The Future of Food

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futures
sector - food & drink
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Future of
In response to social, cultural and environmental challenges, food is now being harnessed as a tool to deliver personal and planetary transformation, from the rise of longevity diets to the growth of climatarianism

Emerging out of the pandemic, people are on a mission to better themselves. According to research from the British Nutrition Foundation, 62% of Britons made a change to their diet to get healthier in 2021.

At the same time, other motivations are contributing to a period of nutritional experimentation, from environmental concerns to a desire for improved physical and mental performance – trends The Future Laboratory recently explored in a report with healthy eating and lifestyle recipe box company Green Chef.

All of this is fundamentally changing what we eat. As dietitian Bari Stricoff summarises: ‘Events of the past few years have shifted habits for good. People care about health more than ever, they’re after personalisation and they want to limit their environmental impact. Approaches to food are becoming more long-term in response, transforming the future of diet and nutrition.’

So what will these new approaches look like? Perhaps the most transformative will be the rise of Climatarian Diets, with approaches that cut down on carbon-intensive foods soon to be adopted as today’s consumers embrace veganism, vegetarianism and flexitarian diets.

The most eco-friendly versions of this new food frontier will strip out meat entirely for plant-based produce, prioritise locally sourced seasonal fruit and vegetables, and focus on beans, lentils and peas – eco-heroes that, if US consumers ate instead of beef, could bring the country 74% closer to meeting its carbon emissions targets, according to research. If meat is required, chicken represents the best option for the environment, which by 2025 could be the go-to option for ‘reducetarians’ – a subset of climatarians who are limiting their meat intake.

When it comes to physical health, meanwhile, expect people to forgo food fads for approaches that prioritise longevity. It’s a shift being driven by a growing number of consumers who are embracing a new movement of Bluetrition – adopting diets frequently seen in super-ageing Blue Zones – regions of the world with a high concentration of people who live to be over 100 years old, from Sardinia and Okinawa to Loma Linda in California.

Research from gerontology professor Valter Longo reveals that the key characteristics of the optimal diet for longevity appear to be moderate carbohydrate intake from non-refined sources, sufficient protein from largely plant-based sources and enough plant-based fats to provide about 30% of energy needs.

Explaining exactly what this looks like, professor Longo states: ‘Lots of legumes, wholegrains and vegetables; some fish; no red meat or processed meat and very low white meat; low sugar and refined grains; good levels of nuts and olive oil, and some dark chocolate.’

Published by:

28 July 2022

Author: Adam Steel

Image: Victoria Ling for The Future Laboratory

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Victoria Ling for The Future Laboratory

Beyond physical health, the future of food is also set to be transformed by a consumer desire for ultimate cognitive functioning – or Cognition Nutrition, as we’ve termed it. As Tastewise’s Food for Function report states, 37% of consumers now use food as a functional tool to reach their mental health goals, reflecting how demand for food and drinks that are designed to do things such as elevate mood, sustain energy and reduce stress will grow.

As Savannah Scott, creative foresight analyst and food and drink expert at The Future Laboratory, says: ‘People are adopting new dietary solutions in order to combat wellness issues such as sleep, anxiety and mental focus. This represents a new phase for functional foods, with the pandemic driving demand for products that support mental health and resilience.’

By 2025, a focus on cognitive function and balance will lead to a prioritisation of ingredients such as maca root – an established brain food – along with mood-enhancing botanicals, hemp extract, adaptogens and CBD-infused options.

‘The food-as-medicine movement is being reshaped to fit modern lifestyles,’ says The Future Laboratory co-founder Chris Sanderson. ‘Rising ingredients like adaptogens will enable brands to balance flavour and function in order to shape our physical and psychological states.’

While these approaches differ in terms of foods prioritised, they all share in common one thing: that food is now being used as a tool to deliver personal and planetary transformation. With the cost of living crisis and global food shortages threatening to derail the speed at which this future is realised, the challenge now is for brands help consumers overcome these barriers and ensure the food they eat can make an impact far beyond their plates.


Our foresight reports are a compelling resource that provide insights to your company internally and help you carve out a distinct viewpoint externally. Find out more here.

‘The food-as-medicine movement is being reshaped to fit modern lifestyles.’
Chris Sanderson, co-founder, The Future Laboratory

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Our foresight reports are a compelling resource that provide insights to your company internally and help you carve out a distinct viewpoint internally or externally. They can be tailored through the lens of your company to explore a range of topics including the future of food.

You can also join us at our Food & Drink Futures 2022 online event on 2 December, where we’ll be exploring the cultural rituals, flavour profiles and bio-hacks that are set to propel the food and drink market in unexpected directions over the coming decade.


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