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The Future

Top 9 Food Trends in 2019

Growing climate change awareness, digitalisation and an increasingly health-conscious society have undoubtedly driven trends for food-based innovations in recent years. Read on to see how the top 9 trends of 2019 have helped to shape food tech innovations near you.

1. Sustainability

Sustainability has become "cool". This has driven innovation in many exciting ways. Companies like Bakey’s have developed an edible utensil range to combat a ‘throw-away’ culture head-on .1 Others, like Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine, target home-based packaging, as seen in their “This too shall pass” and “Sustainable expanding bowl” concepts.2  By using biodegradable wax-based packaging for the “This too shall pass” range and compostable space-saving products for the “Sustainable expanding bowl”, Tomorrow Machine’s innovations have merged sustainability with practicality.

Find out more about edible utensils 

In shops, concepts like Insignia’s “After Opening Freshness Timer Intelligent Labels” use chemically triggered sensors to indicate the freshness of a given product, hopefully reducing unnecessary food waste.3 More retailers are going ‘bulk’, offering package-free options.

Following The Economist's proclamation of 2019 as the ‘year of the vegan’, plant-based substitutes are similarly rising.4 Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are now creating a host of plant-based meat alternatives, with in-vitro meat and dairy products like Perfect Day’s cell cultured ice cream also gaining popular momentum.5 UK start-up Higher Steaks now offers cell-based meat that requires 99% less land, 96% less water and up to 96% lower greenhouse gas emissions than would be used in traditional meat production.6 Will the average consumer be prepared to eat meat grown in a petri dish? Only time will tell. 

2.  Personalising Your Health

This year has also seen a distinct growth in the interest in individually tailored food and nutrition. Customers are looking for more free-from labels or vegetarian and vegan options.

In food tech, the concept of nutrigenomics has been growing in popularity, with many firms offering DNA testing as a determinant measure for what foods will work best for your body. Although still contentious, services offered by firms such as Nutrigenomix and Habit provide those interested with personalised information regarding predispositions to certain intolerances or which nutrients they are likely to need more or less of.7

3. Eating Local

Trends towards eating local and cutting one’s food miles have led to a boom in urban farm or home-based growing tech. With growing awareness for reducing our environmental footprints, there has been a distinct sway towards opting for locally sourced, artisanal and seasonally-based food products. On a local scale, community-centred food markets offer small-scale food producers a platform to share their products, with higher-end restaurants like Noma using seasonally and environmentally conscious dishes as their signature draw card.

For those seeking to cultivate their food, new affordable options like vertical farms offer a way to grow greens without a spacious garden. Other options, like small aquaponics systems that repurpose excrement from fish as a source of nutrients for vegetables, allow backyard farmers a chance to grow both fish and vegetables in a sustainable closed-loop system. 

Find out more about aquaponics 

4.  Transient food

Modern, busy lifestyles play an enormous role in the food we see on shelves and how products are packaged and presented to us. This year saw a rise in tech supporting the fast-paced ‘eat on the go’ movement, with a distinct sway towards healthier alternatives.

Chowbotics’ Sally the Robot is redefining convenience, giving customers over 1000 customisable salad bowl options at the touch of a vending machine button.8 Other vending options like Alberts Smoothie Station offer personalised smoothies, with cashless payment cutting more time for the consumer.9

Find out more about vending machine innovation 

All in the name of convenience, Chill-Can’s range utilises an in-built Heat Exchange Unit to turn a lukewarm beverage into an icy cold refreshment in just 1 minute using liquefied CO2.10

And if you don’t even have time to step out the front door, the booming online food delivery industry has your back. Expanding under popular demand, companies like Uber Eats - now present in over 670 cities – offer a direct service from thousands of restaurants within your area to wherever you may be.11

5.  Customisation Of Food (DIY)

Demand for food customisation in recent years has seen science fiction become a reality.

