Biomimicry spawns edible packaging for food and cocktails


In an innovative approach to consuming with minimal waste, Harvard Professor David Edwards and his team have developed WikiCells, self-contained, edible packaging for liquids, mousses and emulsions. The membrane that houses the various WikiCells flavors is made from vegetal elements, with a taste deliberately paired to match its contents. What started as an experiment to reduce the waste from packaging on food delivered to impoverished areas in Africa has expanded to focus on the significant impact of food packaging on pollution caused by mass consumption. With such far-reaching ideas in mind, the company launches today with the announcement of the newly introduced WikiCocktail and Wiki IceCream.


The gelatinous skin of the WikiCell, while for the most part created from natural particles, does have some hard science in the form of biochemical polymer chitosan and alginate, or algae extract. The hard shell of the WikiCells, which protects the form and prevents breakage, is made either from bagasse, a fibrous residue from sugar cane, or from isomalt, a sweetener. WikiCells can be washed like a piece of fruit, eliminating the need for extraneous packaging. Edwards began his work with yogurts and mousses, and has now produced his first alcoholic product in the form of the WikiCocktail, which suspends cointreau in a skin made from orange zest.


While the notion of incorporating this technology into mass food production remains pretty far in the future, the WikiCells team have realized their aim of bringing this technology to life and, if their work continues to grow, the implications for its impact on waste reduction could be quite significant. Some will find it ironic that advanced molecular gastronomy is required to fulfill this kind of biomimicry, but skeptics should note that the WikiCell system has no limits in terms of contents, potentially hosting anything from nutrition packs for developing countries to high-end desserts (for the latter market, Wiki IceCream is a creamy delight protected by a hard chocolate shell). The notion that foods should be self-contained may seem like an obvious one, and the company points to the grape as a perfect example of what WikiCells is attempting to be.


WikiCells are also available in WikiCheese, WikiYogurt and WikiFruit as part of the ever-evolving project from Paris-based Le Laboratoire, which under Edwards’ direction has produced other innovative designs such as CellBag, Le Whif and Aeroshot.

Wiki Cocktails and other WikiCells creations will be available at the Lab Store Paris this Fall, and from there will make their stateside debut in Boston in 2013.