Frankenfoods: Six Snacks Prepared In The Lab
1. Carbonated Fruit
While enjoying a nice, crisp apple or a ripe, juicy pear, do you ever think to yourself, "This would be so much better with a little carbon dioxide"? Well, apparently you aren't the only one. Fizzy Fruit, the world's first carbonated fruit, is now hitting grocery store shelves near you.
Neurobiologist Galen Kaufman got the idea for carbonating fruit when he bit into a pear that had been hanging out in a cooler filled with dry ice. The carbon dioxide from the dry ice had mixed with the water content of the fruit, resulting in a carbonated effect. Together with the Food Innovation Center, a research facility at Oregon State University, Kaufman developed this idea into Fizzy Fruit. It's been a hit at pilot schools across the country and is now served in more than 600 school districts. And if the carbonation in the fruit doesn't have enough fizz factor for you, maybe you should think about adding your fizzy fruit to your fizzy yogurt"¦
2. Carbonated Yogurt
First came drinkable yogurt. Then Go-Gurt, in tubes. Now, carbonated yogurt? Yep. It's called Fizzix and it comes in flavors that sound suspiciously like Pop Rocks, including Blue Raspberry Rage, Strawberry Lemonade Jolt and Fruit Punch Charge.
Brigham Young food scientist Lynn Ogden came up with the idea similar to the way Fizzy Fruit was conceptualized "“ after adding dry ice to yogurt it was filled with CO2 when the ice broke down. He and his students messed around with the idea for years before perfecting the technique (yogurt is prone to exploding when carbonated) and receiving a patent. Ogden started selling "Sparkling Yogurt" on the BYU campus and eventually sold the idea to General Mills in 2006. Although kids apparently love Fizzix, it didn't win any fans when Fortune magazine did a taste-test on the product "“ one tester referred to Fizzix as "Yuck-plait."
3. Caffeinated Donuts
If your idea of breakfast is more along the lines of a jelly donut and a Diet Coke or three, soon you can cut combine the two. Dr. Robert Bohannon, a molecular scientist who graduated from the Baylor College of Medicine, is the brains behind Encaff, an additive that inserts caffeine into everyday foods while hiding the bitter caffeine taste. Bohannon has already developed Buzz Donuts and Buzzed Bagels and is working with companies to inject Encaff into gum, breakfast bars and smoothies. Food that has been Encaffienated will contain somewhere between 50 to 100 mg of caffeine, which is a pretty typical amount "“ a standard cup of coffee contains about 50 mg.
4. Caffeinated Beer
One area of the market Bohannon can't corner, though, is beer. Caffeinated beer has been on the shelves since 2005, when Anheuser-Busch launched BE (pronounced "B to the E"). BE contains 54 mg of caffeine and smells like "blackberry and a little bit of cherry", according to the creator of BE, Nathaniel Davis. But one bartender says it tastes like tangerine. I guess it's one of those things you will just have to try for yourself "“ that is, if mixing a stimulant and a depressant doesn't concern you at all. BE "“ also known as Bud Extra "“ is now just one of many caffeinated beers available to consumers, including Labatt's Shok (60 mg of caffeine), and Molson's Kick (55 mg of caffeine).
5. Bacon-Flavored Salt
Bacon Salt is a product that was just launched by self-titled "Bacontrepreneurs" Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow. It's a zero-calorie, zero-fat, zero-carb, zero-meat seasoning that tastes just like bacon. It's even kosher. Justin and Dave came up with the idea while discussing their mutual love for bacon, and shortly thereafter, Bacon Salt was born. They held a taste-test amongst friends early in 2007 and received rave reviews, except for the maple-flavored bacon salt. However, the original, hickory and peppered flavors were big hits. Justin and Dave say that Bacon Salt is delicious on everything from grilled meats to veggies to, yes, bacon. Dave's father-in-law claims to like it on ice cream and a Bacon Salt fan sent a picture of Bacon Salt on watermelon. If anyone tries Bacon Salt on ice cream, be sure to let me know.
6. Sliced Jelly
Sliced jelly is for those days when you really don't have the energy to open up a jar and get out a knife to make your PBJ. John M. Codilis is president and CEO of P.J. Squares LLC, a company that makes a sandwich slices with strawberry or grape jelly on one side and peanut butter on the other. Hungry consumers just have to unwrap a slice, throw it on some bread and enjoy. No jars, no knives, no muss, no fuss! Although it might sound a little unnecessary and, OK, more than a little lazy, it does have practical origins: the inventor of peanut butter slices (plain peanut butter without a side made of jelly), John Bogan, was watching his young son attempt to make himself lunch. He was completely destroying his slices of bread in the peanut butter spreading process, so Bogan thought he would invent something easy for small kids to use. Codilis says about 40 percent of P.J. Squares buyers unwrap the slices and eat them solo, no bread required.
I'm sure these few examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bizarre products on the market. What have you seen? Better yet, what have you tried?
You'll be seeing a lot more Weird Science here on the site, including a series of posts from Senior Weird Science Correspondent Chris Weber.