On a general scale, it is now easier than ever to get exactly what you want, wherever you want. From alternative milks being available in almost all cafés to vegetarian and vegan options finding their way into even the largest fast food chains, the popularity of free choice has swept the global food industry.

Have you ever thought of printing your breakfast? Well, it may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.  Natural Machine’s “Foodini” uses 3D food printers to customise food with the touch of a button in the home kitchen.12

With the ability to connect to your fitness tracking devices, printers can utilise data to create specific meals perfectly adapted to your caloric and nutritional desires. 3D printing is also being used to combat waste, with by-products and undesirable cuts from fish being transformed into nutritious snacks.13

6. Simple & Smart Products

Coinciding with convenience, food tech also serves to simplify our lives. Grocery stores offer self-checkout options and online food delivery services for those lacking the time to shop at storefronts. Some stores like Amazon have even unveiled payless shopping systems, by which items are scanned and billed directly to the shopper without needing to pull a credit card out.

Even agriculture has turned to tech to simplify its processes. On land, artificial intelligence (AI) is now being experimentally employed to take the guesswork out of growing crops. Vertical farming company Square Roots uses AI to monitor crops without human interference, with environmental conditions adjusted according to image analysis.14

Find out how AI will shape the food systems of the future

Software development in aquaculture by firms such as Aquabyte allows real-time, non-invasive monitoring of fish health and disease risk while reducing unnecessary feed wastage.15 The software reduces the need for inefficient routine surveys of fish health and allows greater control of productivity, all from the comfort of a computer screen.

7.  It’s All About Experience

This year has also seen a rise in those seeking to expand their experiential horizons regarding food. Products once thought a distant concept for many, such as edible insects, are now firmly in the mainstream spotlight. Greater accessibility to the world through ever-decreasing airfare pricing also allows people a first-hand experience of authentic multicultural foods and a chance to bring newfound flavours home.

Some restaurants are also experimenting with concepts like cross-modalism, playing on the psychological science behind how we perceive inputs from our senses of vision, smell, hearing, touch and taste. By reducing or altering specific sensory inputs such as sight – a technique used in ‘dark restaurants’ – our perceptions of other senses such as smell or taste are thought to be heightened. Many firmly believe that by carefully altering the combinations of specific sensory inputs, it’s possible to invoke an entirely new eating experience, with implications extending far beyond extraordinary dining moments and into the realms of solving issues surrounding food waste. Altering perceptions of ‘ugly’ or less desirable foods into more eye-catching and appealing forms through cross-modalism opens the door for new public perceptions of how we think about the food on supermarket shelves. 

8. Social and Sharing (Tech Enabling Sharing)

It’s no secret that the new age of digitalisation and social media comes with its fair share of scrutiny. But, with the world more accessible than ever, so too comes the ability to share. Social media gives us the chance to share food recipes, growing tips, and tips for tackling issues like food waste. It also gives like-minded individuals an opportunity to connect through meet up events and groups.

Apps that link those of us eager to minimise waste are more abundant and easy to use than ever. Too-Good-To-Go and Karma pair consumers with unsold meals and produce, and Olio allows the sharing of surplus food between friends.

9. Product Transparency

Last but certainly not least is the growing demand for transparency in our food products. We increasinglywant to know what we are eating and how it was produced. The power of information has driven what can only be described as a flood of new popularity towards eco-labelled products.

MSC and ASC labels allow us to recognise whether our seafood is accredited as sustainably sourced, Fair Trade stamps give insight into the working conditions of those involved in production, and Rainforest Alliance Certifications indicate a product has met rigorous forestry and agriculture standards. At the same time, with so many labels bombarding the market, confusion over the meanings of respective labels has led to questions about their functionality.

Apps like Farmdrop connect consumers directly to farm owners, and the Marine Conservation Society's Good Fish Guide shows users information on the most sustainable seafood options.16 Businesses like New Zealand’s red meat producer Silver Fern Farms have also jumped on the trend, adding QR coding on packaging that allows consumers to track exactly where their meat has come from.17

This article was adapted from this consumer research report. 

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