The future of food

17. June 2020, MAXFIVE

The coronavirus pandemic has turned pretty much every area of our lives upside down. And this particularly applies to food.


beyond meat
quality of food

The past few months have shown just how dependent we are on international supply chains, and how grateful we all can be to have full supermarket shelves even under such exceptional circumstances, meaning that we don’t have to hoard supplies. Food and nutrition has long been a divisive issue in our society. Special diets, vegetarianism, veganism – never before have our eating habits and our approach to food come under such scrutiny. But what does this all mean for the future? Are we all going to have to make changes? And what trends are on the horizon?

Food of the future

The topics of food and eating define our daily lives and are essential to our survival. We spend an average of five years of our lives eating, and a  lot of the rest of our time on Earth thinking about what we want to eat next! Taking food on board is not just a matter of sustenance and enjoyment; it is also a good social indicator. In many cases, eating habits and consumption give a clear indication of what’s going on in society. And we are facing a huge challenge: in light of the fact that the global population is set to rise to 9.1 billion by 2050, we are going to have to rethink our attitudes and approaches to what we eat. To keep pace with rising demand, food production will have to rise by 70%. But this stands in sharp contrast with our current wasteful attitude to food: around a third of all food produced worldwide is thrown out before it reaches consumers’ plates. Over time, this cannot end well – especially given the fact that there will be billions more mouths to feed over the years to come.

And if that wasn’t enough, factors such as extreme weather events, environmental conditions and crop prices will have a huge influence on how we eat, shop and think in future. All of these issues have been on researchers’ and politicians’ radars for a considerable time, but the coronavirus pandemic has brought the vulnerability and susceptibility of our entire nutrition system into sharp focus – from supply chains to food production. And other problems such as the climate crisis could could get even worse. A shift in awareness is essential, as is taking an active interest in new technologies and forms of food production. Two interesting trends that will shape our approach to food in future are already emerging.

Fertile ground

Having been bombarded with shots of perfect smashed avocado on toast and matcha lattes on social media for so long, the focus is finally starting to turn towards regional produce and imperfections. Agriculture and where our food comes from are increasingly coming to the fore.  In fact, you could say that a dose of reality is the order of the day.

REWE’s organic brand Ja! Natürlich has launched a campaign designed to raise awareness of the importance of healthy soil in Austria. The aim of the Gesunder Boden initiative is to make people aware of how important healthy soil is for the quality of our food and what a big role it plays in shaping the quality of our produce, particularly with regard to climate change. Fertile soil is especially important for coming generations as they too look to enjoy the fruits of the earth.


The bakery Öfferl is also paying close attention to agriculture: its “Two square metres of land” installation is designed to show where the cereal for our daily bread comes from and raise awareness of biodynamic farming methods. The connection: it takes around two square meters of a crop field to make a typical Öfferl loaf of bread. With this in mind, the bakers are also doing their bit to promote biodynamic farming for the good of the environment and generations to come. The topics of land and soil are more important than we might think as they have a fundamental bearing on the quality of the flour we use to make bread and are essential for making sure that freshly baked goods reach our breakfast tables in the first place.

As is so often the case, for all the attention we are paying to being as close to nature as possible, we cannot ignore technology. Farmers are increasingly turning to technology to help keep up with rising demand. There are already sensors that help to identify which areas need more water or fertiliser, while also monitoring the quality of crops as they are harvested. The agribusinesses of the future will increasingly come to resemble tech companies. Developments in this kind of technology are coming at an important juncture, as global demand for food is growing all the time.

From Petri dish to plate

So we can see that the digital age and technological advances will have a major bearing on our eating habits in future. Food futurologist Morgaine Gaye believes that everything we know about foodstuffs will change by 2028 and that there are plenty of food innovations on the way. We already have lab-grown burgers, and it is meat that is undergoing a genuine revolution right now. It’s hard to escape all the hype surrounding the company Beyond Meat. We’ve all seen them: these slightly eerie burgers made using plant proteins that very closely resemble – and taste like – their meat-based counterparts. It is catching on, though, with the company’s products now on sale in 77,000 stores in more than 65 countries worldwide.

Manufacturers have hit a touchstone as the products are geared towards consumers looking to enjoy their favourite foods in a more ethical and sustainable way. Health, animal protection and climate concerns are all driving interest in alternatives to meat. Cows – to categorise them as a country in their own right for a second – produce more greenhouse gases than any other country apart than China. So it is hardly surprising to hear that sales of plant-based foods have risen by more than 17% since 2018 in the United States. Popular meat alternatives take up 93% less land than equivalent beef farms, which not only translates into better yields for farmers but also helps reduce the devastating environmental damage associated with meat eating.

It’s all a matter of taste

So we can see that food is going to change our society in a number of ways. Many of them we have brought upon ourselves, as climate change, overconsumption and our dependence on the food industry will continue to occupy us in future and give rise to foodie innovations that we haven’t even thought of yet.

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