Humans have been eating strange things for a long time. Twinkies, Jell-o, Oreo Cookies, Spam, Avocado-free guacamole. And don’t even get me started on spray-can cheese!
The rise of processed foods in the first half of the 20th century was quick and all-encompassing.
Now that we’ve gotten used to eating chemicals and artificial flavorings concocted in some non-descript warehouse off the New Jersey turnpike, it’s time to get ready to try some new menu items that we hadn’t previously considered.
There’s Less Where That Came From
The next wave of food challenges our preconceived notions of what we do and don’t eat. From bugs to GMOs to Bioplastics, we are going to have to rethink some long-held cultural taboos in order to have a productive trip to the supermarket.
Here’s some interesting examples of what we think is going to be much more common on the menu in the next few years.
People have been eating bugs for thousands of years and today about 2 billion people in the world still utilise insects as part of their diet. And for those of us who don’t put these little six-legged creatures on their menu, it’s no secret that we already consume a lot of bugs every year. It’s just that up until now, this has not likely been intentional. Moving forward, however, we should expect bugs to play a larger and larger part in the make-up of our diet.
Projections put global population numbers at over 9.5 billion by 2050—meaning the possibility of food and water shortages are looming. It’s pretty widely understood that farming meat (particularly red meat) as a primary protein source is a poor use of land and water resources. As these resources get scarcer, we will be turning more frequently to protein alternatives—and insects are one of the more untapped possibilities. Crickets, for example, are an effective source of protein, iron, and calcium, and are a more sustainable option for large scale farming than beef or poultry.
Already, in places like Denver, Colorado insects are starting to make inroads into the restaurant scene. It’s only a matter of time before we’re all putting insect protein powder into our shakes.
What? More processed foods? Well, not exactly. Synthetic meat involves patterning stem cells into animal tissue and then growing that tissue as synthetic meat. This is meat grown by scientists rather than farmers. Dutch food technology company, Mosa Meat claims that, soon, they will be able to create approximately 80,000 quarter pounders out of a single sample.
Of course, none of that matters if it doesn’t taste and feel like the “real” thing, but once it does, it holds the promise of being able to replace our love of meat with a version that is much less resource intensive. Synthetic meat is probably a little further away than insects at hitting the mass market, but hopes are that synthetic meat burgers could be on restaurant menus in the next 5 years or so.
Now this is processed food! 3D printing is simply the process of depositing layers of material one on top of another until an object is created. The Foodini works by loading food ingredients into capsules which can then be printed into “doughs”. In this case 3D printing just starts the food process, as the doughs themselves still need to be cooked via conventional methods.
Although we’re a while off before we’re synthesizing our like they did on Star Trek, there are some 3D-printed food initiatives in place right now. In Germany, Smoothfoods delivers 3D-printed food to patients in aged care who have difficulty chewing. These food products can be composed from mashed vegetables and then congealed with an edible glue. These 3D printed versions are easy to chew and digest while being more texturally and visually appealing than ‘purees’ and thus lead to more positive nutritional outcomes.
And That’s Not All
Other developments in future food include initiatives to modify the human digestive system to process food we currently classify as spoiled, as well as methods to trick our bodies into eating less food (thus reducing the amount of food we need to produce.
Whether it’s what we eat or how we eat, things are definitely going to look (and taste) quite different in the near future.
Interested to find out more on future trends? Find out three trends we've identified as disrupting primary industry in our latest e-book.