Somewhere deep in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Nestle researchers are working on a project codenamed Iron Man. The goal: to create a machine that can produce personalized nutritional supplements on demand, something in the vein of the replicator from Star Trek.
Granted, Iron Man won’t, say, whip up a perfectly toasted BLT for you. Nestle’s plan is for the device to provide an alternative to off-the-shelf multi-vitamins — which some researchers believe “have no clear benefit and may even be harmful.” Nestle proposes a more focused approach. Once a patient’s (or home user’s) dietary deficiencies have been identified, the Nestle machine could whip up a custom cocktail to address those shortcomings.
It’s a contrast to another modern nutrition project you’ve probably heard about called Soylent. Soylent’s creator took a generalized approach, determining which nutrients people needed to ingest and in what quantities and whipping up a powder that can be mixed into a drink. Really, Soylent isn’t that different than the liquid medical foods that are already on the market or the custom meal replacements sites like True Nutrition offer, but the catchy name and back story generated a lot of buzz.
One-diet-fits-all approaches generally don’t work, however, so Nestle’s personal touch would be a major improvement. Ultimately, the Iron Man project could lead to a supplement-delivering Nespresso machine. You know, like the ones Penelope Cruz has been showing off during your Hulu binge-watching sessions. Pop in the supplement capsules you require, press the “brew” button, and minutes later you’re enjoying a delicious (or completely flavorless, perhaps) beverage that plugs all the nutritional holes in your diet.
All Nestle has to do is combine Iron Man’s dietary supplement-mixing powers with a food-based 3D printer, roll in a way to flavor and color the creations, and we’ll all be able to enjoy synthetic nutritive output like so many redshirts aboard the USS Enterprise did.