Future of Food
“What will we eat and drink in the future? The future of food is subject to enormous pressures and constantly changing trends. Tomorrow’s diets will be based on an explosion of choice and incredible array of data. Will we choose for ourselves? How will our food be produced? What new ingredients can we expect to see? And how will all of this affect our environment?
Collected on this page is a variety of my work on the future of food, including conference talks, blog posts, and reports. If you are looking for a speaker, commentator, writer or expert on the future of food, then drop me a line via the contact form. Or just read on to find out more about how food and drink will change and evolve in tomorrow’s world.“
Tom Cheesewright filming in a professional development kitchen for a segment on the future of food technology
Future of food
When scanning the future, I always look for two things: trends, and pressures. The future of food is a great example of how the intersections of these two influences tell us a clear story of tomorrow.
Future of Food: Trends
We live in a world that is shrinking. High speed communications and commodity global transportation brings every culture and product to our doorstep – digitally, if not physically. The impact on our food culture is obvious. Ideas, memes, trends and fads flit through our collective consciousness at an unprecedented rate. One minute the cronut appears on someone’s Instagram feed, the next there’s a dedicated cronut bakery down the road. From cereal cafes to fermented…well, everything, we are seeing an incredibly fast turnover of food trends – just as we are in music, fashion and every other sphere of consumables.
The next few years are likely to see the rise in popularity of a range of international cuisines and street food styles, at least for their fifteen minutes of culinary fame. Very little of true Chinese food culture has yet made it to the UK in a big way. By ‘big’ I mean stalls selling jianbing at every street food market, supermarket versions in the ready meal isle, Greggs doing a version. The same is true of the food of Nigeria and other parts of Africa. It feels like injera could still be a big craze, decades after the denizens of Brixton were enjoying it at local favourite Asmara, especially with our lingering love of fermentation.
These global trends though must always pass through the filter of local culture and here the UK is deeply divided. Food has often been a proxy for class and wealth, this reality remains. The rise of veganism is arguably tied to our growing middle class (much as we like to cling to claims of our working class heritage), and is one of the modern signifiers of wealth, both mental and financial. Meat-rich recipes will struggle to win favour amongst the young, and particularly women that inhabit the meat-rejecting parts of the middle classes. And these groups are key opinion formers that drive the spread of trends.
Meanwhile outside these realms of relative wealth, there is a UK food culture that remains bound to the packaged and the processed. Frequent exhortations from ignorant politicians and wannabe home economists that home cooked food is cheaper and more nutritious ignore the additional demands of scratch cooking: the energy costs, the storage space, the store-cupboard staples, the time. Here, in the absence of benefits reform it is regulation that might have the greatest impact on changing diets, making sugar and salt and other delights/nasties more expensive.
Future of Food: Pressures
Every trend in the future of food also has to be considered in light of the pressures we face, affecting our ability to grow, manufacture and distribute food across the world, as well as the pressures created by our consumption. First amongst these – arguably first amongst all pressures – is climate change. Over the next century, climate effects are going to displace farming and fishing populations, create extremes of drought and rain, and fundamentally shift the prime growing regions for some of our staple crops. Some things we expect to be cheap (e.g. pizza, pasta) might get more expensive without interventions. In fact generally, food will get more expensive. Some things won’t be available at all. And there will be growing pressure to move away from foods, like meat, with a large carbon footprint.
Changes in our consumption patterns will also place pressures on the food industry. The dairy industry, for example, doesn’t look to have a happy future and is already under great strain. The rising epidemic of obesity, caused by our more sedentary lifestyles and the relatively low cost of nutritionally poor foods (amongst other things), creates pressures for regulation and education, and less structured but perhaps even more effective social pressures.
Both the pressures of climate change and consumption are amplified by demographic change. The global population continues to grow. Collapsing birth rates in Europe and changes in immigration policy mean this growth will be distinctly uneven until it tops out in the mid to late century. Then to a greater or lesser extent, every country must face the challenge of a rapidly ageing population.
Future of Food: Intersections
When we take these sets of pressures and trends, some of which I have outlined above, and look for the intersections between them, we start to get a picture of the future. For example, if you consider climate change in combination with the ageing population and the falling availability of migrant workers, it’s clear there is likely to be heavy investment in alternative growing methods in the coming years. Methods that can grow desired produce in regions without the appropriate climate, or where the climate has been disrupted, and do so with the minimum of human labour.
Rising political barriers are unlikely to slow the spread of food cultures around the globe. Today they don’t need to be carried by a diaspora. Instead, the intersection of low-friction global communication and culture, rising self-employment and self-driven learning via digital media will see local entrepreneurs will pick up on attractive trends, ‘appropriate’ new food cultures and build businesses from them. Perhaps without ever even visiting the native country of the food culture they have adopted.
Future of Food: Exploration
These are just some of the many food trends and pressures I have explored so far in my work for a huge range of businesses in the food production, service, and retail industries. There are many more and they change all the time as we move down the timeline.
Creating the Future Pizza
“Working with the PR company for the Big Bang Fair, a huge event for young people interested in science and technology, I created the future pizza.
The pizza is a response to global challenges like climate change, new technological possibilities, and our changing cultural preferences. It incorporates innovative ingredients like vertically-grown tomatoes, nut-based cheese, and flour made from insects!
The story went global, securing coverage in most of the UK national press, and attracting the interest of Germany’s most popular science show, Galileo.”
Future of Food: Tomorrow’s Kitchen
“How do kitchen designers respond to our changing food needs and behaviours? What will be the impact of changing demographics and living trends?
Over recent years I have been asked to look at the future kitchen on multiple occasions, as part of my work on the future of food. I’ve worked with the famous kitchen designer, Johnny Grey, with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, and with Sainsbury’s Bank on this question. “
Profile: KBB Review
In 2017, Tom was interviewed by the trade magazine for the kitchen design industry, KBB Review. Read the profile here where he talks about the trends affecting the future of kitchen design and the future of food.
Future of Food Clients
“The future of food is of critical importance to all of humanity, but it is also critical to the future of many of my clients from industry bodies, to manufacturers and producers, to retailers, restaurants and bars.
If you think I can help you, as a keynote futurist speaker at your event, as a part of your future marketing campaigns, or as a consultant on your future of food strategy, please get in touch.”
Future of Food: Blog Posts
Get in touch
Interested in engaging Tom around a project on the future of food? Get in touch via this form and someone will be back to you as soon as possible. Please provide as many details as you can about the project: is it speaking, writing, consulting or broadcasting – or maybe something else? What’s your timescale?