How reverse engineering can future-proof our food

sector - food & drink
type - big idea
Big Idea
sector - media & technology
Adam Maxwell, CEO of Voyage Foods, explains how reverse engineering can future-proof the world’s most popular food and drink

Can you begin by introducing Voyage Foods and the company’s area of research?

At Voyage Foods our aim is to decouple food from its source material by re-imagining the potential of nature. We do this by identifying the chemical elements in foods, how the functionality of those specific molecules work, and then try to find equivalents in more reliable and efficient sources. This process is called reverse engineering.

It’s important that we focus on food consumption and consider the sensorial experience of eating popular foods. Most foods – especially products like chocolate – are associated with emotional experiences, not the ingredients that go into them. Our goal is to maintain this enjoyment through sustainable, efficient and healthier ingredients.

How is Voyage Foods tackling food instability and threatened crops?

We're not solving the cacao supply chain issue, but we have created a way to make products with alternative ingredients that don’t rely on threatened crops. Our chocolate, for example, is made from grape seeds, sunflower seed meal and standard sugar. These alternative ingredients are some of the most widely produced in the world – meaning we're not contributing to the current issue of food instability.

People are eating more chocolate and drinking more coffee every year, so those supply chains and growth regions are under strain. There are two ways this will go in the future: one is that these items will become really expensive, and the other is that brands will start producing low-cost alternatives. This is where companies like Voyage Foods can fill that supply and demand gap.

You're creating future versions of foods that are typically considered as vices or guilty pleasures. Do you intend to maintain the treat association with these products?

For now, we want our products to be direct replacements and have no ambiguity in the minds of our consumers. In future, we’ll probably offer products such as low-sugar alternatives, but for now, we want our consumers to feel like they're eating a familiar chocolate bar. We're communicating the idea that it tastes exactly the same as their favourite chocolate bar, but with no chocolate in it. We also want to stick to a retro-futuristic visual identity, to pay homage to the products we have emotional relationships with. We’re maintaining the connection to treat foods by combining novelty, nostalgia and technology.

Published by:

1 November 2021

Author: Savannah Scott

Image: Voyage Foods. Photography by Andria Lo



How can mainstream food brands learn from your innovation?

The ultimate goal for the future is to make our research and science mainstream – and see it incorporated into global grocery products in the next 5–10 years. To be associated with conscious consumption and environmentally friendly food production should be a key aim for food suppliers.

We’re never going to invent something that’s necessarily better than existing coffee, chocolate or peanut butter brands. We’re not trying to improve them in terms of texture and taste, but we have succeeded in producing society’s favourite food and drink without contributing to industries rife with negative environmental and social implications.

What role might Voyage Foods play in shaping our future diets?

We’ll be exploring cross-category opportunities in the food and drink sector, considering how we can allow people to continue consuming the products they enjoy without them harming their health or the environment. We’ll also be investigating the most efficient ingredients for our products, seeking opportunities for us to transform waste by-products from the most heavily produced crops in the world.

‘We have succeeded in producing society’s favourite foods without contributing to industries rife with negative environmental and social implications’
Adam Maxwell, CEO, Voyage Foods

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