Investment will see WikiCells edible food packaging ready by 2013, claims developer

By Joe Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

$10m investment will see edible packaged products in 2013

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WikiCells, a food packaging technology that could eliminate the need for plastic containers, has secured a $10m investment to launch its product next year.

WikiCells Designs encloses food or drinks in similar ways to the natural skins that protect fruits such as grapes, apples, oranges or coconuts.

It consists of a membrane of charged particles (of edible substances) bound by electrostatic forces; this surrounds a liquid, foam or solid food and is then wrapped in an edible or biodegradable hard shell.

Robert Connelly, chief executive officer of WikiCell Designs and co-founder, told they had demonstrated products including mousses, juices and even solids such as vegetables.

We are likely to launch products with partners who have well known branded products and directly to consumers on our own.

“It is not confirmed yet what those products will be but we will be in a limited market testing and entry starting this winter with ice cream, cheeses and yoghurts.”

Too early

He said it was too early to discuss where the products would be produced and in what quantities, but more would be known by the end of the year.

WikiCells Designs announced earlier this week that it had closed a deal with Flagship Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners and plans a full global market launch by the end of 2013.

The company said Noubar Afeyan of Flagship Ventures and Terry McGuire of Polaris Venture Partners will join the board.

The technology, dreamt up in 2009 by Professor David Edwards, a biomedical engineer from Harvard University, has already ben demonstrated for ice cream, yoghurt, cheese, mousse, soup, juice and cocktails this year.

Updated issues

When we spoke to Edwards earlier this year​ he identified stability issues with room temperature but Connelly said they had made significant progress, particularly for refrigerated products.

“There is still room for further development and we expect to be at a point where the stability and overall technology can be scaled for mass production, shipment and storage within a year.”

The WikiCell approach was developed through Edwards, designer Francois Azambourg, Wyss Institute director and Harvard professor Don Ingber, and a group of designers and scientists at Le Laboratoire, Paris.

The edible packaging technology allows the transportation of food without the need for plastic containers.

Addressing possible contamination problems, Connolly added the WikiCell product can be washed.

“In some consumer acquisition settings we will require an outer “shell” which will protect the inner from contamination and damage.

“But this can also be completely biodegradable since the WikiCell packaging prevents the food or beverage from touching the outer shell and this prevents the food and beverage from being touched by the outer shell or anything else.”

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