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2020 TIME - PART 3: THE FUTURE OF FOOD

What we eat and the way we eat it changes over time. Today, youth appetites are increasingly adapting in line with their values. Why? Eating in modern times has been referred to as a ‘moral minefield’ - almond milk is killing the bees, while brilliant brands like Tony’s Chocolonely (on a mission to eradicate slavery in the cocoa trade) have successfully emerged with the sole purpose of mending unethical, broken, production systems.

REGENERATIVE FARMING, BIODIVERSE DINING AND PLANTS

Expect ‘regeneration’ to be the word of the year, if not the decade, on a broader scale. But, when it comes to food ‘regenerative farming’ is becoming a term used more frequently - in the context of radically rewiring harmful agricultural practises that are driving climate change:

“Intensive farming has so depleted the world’s soils that the United Nations has warned we could have just 60 harvests left. In response, some food brands are asking producers to transition to regenerative agriculture. This term covers a raft of techniques that actively restore soil quality, with the added benefit of sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gases, thus delivering a winwin—food that’s better for the planet and for people too.” Future 100

As a consequence things like ‘carbon labelling’ become an important communication tool for food brands - Quorn recently became the first major food brand to introduce it. This is also likely to lead to a trend in ‘biodiverse dining’ - meals that will cater to more environmentally conscious foodies:

“The United States has lost 90% of native fruit and vegetable varieties since the 1900s. Today, just 12 plant sources and five animal sources make up 75% of the food we consume… despite the fact that there are approximately 300,000 edible plant species globally. And just three crops—wheat, corn and rice —make up almost 60% of plant-based calories in most modern diets… Diversified diets not only benefit human health but benefit the environment through diversified production systems that encourage wildlife and more sustainable use of resources” Future 100

Diverse diets may also be influenced by young people trying to tackle the major issue of food waste. (Sidenote: check out this piece we created for MyWaste.ie to help drive awareness around food waste!)

Already many young people are leaning toward more plant-rich diets. ‘Veganuary’ is in full swing. With this, in Ireland for example, flexitarianism (causal vegetarianism), strict vegetarianism and ‘vegan-ish’ (people mixing plant-based meals into their usual meat meals) have emerged as trends - orders for vegan food jumped by 126% from 2018-2019 and the number of vegan spots serving up meals on Deliveroo has increased by 168% in the past year.

“People used to ask me ‘would you ever be veggie?’ and I’d say ‘no way!’ I was such a meat-eater. Then I watched the documentaries ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘The Game Changers’ on Netflix and I just stopped eating meat. That was about four months ago. I’m now actually more against fish than I am the beef industry - the fishing industry is destroying our seas but it’s out of sight out of mind.” Tierna, 28

This trend is driven largely by young people wanting to eat in a way that is more beneficial for the health of the planet - and their own health. To do so, they are turning to documentaries and online resources, researching science and seeking out trustworthy advice and tips. Already brands like KFC and McDonalds are looking to crack the plant-based market and we can expect flexitarian plant diets to become even more pervasive in mainstream culture in the coming years. Gregg’s in the UK saw a massive surge in sales, relevance and talkability thanks to the introduction of its vegan sausage roll. In fact, if you don’t have a vegan offering as a food supplier nowadays, it seems you’re risking irrelevance.

As a result of these values-driven food trends, it’s no surprise then that we are starting to see the food conversation becoming more political. Interestingly, a judge recently ruled that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief protected under UK law.

LAB GROWN FOOD & CBD

The ‘Impossible Burger’ is already famous - it’s a ‘bleeding’ meatless burger on a mission to make meat obsolete. It’s made from plants. The next trend in the meat alternatives category is set to be food made with microbes and water - in a lab. Scientists are working to replace crops and livestock with more efficient foods. The prediction with this now is that new technologies will make arguments about plant - versus meat diets irrelevant:

Before long, most of our food will come neither from animals nor plants, but from unicellular life. After 12,000 years of feeding humankind, all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming: brewing microbes through precision fermentation. This means multiplying particular micro-organisms, to produce particular products, in factories.” George Monbiot

Young people will benefit from these advances and are set to consume more ‘novel’ ingredients in their meals as diverse diets merge with tech advances. Get ready to hear more about new ‘superfood’ ingredients like Solein powder.

Speaking of ‘novel’ ingredients, the market for CBD - cannabis - is booming. Mainly because of its therapeutic qualities, young people are experimenting with innovative food offerings infused with CBD. Last year, Canna Kitchen restaurant in Brighton, was raided and shut down for offering foods infused with hemp-derived CBD, but we can expect legalities and regulations around this to be ironed out quickly.

ANTI INSTAGRAM SETTINGS & MINDFUL DRINKING

We’ve explored how Gen Z are ‘playing it safe’ when it comes to alcohol in previous 52INSIGHTS editions. Sober bars are now a thing and the alcohol alternative market appears to be gaining a lot of traction among younger generations. A more flexible trend now emerging from this is ‘mindful drinking’- which is described as the opposite of ‘drinking without thinking.’

There are endless predictions and trends to talk about when it comes to food - we touched on delivery services and tech in our exploration of the future of urbanisation last week (food delivery still being a hugely popular site for innovation), and there’s even talk now of ‘anti-instagram dining’ - restaurants moving toward darker designs that are difficult to photograph and therefore ‘encourage intimate interactions and private glamour.’ That doesn’t mean that youth’s appetite for ‘pretty’ photographable food will go away - what we put in our bodies is always going to be a topic of great interest and how it looks will still be important. The future ‘gram is simply likely to be full of lab-grown burgers.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: BRAND TAKEOUTS

What will young people be eating in 10 years time? Diverse diets with more seasonal/local plants, lab-grown meat and plenty of new novel ingredients. Right now, it’s impossible to ignore how much plant-based/vegan offerings are of increasing importance to young people. Communications are really important in this context too - if something is not obviously vegan or veggie, they’ll likely choose something that is very obviously so.

The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ has already adopted a new meaning due to how ethically/values- based young people’s food choices have become. It’s not simply about being kind to animals (although that is still relevant) - the strongest value-driver for food choices will be sustainability. This means that things we now consider diet staples, like chocolate for instance, are likely to be deemed more luxurious and consumed less-often by ethically and environmentally-conscious young people.

See also

GEN Z + ALCOHOL: PLAYING IT SAFE?
GEN Z + ALCOHOL: PLAYING IT SAFE?

Since 2000, the number of drinkers in the world has decreased by almost 5 percentage points, from 47.6 to 43.0, according to the World Health...