What will consumers be eating in the year 2050? Since the goal of IFT’s FutureFood 2050 program is focused on finding solutions to sustainably feed 9 billion-plus people by 2050, we thought it would be both fitting and fun to pose this question to leading food watchers and market researchers. Their gastronomic guesstimates of our food choices and consumption habits in the coming decades include robots in the kitchen, personalized nutrition, more affordable healthy offerings, and familiar foods with different ingredients.
“Food science will triumph by the year 2050 to the point where the ‘tastes too good to be good for you’ concept will be relegated to the dustbin of history,” declared Tom Vierhile, Innovation Insights Director, Datamonitor Consumer. “Formerly ‘bad for you’ products like chips and bakery products will be stealthily reformulated with health-enhancing ingredients like green leafy vegetables or high-protein insect flour to the point where ‘normal’ snacking will be health-enhancing, instead of contributing to health issues.
“The kitchen of 2050 will also be a vastly different place. Robot meal assistants will become commonplace, preparing complete meals with little or no human intervention. Because time is no longer at such a huge premium due to this off-loading of meal preparation activities, consumers will be freer to experiment with foods they may have previously sampled only in a restaurant,” noted Vierhile.
“Technology is already having a huge impact on consumers. It’s easy to monitor what we eat, we can learn about what we eat, and we are influenced by what others are eating via social media,” declared Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation, Innova Market Insights. “We see changes already, but just imagine the impact after two generations raised on technology are raising their children and then enter the ‘healthy aging’ years. They will be into personalized nutrition in a big way. I don’t think we’ll call it that, but that is what it will be. We’ll just think of it as eating, but it will be personalized,” stated Williams.
“In 2050, we may well still be eating eggs for breakfast and making sandwiches, but the sourcing will be different,” remarked Kara Nielsen, Culinary Director, Sterling-Rice Group. “Just as we turn from highly processed conventional foods today to more natural—though still processed—versions in the future, those eggs may not come from chickens, that bread may be enriched with a variety of sprouted grains, and the meat in the sandwich could be lab-raised or very expensive grass-fed beef from a cow in an exclusive ranch somewhere that still has access to water.
“Future generations may never bat an eye at insect-fortified snack bars, cookies or simmer sauces as they will have been raised on the stuff, but their parents will still be seeking analogs for the foods they recognize and know. That is the enduring culture part,” explained Nielsen.
“Restaurant operators are learning to use fresh ingredients that promote flavor, preparation methods that enhance flavor, and leaner proteins and smaller portions that keep our appetites satisfied without overfeeding us,” noted Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President, Technomic Inc. “Grilling and baking have become more appealing vs. frying, and many consumers are finding satisfaction with higher-quality fresh ingredients. Although health and wellness comes with a price, the future will likely hold greater opportunities to make healthier fare more affordable for lower- and middle-income groups.”
“Protein will continue to play a dominant role in consumer demand, but the sources will change dramatically,” stated Marc Halperin, COO and Principal, CCD Innovation. “Animal/fish proteins will become scarcer and more expensive, so other sources will fill the gap, primarily plant- and insect-based.
“For better or worse, GMOs [genetically modified organisms] will play a larger role in world nutrition, since increased populations demand increased efficiency in agricultural production. The Western antipathy toward insects as part of the diet will wane, out of necessity, and proteins derived from those sources will be incorporated into foods effectively and invisibly,” predicted Halperin.
“Back in 1977, the seventh most popular restaurant in America was a chain called Burger Chef,” stated Harry Balzer, Chief Industry Analyst and Vice President, NPD Group. “Have you heard of them? You can probably guess what they served: burgers, fries and soft drinks. And 35 years ago you could not buy the most popular foods and beverages of the day at today’s top grocer: Walmart. It would still be years before they committed to be a grocer.
“The change in our diet will not be so much in what we eat and drink, but who will provide our foods and beverages. And we will most likely follow those marketers that make our lives easier or our food costs lower! I don’t see any reason why that trend will not continue,” concluded Balzer.
To read these and other blogs on what we will be eating in 2050 as well as other articles in our Futurists series, please visit www.futurefood2050.com.