Diversity, data and health will all profoundly shape the food industry over the next decade, according to research exploring shifts in food production and its effect on diets.
Department 22, an innovation and future forecasting agency in London, has outlined the ways in which the food industry will develop in the next ten years and the impact this will have on diets.
The agency’s latest research has revealed five key predictions for the upcoming decade:
As food security becomes a greater concern, diets will become broader in order to incorporate key nutrients from sustainable sources. A prominent factor will be alternative proteins, which will see a rise in the consumption of insects, plant-based and microalgae. This will also mean a shift towards oceanic-based diets that will move beyond standard white fish, salmon and shrimp, that are consumed in large quantities today, towards those that will be in greater abundance, such a jelly fish, numbers of which are expected to grow as a result of global warming.
The past 50 years has seen a largely seen the development of processed foods, the majority of which have added salt and sugar – but this is changing rapidly. More consumers are making a direct link between food and their health, increasingly seeing food as medicine. This had led to a focus on the reduction of salt and sugar, a trend which will continue to establish in the mainstream market – with the emergence of kombucha as a replacement to fizzy drinks as just one example. Quick and simple health foods are also going to be hugely influential, with balanced meal replacements like Huel already on the rise.
Critical tech advancements, such as AI, biometrics and block chain will shift further to impact all aspects of consumers’ everyday diets. Three key examples include the concept of quantified self – where tech is used to obtain data that, in turn, is used to understand individual needs. Another example is blockchain technology, that will give consumers greater access to information on traceability – enabling them to track each element of a product. Finally, the ability to monitor and measure data, such as carbon emissions and wastage – will enable manufacturers and producers to operate more sustainably.
Technology will also have a larger part to play in the production of food from scratch, including farming. Cellular food, such as lab grown meat, single cell organisms such as algae, and even the use of electricity and air to create protein, will become more common place. As our cities and their populations continue to grow, more solutions will be requirement to enable the production of nutrient-rich food within a non-arable setting. Department 22 has been working in this field recently, developing indoor hydroponics which allows crops to grow in water.
Department 22 argue that none of the above trends make sense when a third of food produced goes to waste and predict that one solution will be the incorporation of by-products into diets. Not only is food waste an issue, but there are also considerable untapped energy resources. One example of a solution is the use of excess heat from data servers to support food growth in greenhouses. This thinking also applies to the untapped resource of space, which will require more innovation, such as utilising empty rooftops and basements to grow food in cities.