How to keep packaged food fresh without soft plastic is a global dilemma.
An inventive Taupo teenager has come up with a solution, and, in a year of achievement, Brooke Moore, 16, has just picked up a GirlBoss award.
The Year 12 Tauhara College student's fascination with molecular gastronomy has led to her inventing a biodegradable and edible food wrap. Aptly named Wrapt, if Brooke's invention can be applied on a mass scale to everyday packaging, then food packaging will change forever.
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The commercial potential has attracted a lot of attention. Encouraged by her business studies teacher Kylie Sargison and her family, Brooke is proving as adept in the boardroom as she is in the kitchen. The path from invention to mass production has resulted in awards and partnerships with business innovation groups.
In September she was one of nine young women aged 11 to 18 from around New Zealand to receive a GirlBoss award. Founder Alexia Hilbertidou, 20, said the awards were created to celebrate the up-and-comers, the innovators and the bold young women who are shaping the future of New Zealand.
"What these winners lack in age they make up for in courage and heart. Every one of them has stood up on behalf of others to make our country a better place," said Hilbertidou.
Last year Brooke invented and commercially sold hot ice-cream, but had to abandon it due to consumers being unable to consistently pull off the recipe at home. It was a lesson well learned in testing your product.
"Variations in microwaves meant the icecream didn't always turn out the same way it did for me."
Undeterred, the accomplished and innovative cook invented Wrapt in January and launched it in June this year. Edible pencils is another idea, but she has not yet had time to pursue that.
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She studies molecular gastronomy in her spare time and has become an expert in the science behind changing the structure of food with different recipes or techniques.
In the October school holidays participation in the Global Kaitiakitanga Project took her to Thailand, and she was one of 12 students selected by Young Enterprise to visit Vietnam in the July school holidays. In September she won five out of seven categories at the National Secondary Schools Culinary Competition.
A recent television appearance on Breakfast resulted in 200 orders, an overwhelming volume for the teen who says she can only manufacture one or two units per week in the family garage and keep up with her studies. Since Breakfast Brooke has shut down her online store, and in the next two weeks is meeting with three household brand names.
"I'm not exactly sure what the outcome will be. Punchbowl Packaging has bio plastic covers for their punnets. Zuru has just launched a range of eco-friendly products like toothbrushes. Glad is interested in meeting."
Not wanting to be taken advantage of because of her age, Brooke will be accompanied to these meetings by an intellectual property expert paid for by business start-up agency Soda Inc.
Licensing Wrapt is one option on the table.
"Possibly I may mix the recipe at home and then send it. That way I am not actually handing over the recipe," says Brooke.
She says opening up about nervousness in everyday social situations was a contributing factor in her GirlBoss award. She ended up seeing a counsellor about two years ago after anxiety became overwhelming, but says strangely enough she has always been okay with public speaking. A speech at the GirlBoss awards sparked a reaction, with many people coming up to her afterwards.
In her speech she said: "I hope that I can inspire other girls who have also felt lost, helpless, alone, and in despair. I so desperately want people to know that, even though it feels like the grey clouds are permanent, you will one day learn to appreciate the life you were gifted."
A correspondence student of NCEA level 2 psychology, Brooke says she is fascinated with multi-sensory dining and the psychology behind it. Her dream is to create a unique multi-sensory dining experience with influences from use of different colours, smells, temperatures and sounds.
"You can slightly alter the taste of food and evoke changes. Warm ice-cream is perceived as being sweeter - that's the psychology behind eating."
She is a fan of English Fat Duck restaurant three-star Michelin chef Heston Blumenthal.
"He's into molecular gastronomy as well and is an expert in multi-sensory dining. He's got this seafood dish and diners wear ear buds with the sound of the ocean."
She says it would be cool to travel the world, doing master classes in molecular gastronomy.
She admits to coming up with innovative food ideas quite often but says a next step is to manufacture Wrapt-covered energy bars for hunters and trampers, so they don't have to worry about littering in the outdoors.
"I get ideas when experimenting. I pretty much live in the kitchen."