UPDATE: WikiPearl is collaborating with Stonyfield Farms to create a line of Frozen Yogurt Pearls, now available at select Whole Foods in the United States.
No matter how conscientious food companies are in terms of creating healthful products with low environmental impact, there’s one constraint that even those with the most rigorous standards of sustainability come up against once they’re ready to sell and ship their goods: packaging.
The challenge–a need to balance sustainability, convenience, and food safety–inspired bio-creator and Harvard professor David Edwards to look for a truly organic solution. After researching the natural skins of fruits and vegetables, as well as the way our biological cells transport water, Edwards, along with designer François Azambourg and biologist Don Ingber, developed WikiPearl, a completely natural and 100% edible food packaging for everything from cookies and ice cream to juice and yogurt. So instead of peeling back the foil lid on a plastic container of your morning Chobani, you could pop a couple of bite-sized balls of yogurt (in your favorite flavor combination) for breakfast instead.
Here’s how it works: A small dollop of a food or beverage gets wrapped in an edible skin made from natural food particles bound together by nutritive ions. This skin, known as a WikiCell, acts as a coating against contaminant entry, prevents water loss, and delivers unique nutrients just like the skin of a fruit. WikiCell technology won the grand innovation prize of the jury all categories at SIAL 2012, and was cited among the 32 innovations that will change tomorrow by New York Times Magazine, and the 10 innovations that will change our lives by Figaro Magazine.
It’s good for you, it’s good for the environment–but how good does it taste? That decision is up to you, actually. WikiPearls’ online creator allows users to concoct unique flavor combinations, selecting a cell flavor, filling, and nutrient fortifications, called “benefits.” Creations are then uploaded onto an online gallery, where crowdsourced favorites are considered for production.
Some flavors we’d like to see:
“The Brunch” – waffle cell, champagne filling + beauty benefit
“The Snack” – beetroot cell, goat cheese filling + hunger control benefit
“The Morning After” – coffee cell, bacon filling + recovery benefit
With other flavor categories that range from chocolate to cocktails to soup, WikiPearls has the potential to satiate every on-the-go appetite. Currently, WikiPearls are in limited distribution at the Paris flagship WikiBar and Cambridge-area Whole Foods Markets, but there are plans to expand. In the long term, Edwards envisions WikiPearl vending machines and home technology to help parents make packaging-free school lunches.
All images copyright WikiFoods, Inc.