Today, there is a huge range in what food is available to you, depending on where you live in the world. There are places in developing countries where there isn’t enough food to go around, and the diets are largely composed of cereals and starchy vegetables, purely to survive. But there are also places where food is overflowing to the point of obesity in some developed countries, and people eat for luxury, taste, and enjoyment. Our food ideal should be somewhere in the middle of this spectrum – plenty for all to eat and enjoy, but healthily and in balanced quantities.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 is to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2050. But achieving this goal will likely require some futuristic innovations in the food industry.
“Most of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight,” with worldwide obesity nearly tripling since 1975. But this isn’t a matter of just having more money to buy and eat more food. Often the poorest people in developed areas can also be the most overweight, with their main source of nutrition coming from the cheap, easy, and incredibly unhealthy convenience and fast-food options. So, the food goal for the future isn’t just affordable meal options, but healthy options.
So, what will food be like in the future?
I pondered the futuristic idea of my daily nutritional sustenance being fed to me in a pill. In war-torn and developing countries where food is scarce and transportation is difficult, this could be a viable option for the future. But as technology advances to meet the needs of our exponentially growing population, there are many more options out there.
New sources of protein are already coming to light. For example, entomophagy, more commonly known as insect eating, is far more sustainable for the planet at large. Studies have shown that crickets are one of the most sustainable sources of protein and contain just as much nutritional value as meats. Even jellyfish have come up on scientists’ radars as having high nutritional value with the added benefit of reducing overfishing of other sea animals, given their abundance. However, I know personally, it’s hard to see myself eating these on a regular basis – crickets and jellyfish have never really struck my fancy! Finding ways to position and design alternative proteins and nutritional sources as delicious is part of the future sustainability challenge.
Other protein options include plant-based proteins and lab-grown (or cultured) meat. Gaining momentum is the new concept of “sustainable hybrid proteins” which blend animal-based with plant-based sources of protein, enabling greater accessibility and affordability of good taste combined with dense nutritional value.
Perhaps the most interesting futuristic food concept I have come across so far is sonic-enhanced food, which explores the effect of auditory stimulation on the way we experience familiar food. The study found that the taste of food can be manipulated when combined with a background soundtrack that modifies its sonic properties. For example, generally low brass sounds tend to make foods taste more bitter, and high-pitched tones like piano keys or bells make things taste sweeter than usual. More research is leading to the investigation of health benefits from sonic-enhanced eating. By enhancing flavour with sound, meals could be produced with less salt and sugar, but still enjoyed to the same extent. Who knows? Your favourite chocolate bar could soon come with a recommended playlist!
The future of food is ever evolving to our global needs, with scientific and technological advancements playing a key role in food innovation. The focus on sustainability in our food systems was explored in a previous blog, “Finding Sustainable Food Systems,” which identifies what we can do now to help mould the future of food to fit our future reality.