Siemens recently commissioned a report into the Future of Food with Food Futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye. Here, I’ve interviewed Dr Gaye about her views in the report.
Dr. Morgaine Gaye is a Food Futurologist focused on food and eating from a social, cultural, economic, trend, branding and geo-political perspective. Siemens recently asked Dr Gaye to write a report on the Future of Food, where she outlined major trends involving water, prohibition and time.
In her work, Dr Gaye explores all aspects of food, and applies modern scientific research to history, nature and global cultural theory and consumer behaviour. Leading the way in home appliance innovation and technology, Siemens created an event inspired by Dr Gaye’s future predictions, bringing us a taste of things to come.
I found the report inspiring and exciting. She writes about three major trends in the food world, including water, prohibition and time.
Trend 1 – Water as a Luxury
Some highlights from the report include:
- As the human population continues to rise, along with climate change, mass production and extreme droughts, water is becoming less and less available and therefore more of a luxury
- Brands are already taking advantage of this with premium bottled water flooding supermarket shelves as well as hundreds of bottled varieties to choose from including black charcoal to artichoke water.
- Soon specialty water shops will pop up on our local high street where we will pick up a special bottle of water when going to a friend’s house for dinner. Water is the new wine.
- Therefore, we will rely more and more on intelligent energy-reducing technology to conserve water. Siemens incorporates cutting-edge innovation across its home appliances to ensure consumers are saving water to save energy. For example, the Siemens Zeolith® dishwasher uses five times less water than washing by hand on its economy 50°C wash programme.
- Luxe waters from melted glacier water, di-ionised water and even gold-infused water all coming onto the market.
Dr Gaye also reports, ‘We are just moments away from buying water in edible membranes, to decrease landfill and plastic contamination. It’s also not unthinkable that in just a few years, water speciality shops will open on the high street. Not only will these shops sell all types of water but they will enable customers to buy bulk, filtered water which contain no pesticides, herbicides, metals or hormones.’
Trend 2 – The Impact of Prohibition
- We often don’t realise is that we are living in a version of prohibition
- The sugar tax, smoking ban and nutritional food labelling are all part of this modern prohibition.
- These notions of healthy living will extend further into food and alcohol, specifically our perception of alcohol abuse will move into the arena of how we now perceive cigarettes.
- Alcohol reduction is already seen in the under 30’s, with the use of alcohol in food becoming more prevalent.
- As alcohol regulation increases, alcohol will be subsumed into foods such as jams, ice cream, cakes etc… to avoid taxation.
- After alcohol, we will see tighter regulation on scent and sound.
- We can also change our perception of eating and cooking techniques to be healthier. Intelligent appliances such as the Siemens combi-steam oven teaches consumers to cook with steam; while Siemens cooling appliances maintain the quality of food for longer – hyperFresh storage system keeps food fresh for up to three times longer due to the sophisticated humidity control.
She says in the report that, ‘The increase of technology, people, systems, transport and media – has all meant that silence is something we find harder to experience in any town or city. We’ve already seen experimentation with silent meals at a variety of restaurants, silent shopping in Selfridges and a number of exhibitions exhibiting the Quiet Mark logo.’
Trend 3 – Yearning for more Time
- We are increasingly eating breakfast on-the-go or postponing breakfast to later in the morning in lieu of coffee on-the-go. Lunch has moved to around 2.00pm and an afternoon snack keeps most people going until a makeshift dinner later in the evening around 8.00pm.
- The fragmentation of family meals has impacted on the quality of our cooking, the importance we place on sharing and the actual way in which we have begun to define our day.
- Time, or our notion of time, and times of day have become ambiguous with the offers such as the ‘all day breakfast’.
- In a trend called New Rituals, we are seeing a return to set eating times, especially the entire family sitting down to breakfast.
I read the report a few times over, as it’s a veritable treasure trove of information about the future of food. We can easily trundle along in the present, so it’s eye-opening to suddenly see the landscape of food as it moves into the future.
I was delighted to be given the opportunity to interview Dr Morgaine Gaye about the report and her thoughts on the Future of Food.
The Future of Food: Water
In your Future Food Trends Report for Siemens, you mention that water scarcity will mean that water, the most fundamental aspect for life on Earth, will become even bigger business. How do you see the likes of Coca Cola and PepsiCo playing a part in control of our most vital resource?
