Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage producer, began research on what could be the only kitchen appliance we will ever need. Project “Iron Man” is the company’s foray into nutritional studies, developing tools to analyse a person’s individual nutritional deficiencies and produce food to help control—and ultimately end—health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Project Iron Man has been in preliminary research for about a year, with 15 scientists working on finding genetic links between our diet and our long-term well being. Nestlé hopes Iron Man will change food as we know it, and one day, replace multivitamins and supplements (which have recently come under fire for being a waste of money).
Nestlé paired with Waters Corp., a scientific equipment producer. Together, they’re finding ways to profile individuals and provide them with a nutritional breakdown to show consumers their numbers that express their nutritional well-being (much in the way many people today know their “cholesterol number”). This number goes a long way in determining an individual’s risk factor for diseases and also helps healthcare practitioners determine an appropriate course of treatment through a healthy diet rather than prescriptions.
However, a nutritional profile is expensive and can easily cost over $1000; many healthcare practitioners rely on outdated survey information that cannot match today’s lifestyles. Nestlé hopes that project Iron Man will allow consumers to access their unique nutritional information in the comfort of their own kitchen by using a machine (similar to the “replicator” from the Star Trek series) that can produce foods and drinks to tailor to each consumer’s physiological needs.
Project Iron Man may reduce the need to conduct future participant-studies to monitor nutrition and well-being. With a consumer’s nutritional behaviour stored inside a machine, Nestlé may be able to extract consumer data in order to produce and market new goods. Or if this data is sold, other food, health, and medical companies may follow in similar fashion. What Nestlé plans on doing with the collected information remains a question. Will Project Iron Man become another issue in the fight for consumer privacy?