Puree food company reshaping eating for sick and elderly
Elderly residents with eating difficulties at a Metlifecare retirement village are trialling a fresh way to serve up soft foods moulded in the shape of meat and vegetables.
Puree food company The Pure Food Co is selling sheets of the plastic moulds shaped as chicken drumsticks, steak fillets, carrots, peas to make its blended food more visually appealing.
Director Sam Bridgewater said the company decided to investigate the moulds last year after a study from an Australian food mould company showed consumption of pureed food lifted by about 20 per cent if it looked visually appealing, especially in elderly women.
Metlifecare food and beverage manager Gareth Carden said the 12 residents limited to soft food at Auckland's The Orchards village had not suffered weight loss since chefs started reshaping their meals.
People eat with their eyes and any restauranteur wanted to give diners a positive experience, he said.
"It is about understanding how people enjoy food and trying to be the best we can be."
Bridgewater said the moulds were mostly bought by larger retirement homes for residents suffering from degenerative conditions who found it difficult to eat.
"I am out with customers all the time and I see how hard it is for people, struggling to get [serving] it right."
But making puree that could be reshaped was a trickier task than first expected, he said.
Bridgewater said a consistently smooth texture was crucial because someone who could not chew could choke on a lump as small as two millimetres wide.
But blended meat and vegetables often separate when reheated. So Pure Food's food scientists had to develop a recipe and process that allowed the puree to maintain its moulded shape, without compromising consistency and taste.
The company was yet to decide if it would make and distribute the moulds itself.
The Pure Food Co has moved into its own 600 square metre factory after almost three years as a start-up at South Auckland food innovation site, the FoodBowl.
Bridgewater said it considered contracting another factory to make its food, but the need for hospital-grade cleanliness was too high.
"We have too many people relying on us, we have to get it right."
Having its own site gave the company control, as well as the space and privacy to test new ideas, Bridgewater said.
Breakfasts and desserts would be added to its range soon.
Bridgewater said the company was looking to supply hospitals and retirement homes in Australia and Asia next.
With the world's population ageing, the number of elderly needing smooth food was increasing quickly, he said.