Using beer foam as an advertising medium for the first time
To date, 3D printers have been seen capable of printing with certain food materials. There is even a Barcelona-based startup called Natural Machines that has created a printer called Foodini that can produce complete meals by mixing all kinds of raw materials that can fit through its nozzle.
However, the gastronomic sector can reach a new level thanks to a startup from Navarre that has materialised several disruptive technologies. Cocuus defines itself as a "high-tech innovation laboratory applied to gastronomy". Its founders, Patxi Larumbe and Daniel Rico, come from the world of industry, mechatronics, robotics and industrial laser systems and have been designing 3D printers for two decades.
Cocuus as such was created in 2017 and thanks to all the experience acquired, the company is able to design, programme and produce its own electronic controller boards for the devices it launches on the market.
The Navarre-based startup has created several products. The first of these is Laser Glow, a laser printer capable of 'sculpting' at a speed of up to 200 mm per second. From a digital file it can mould any desired shape on dough, vegetables, meat and fish.
"We have changed the paradigm of how 3D printing is done. Normally it is done in layers and it takes quite a long time, between 1 hour and 10 hours in plastic, and when it is done with food, as it is done with an extruder and the layers are thicker, it takes between 20 minutes and 1.5 hours. We print in 10 seconds," says the entrepreneur. To create Laser Glow, the promoters of this project spent a year locked themselves away with a kitchen team to learn about their needs.
The speed of the invention allows for many possibilities in everything to do with catering, events, festive events, personalisation, etc. For example, a company could engrave its logo or any other motif on hundreds of tapas, snacks, etc. in just a few minutes.
An advert for every beer
The second product created by Cocuus is Level-Up, a printer using inkjet technology, but modified to print on food. "With this machine what we have done is to build the world's first beer printing technology," Larumbe points out. "We are creating the first company to exploit beer foam marketing. It may sound crazy, but there are 710,000 beers consumed every minute in the world and with the 'free' foam as a potential advertising medium".
The co-founder of Cocuus even explains how there would be a system of impacts, with advertising rates that would increase at times when there is the highest consumption of beer at a festival, a football match, etc. "Moreover, it is a message that leaves no one indifferent. Everyone photographs it and shares it on social networks," he says.
Level-Up works by using food dye as its ink and can also be adapted to print on coffees, doughnuts and even piquillo peppers. The startup has even modified these inkjet printers so that they can print with bacteria - in order to speed up certain processes - or with flavourings instead of dye.
A third line of research that the company has opened up is 3D food printing for the geriatric and hospital environment. The aim of this line of business is to make meals in these centres, which can be unattractive for the sick or elderly, look better.
"There is a global problem, with millions of people in the world who cannot chew properly. Some of it is permanent and some of it is temporary. They are given purees and compotes that are not attractive. Imagine eating this every day recurrently for years. In the end, the food goes in through the eye and this causes apathy and lack of appetite," says José Alfonso García, CEO of the company.
Thus, Cocuus is able to produce solidified disruptive purees that would take the shape of a steak (in the case of meat), a slice of hake (if they are made of fish), a chicken leg (if they contain this ingredient), etc.
In addition to hardware, the company has developed its own software with artificial intelligence that allows the machines to do all sorts of things and the user to select the material, interval, intensity, etc.
Business model focused on sales and rentals
The company, whose main customers include companies in the horeca, catering and restaurant sectors, earns its income from the sale and rental of the machines and the various technologies it produces. In addition, it also sells consumables (dye cartridges in this case ranging from 800 to 1 200 prints). The Level-Up would cost around 3,000 euros and the price of the Laser Glow varies depending on the size, ranging from 10,000 to 17,000 euros.