed to commercialize its food 3D printing technology is Redefine Meat, which launched its first series of ‘New-Meat’ products to selected restaurants and hotels in Israel. The range consists of a 3D printed plant-based burger, sausage, kebab, middle eastern ‘cigar’, and ground beef, and the rollout is planned to be extended to Europe later this year, and to the US and Asia in 2022. 

The company has grown rapidly since its founding, and in February raised $29 million in Series A funding with the vision of becoming the “world’s largest alt-meat company” by the end of the decade. 

Meanwhile, fellow Israeli food tech start-up MeaTech revealed plans to enter chicken fat production during 2022 using the technologies gained from its acquisition of Peace of Meat, a developer of cultured fat products, in December last year. The company is also looking to scale the 3D bioprinting of pork cells in order to expand its addressable markets, having already successfully printed an edible cultured beef fat structure.

Elsewhere, Israeli cell-based 3D bioprinting platform Aleph Farms is looking slightly further afield with its food printing technology, having previously 3D printed meat on the International Space Station. The firm is currently discussing plans with several space agencies and technology partners to develop methods for cultivated meat production in space.

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Featured image shows SavorEat’s 3D printed plant-based burgers. Photo via SavorEat.