The future of food: What will we be eating in 20 years?

The future of food: What will we be eating in 20 years?

By Vasambal Manikkam

If we go back in time, the “Future of Food” concept began nearly 15 years ago, when genetically modified foods (GMOs) were introduced in the United States. Now, in 2018, the question of what and how will we be eating in the future is continuously evolving. As reported by CSIRO, Australia, food demand is expected to continue to increase by 14% per decade, meaning food production needs to be nearly double its current rate in order to keep up. So, what will we be eating in the next 20 years and how will we feed more than 10 billion people across the globe by 2050?

Here are five ingredient innovations that will represent the future of our food and, perhaps, enhance food security, help feed the world’s growing food demands, and promote a sustainable global food production.

High protein insects

How would you feel about consuming burgers, flour, and snack bars made out of insects? Yes, insect-eating, also known as entomophagy, represents the future of food. In fact, it is already a common practice in Thailand, China, Brazil, Mexico, and some African countries. For food security purposes, insect farming is actually considered a sustainable way to provide an ecologically viable food source to the world’s population. Certain species of insects, typically crickets, grasshoppers, and mealworms, are becoming the talk of the town in the field of high-protein food products. The aim of this innovation is two-fold:

  1. primarily tackle the war on malnutrition in under-developed countries.
  2. significantly reduce the environmental impact of the meat-heavy western diet.

Notable insect farming investors:

European firms, such as the UK’s Future Positive Capital, Netherlands’ Aqua-Spark, and France’s Bpifrance FPCI Ecotechnologies, are the notable investors in the insect farming industry.

The best funded startups:

The best funded startups are Dutch black soldier fly startup Protix, South Africa’s AgriProtein, and France’s Ynsect.

Mealworm-based burgers hit Swiss markets:

Interestingly, mealworms are already on the market in Switzerland. As published by FoodIngredientsFirst, a Swiss startup called Essento, developed insect burgers for human consumption. They are bug-balls that resemble falafels and are packed with essential nutrients, such as proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, and fibers. The new Swiss food safety laws, envisaged in May 2017, allow for the sale of food items containing three types of insects: grasshoppers, crickets, and mealworms.

Allergen-free nuts

A typical example of an allergen-free nut is the gluten-free tiger nut. As showcased at the Ingredient Show 2018 in Birmingham, UK,  Ani de la Prida, co-founder of The Tiger Nut Company, explained the functional benefits of tiger nuts, noting:

“Tipped to be the next gluten-free superfood, tiger nuts are high in fiber and can be used as an additive-free, minimally processed ingredient in gluten-free baking.”

The tiger nut, or Cyperus esculentus, a crop of the sedge family or weed plant, is widespread in Southern Europe, Africa, and Madagascar, as well as the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent. Resembling sweet almond-like tubers, they are well-known for their high nutritive value, especially high fiber content, oleic acid, vitamins C and E, and minerals like potassium and phosphorus. Importantly, tiger nuts are mainly used for the production of milk, which is suitable for consumers who are intolerant to gluten (celiac disease) and lactose. This video highlights how this special nut can be used, such as in your favorite smoothies.

Plant-based meat substitutes

We are quickly realizing the impact meat production has on the global ecosystem and biodiversity. Are we moving towards a meat-free dinner plate? Well, the trend is increasing. The health-conscious generation is asking for more plant-based products on the market, with clean labeling. Some companies are progressively making foods that taste just like meat. Examples include:

  • Beyond Meat: This Los Angeles-based company made the first plant-based burger. Other products include plant-based sausages, soy and pea protein-based chicken strips, and pea protein-based beef crumble.  
  • Fry Family: This South Africa-based company, similar to Beyond Meat, has over 15 different plant-based meat substitutes.
  • Impossible Foods: This California-based startup has done the impossible and made a plant-based burger that actually sizzles and bleeds like a meat burger, as demonstrated in the video. The company’s Impossible Burger recently became certified as Kosher.

 

 

All of these plant-based innovations will reduce the need to raise and slaughter cattle and other livestock for human consumption. This could go a long way towards reducing animal cruelty, as well as tackling the issue of climate change. Moving towards plant-based substitutes could result in 15 times less water utilization, a reduction in methane gas emission, and saving our beautiful rainforests from further destruction. However, we should still consider the consumption of less processed foods and more real cooking, with nutrient-dense foods, to prevent nutritional deficiencies.

Algae

Algae farming could represent a potential game-changer in the way we eat food. Abundantly produced in both marine and freshwater environments, algae is seen as a solution for the problem of food shortages. An agricultural practice that has already begun in Asia, algae can be used to feed both humans and animals and could become the world’s biggest crop industry.

Terramino Foods: This start-up, based in San Francisco, developed a process to grow fungi that can be turned into a ‘salmon’ burger. It tastes, looks, and smells like the actual fish. Kimberlie Le, Co-Founder and CEO of Terramino Foods, said that it is actually the addition of algae and other plant-based ingredients that make the burger taste similar to salmon. With the growing problem of overfishing, as well as the accumulation of pollutants such as mercury and microplastics in fish, Terramino’s algae-based seafood could potentially serve as a sustainable seafood replacement.

Lab-grown meat

So, what’s in stock for meat lovers? In the hope to curb global warming, while still providing meat for people who love their meat products, scientists have come up with the idea of producing synthetic meat grown in the lab. This scientific innovative technology began as early as 2013 and involves the culturing of ground beef from cow stem cells. Lab-grown meat, also known as cultured or in-vitro meat, apparently looks, cooks, smells, and tastes like ground beef. As published by Independent, the producer says, “The products could be on sale by the end of 2018.”

But what does that mean from a legal and regulatory perspective? Conversations about this aspect have already begun by various associations. For example, the United States Cattlemen’s Association is arguing about the legal definition of ‘beef’ and ‘meat’. Similarly, in Australia, the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) Authority will ensure that a public health and safety assessment is performed on each different lab-grown meat product. Australians love their meat, no question about that. Hence, Australian regulators want to ascertain that the claims being made would not mislead their consumers and breach consumer laws. They mentioned:

“As a ‘novel’ food, lab-grown meat triggers requirements under our food standards codes.”

The take-away

In conclusion, the urge to assure food security, prevent food shortages and malnutrition, avoid food intolerances and allergies, protect global biodiversity, advocate for clean food production, and minimize animal cruelty, these types of innovations will be driving the way we will be eating in the decades to come. Algae, synthetically grown meat, plant-based meat alternatives, edible insect burgers, and protein bars could well be on the global menu. Importantly, it is yet to be seen what sorts of regulations will be enforced in various countries regarding the claims and supply of these advanced food products.

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