It’s already happening. Actually, there’s a massive water department at Coca Cola – their biggest focus is on water. All of the major drinks players in the world, you’ve named two of them, are already on it. They’re very aware of this. Right now it’s interesting that sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a bottle of coke than it is to buy a bottle of good water. Coca Cola already realise it’s a big commodity and they will play a big role in offering different options. You might have heard about the Dasani water scare, I suppose scandal, in the US. Coca Cola were selling one of their brands of water, Dasani, and it was figured out that it was just low quality tap water put in a bottle with a lid on it. So yes, it’s big business and anything that’s big business, they’re already on it.
The Future of Food: Time
Another trend that you’ve highlighted in the report is ‘Time’ – how we eat on-the-go, place less importance on family mealtimes, the ambiguity of times of day and have later eating patterns. Do you think it is important to return to our former ways and times of eating, or, like language, is this an area that will become more fluid and simply continue to change over time?
It’s always impossible to go back to anything that we’ve already done. We never go back, we might take references from the past, but we’re always going forward.
What I think is important isn’t really relevant, but what’s going to happen, what’s already happening, is we’ve come away from those structured three meals a day family dining. We’ve been coming away from that for decades. What we are going back to is valuing eating at home together again and sitting down to dine.
Coming away from the ready meal and dinner for one. Coming together, there will be different ways in which that happens. We’re already seeing that in some restaurants with sharing plates. But the other thing that is happening is that we’re not having three meals a day.
We’re snacking, we’re on the go, we’re changing time, by the way that we don’t anchor our day on those three key points that happen almost at the same time each day. So, we’re having a two-step breakfast, we’re having that second step of that breakfast later in the morning around 11. It’s pushed lunchtime to something like 1.30 or 2 o’clock.
Then we’re snacking in the afternoon, we’re having dinner much later in the evening. So, it’s already changing but we’re trying to get some semblance of relationship and community back into at least one of those meals.
The Future of Food: Prohibition
You mention in the repot that we live in a version of prohibition, with the smoking ban, nutritional food labelling and the sugar tax. What areas do you think might next fall under this modern prohibition?
So, one of the things we’re going to start seeing is more regulation around alcohol, and alcohol subsumed into food to avoid any kind of taxation. Unlikely foods like wine ice cream or bourbon peanut butter, we’ll start to see lots of different products coming in with alcohol in them. Even sweets, we’re starting to see a couple of those coming through.
Another thing we’ll see is around scent. At the moment there’s no regulation around scent branding or perfume or anything like that. We might start to see some regulation around scent branding and companies using smells as a kind of advertising tool. I think those are probably two big ones.
The other one would probably be around silence. We are inundated with sound and also visual sound, we’ve got so much branding and marketing in our face all the time that we’re going to see some regulation and some need and desperation for people to have silent packaging, a lot less written on the packages, stuff you might need to see you could easily just scan it. And places for people to go, little meditation chambers and quiet spaces at work will become the norm.
The Future of Food
After writing the report, what are your biggest fears and hopes with the future of food, and are there any changes to your lifestyle that you are currently making due to these issues?
I don’t really have any fears about the future, I’m always excited about the future and that’s why I do the job I do. My hope is that we look forward, I think that looking back to the past is always very difficult because we always think it’s fabulous and most people are always quite nostalgic for the past.
We’ve been in a time of austerity, which is always a time when people look back at the past. But I think that the future is bright and exciting and I think that people just need to engage with what that is. Use the tools we’ve got to have a better, more connected humanity.
What am I doing? I’ve already been doing a lot of this stuff for a while. So, I use lots of different filtration systems in water in my house. Some of the things that I’m doing I haven’t mentioned in the report. No, I suppose that because of the things that I research its often years before coming to the public domain, I normally action some of those things a long time earlier.
I am passionate about the need to reduce food waste at a domestic, commercial and agricultural level. What do you think we can do on this issue?
One of the big things that changes people’s behaviour is cost, it just is. So, as soon a food prices continue to increase, we’ll start to waste less. When we had very little money for food back in the 1960s and mid to late 70s, we were much more careful about what we threw away and that is also the same on every level.
On an agricultural level, I think there’s lots of fabulous ideas that are coming in that are using by-products of food, so whether that’s the by-product of the pineapple industry to create Pinatex, a different sort of synthetic leather.
