Lunch breaks, family dinners, and restaurant outings of the future
We’re wasting insane amounts of food. We overeat, consume too much meat, and exhaust our limited resources. The vicious circle can break, though, if convenient alternative solutions are at hand.
We’ve asked experts for a sneak peek into the future, and the good news is: changing our habits might be easier than you’d expect. And not just that – those who understand the enormous opportunities of optimizing the way we eat can turn their ideas into thriving businesses.
Meat consumption is a problem: at least on the current scale. If you’ve ever tried Beyond Burger, you already know that a future with less meat can be damn tasty. If you liked these juicy patties, you’re in for more surprising treats, as alternative proteins are the holy grail of food-focused innovators. “We’re reaching a tipping point from trend to a revolution – it’s something that’s here to stay. It’s brought in by a new era of conscious consumerism,” explains George Vou, CEO of The Mighty Kitchen – a company creating plant-based, sustainable chicken.
The race for the most accurate replica of meat continues. Fat, structure, taste – imagine the complexity! It’s certainly a worthy challenge, be it a plant-based or lab-grown product. While we wait for that perfectly believable sustainable steak, there is a way to get animal protein into your system without feeling guilty. You may not want to hear the solution: it’s insects.
“Western consumers are not used to bugs,” explains Radek Husek, CEO of Sens Foods, a company that runs cricket farms and turns it into protein-packed food. Why crickets out of all the world’s insects? They seem to have the least resistance among the public. “Crickets scored the best [among people], much better than cockroaches or flies. They also have a high content of protein, and they can be farmed well,” Radek outlines.
We’ve known about our planet’s vulnerability for a while, but sustainable initiatives weren’t necessarily a sexy topic that investors jumped for a couple of years back. “We went into San Francisco, and I really heard this sentence. “Burn it all, I don’t care, where’s my money.” It definitely used to be harder to talk about sustainability benefits of our products,” says Radek.
Things have changed – sustainability is in, and younger consumers are vigilant about their fragile future. Christine Gould, CEO of Thought for Food, mentions that what used to be called corporate social responsibility is today’s business as usual. “It’s really cool to see that companies are raising lots of money, showing that this is not a trend; it’s a real phenomenon. These types of solutions were considered niche 5-6 years ago, and now they’re creating a lot of momentum in the market outside the usual investment areas,” she says.
What do you do when there’s not enough water – a threat that is very real? Israel already faced this situation, and a hostile, dry land couldn’t stop their advanced agriculture. Yossi Vardi, the godfather of Israel’s hi-tech industry, explains that harsh conditions proved to trigger groundbreaking innovation. Israel started using a deep irrigation system that brings water to the root of plants, recycles 85 percent of its water, and champions desalination.
“This was one end of the equation – the other end was to develop products, plants, and trees which are using less water per unit of output. The scarcity of resources drove the technology,” Yossi says, painting a picture of a future that may be ahead for many countries.
Having solved the resource problem, Israel managed to bring tech into growing its food supplies. “We developed a whole industry of greenhouses where we’re raising vegetables in a very effective way. I invite anyone interested in going to YouTube and searching Israel tomato growing, and you will see tens of videos showing a variety of technologies,” Yossi suggests. The startup nation also looked into the problem of bee reduction, which means threatened pollination. Potentially catastrophic, so Israeli scientists are working on robots that supplement pollination by gently shaking flowers.
Nutrition is key
Excellent, we have sustainable food; now it needs to be popularized. Tastiness is a must – and in the age of the empowered consumer, its benefits need to be clear. The producers need to master communication to spread awareness about nutrition and dispel misconceptions.
“We’ve gone past the eras of big misunderstanding where we were brought up associating certain things – calcium is only in milk, or that protein is steak or chicken. We’re in the space of altering perceptions where that thing that you need, you can attain it on a nutritional level or on a functional level from the products we provide,” George Vou pinpoints. Christine agrees that focus on nutrition has been heightened, and companies can’t compete simply on sustainability and supply chain security. Health is another huge selling point.
No to food waste
One third of the food intended for human consumption every year – around 1.3 billion tons – is wasted or lost. This is enough to feed 3 billion people – approximately three times more than are currently starving. Moreover, if we managed to stop wasting food, we’d cut down 8 percent of our emissions. Smaller initiatives such as community fridges or even dumpster diving have been ongoing, but the bigger picture is yet to be solved – and that picture is truly enormous. Some startups have already started doing the work: such as Too Good to Go, an app that allows its users to purchase unsold food from top eateries at the end of service to prevent it from being thrown away.
Will we look back at our past eating habits and shake our heads in ten or twenty years?
It seems that if we want to have a place to live, our eating habits, food production, and food distribution will look different: and that’s an opportunity just waiting to be grasped.