I have been thinking about the future…
No that doesn’t mean that I have a relationship problem. It is just that I have 2 small children and I do spend a reasonably amount of time thinking about what their world is going to be like.
And I had the chance to ask Dr Morgaine Gaye, food futurologist and director of bellwether, some questions about this. Morgaine spends all her time thinking about the future, and predicting likely changes, this time on behalf of the team at Siemens.
So – I’ve taken what she said, linked it to some of my reading and thoughts, and here we are: three main trends.
Sustainable and sensible resource use
It seems like the biggest change we are going to see is one driven by the fact that we are due to have 9 billion people on this planet by 2050, and of course the amount of available land isn’t going to grow (as Mark Twain said, “buy land, because they don’t make it any more”). We are going to have to be more sensible about how we use our resources.
Water, for example, is now treated as a limitless resource in the UK (it was only recently that the Irish actually paid for their water, and even in the driest parts of Britain, not everyone has a water meter). It probably won’t be in the future. Water treatment and filtering is going to get better – so we can make better use of it, and it pollutes less. And technologies are likely to help us save water, to be more efficient without having to compromise our lifestyles too much.
This feeds through to the food we eat too. We are going to have to be less fussy. We are already seeing a bit of a backlash against people dumping perfectly good fruit and veg just because it is the wrong shape or size, and this is likely to move on and be incorporated into everyone’s basic outlook. So we’ll see more wonky parsnips, or ugly potatoes in the shops, and will eat them.
Of course, the rise in population is going to make meat more expensive. Why? Because most animals bred for meat are fed grain and other foods which could just as well feed people. And there are going to be more people. So we will start treating meat as a luxury, not an every-day food. Which in turn means that we will start looking for better quality meat. If you only have meat once a fortnight, you are going to make sure it is delicious.
And all this leads to us using other foods, chief among them is insects. Insects are nutritious, efficient to raise, and there is really no good reason not to eat them, apart from the ‘yuk’ factor. And if people can eat prawns, there is no reason they can’t eat other arthropods.
Resilience and waste reduction
Resilience is likely to raise its importance too. We have at the moment a global, just-in-time trade, where one natural disaster the other side of the world has repercussions here. The big floods in Thailand a few years ago made a huge difference to manufacturers here, who were importing parts from factories near Bangkok. So we are likely to see a shortening of supply chains, more local food and manufacturing. And at the family level, it is going to feed into better storage – we may dehydrate our surplus garden produce to store for winter, for example.
Resilience means also less waste. We are likely to see a lot of focus on not wasting food, water or materials, and more care taken of what happens to that waste. We may even see automatic measurement of waste in bins – to maybe name and shame people who waste too much.
More time, and a nicer environment
But let’s look at the upside. Time is less likely to be an issue. We are more and more likely to have more leisure. And that leisure is going to be nicer. There is already the appreciation that background noise leads to illness, and so work is going on to reduce the noise in every-day objects, from fridges to cars. So we will live in a quieter world. And we may well live in a world which smells better too, where you aren’t bombarded by really strong smells – it seems likely that there may be regulation on smells, as there already is on sound.
So, is the overall picture optimistic or pessimistic?
I think it is somewhere in the middle. Sensible. Things we now think of a cheap will become expensive, but that won’t stop us enjoying them, it will just mean that we will enjoy them a bit less – so a Sunday lunch with meat and two veg will turn into a special treat, for example. And wasting less – well, that’s a no-brainer. Waste is stupid, we know that.
Then in the middle, we are going to see things that are just different. We may go out for a mealworm burger, or eat rehydrated courgettes for supper. I know it sounds strange now, but no stranger than how eating spaghetti was to my grandparents.
And the positive. More time to enjoy ourselves, and less of an assault on the senses from our cities – so more peace to make that enjoyment even better.
Research undertaken for Siemens.
Gaelle Thibaud, Group Marketing Manager – Siemens says: ‘Siemens is known for its visionary ideas with intelligent technology and outstanding innovation. We design our home appliances to provide answers to the social, economic and environmental challenges of the today and tomorrow. So it is very exciting for us to collaborate with world-leading food futurologist, Dr Morgaine Gaye. Her field has led her to uncover and understand the complexity of food and drink trends and how they impact upon our society, culture and beliefs. The trends she has researched, each with potential challenges support Siemens’ solutions for the future. For example, her trend of Water As A Luxury highlights the implications of the growing water shortage, a challenge for which Siemens has already been creating innovative solutions, such as appliances using less water. Dr Gaye’s insights can help Siemens adapt to future consumer demands before they even become aware of them.’
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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