Or the by-product of cider companies to use the by-products for worm farms, or the by-products of lots of different agricultural business. There’s always opportunities there. There’s loads of fabrics being made from mushrooms, bricks made from slaughterhouse waste for third world countries. Loads of opportunities there.
I think also as a culture right now we’re very interested in misshapen fruit and veg. It’s cheaper, we’ve already seen Morrisons and Asda doing those misshapen veg boxes, cheap stew vegetables.
I think we’re also seeing other ways in which people like Rubies in the Rubble use windfall fruit to make their jams and chutneys.
So, I think that it’s very cool right now to say that we’re using waste. I think we’re going to see that more as a trend, so it’s good that it’s a trend because it does something good for us and good for the planet, but also if people are engaged in it. It’s very hard to force something worthy down people’s throats.
No matter how much we believe in it, we’ve got to make it sexy and cool. So, when it gets trendy people are into it.
With booming populations and environmental change, how do you feel personal dietary changes can have global effects? Can localism or veganism make a big change?
I’ve always said that the biggest political vote you have is how you shop. What you buy, how you spend your money, that’s the vote. If you stop buying junk, they won’t sell it. So, I always say to people that if it’s advertised on TV, don’t buy it because it’s obviously got people to advertise apples or carrots or spinach on TV.
It’s always best to buy the most simple ingredients cooked from scratch and even if you’re going to have chips or biscuits or cake to make it from scratch because you obviously won’t be doing that every day because it’s a pain in the neck. I think those sorts of small changes that we are really powerful. We don’t feel powerful as consumers, but our wallets make a big difference.
Celebrity chefs have thrown their names into many causes over the past few years, from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall campaigning for the reduction of food waste and over-fishing, to Jamie Oliver’s campaigns for healthier school dinners and the sugar tax. What cause would you like thrown into the spotlight?
Because what I sell are ideas rather than my opinions, I don’t really talk about my public causes. There are so many things that I’m interested in, I think one of the things, it’s not really a cause but we have a lot of availability of vegetables, fruits, hedgerow, incredible seaweed around our coast that are not being used.
We have a lot of food at our disposal in this country which is free, wild, available, fresh, fantastic, and we are still yet to harvest that.
So I would be interested in bringing more focus, especially onto the seaweeds, because I think it’s an amazing product and there’s lots of things we can do with it that we’re not doing with it right now. And it’s kind of free really, it’s growing in abundance right now around our coasts.
I think that the things that are taking momentum right now are the things that I feel are important, things like animal welfare. If people choose to eat meat that it’s had a life, that it’s run around, that it’s grass pastured and it’s had a good time at least while it’s been on the planet.
But also so that people don’t ingest antibiotics and don’t ingest all of the pesticides and chemicals and also the hormones that it releases out of it’s own stress. So that therefore we, as human beings, will be healthier, we will need less antibiotics.
It will prevent antibiotics from not working because we’re already full of antibiotics from the diary and the meat we’ve eaten. So I think lots of things like that. We’re waking up, so I think all of the things that I talk about in that vein will happen anyway.
The Future of Food: Trends for 2017
What are your top food trends for 2017?
Top food trends for 2017: chickpeas, crunchy chickpeas, soft chickpeas, coated, chickpeas that have been made into a hummus that are now chocolate-flavoured, chocolate hummus, salted caramel hummus. I think we’re going to see horchata as a non-dairy milk made from the tiger nut. I think tiger nuts will also be in little chewy snack packets that we’ll be having.
Vegetable yogurts, loads of different sorts of vegetable yogurts with maybe like puffed lentil crunchy toppings. I think we’ll have vegetable sorbets and lollipops for 2017, so maybe like a carrot and beetroot lollipop – those sort of things like sweet veg. And also other veg, leafy veg, come in as a sweet treat.
I think the swap of savoury and sweet, so the things we consider to be sweet will be savoury and savoury to be sweet. Loads of different snacking things, I think there’s loads of things going to be happening in the snacking arena still. Non-alcoholic drinks coming in, lots of non-alcoholic beverages, and lots of new, more types of water coming in.
So readers, how do you feel about these predictions and trends for the Future of Food? Will water be the new wine? Will we see more mushroom fabric and pineapple leather? Will local seaweed be the next major food trend in the UK?
What is the future of food to you? Let me know in the comments.