The Future of Food

347481232In the fascinating new book Future Files, Richard Watson predicts the future of food will be polarized between a number of opposites:  

  • local and global
  • heathy and indulgent
  • futurist and nostalgic
  • low cost and luxurious
  • fast and slow

For most people, convenience will be everything, he writes, and if that means never peeling a potato or washing a lettuce, so be it.  If it means eating less healthy, then so be it.  Eating will be replaced with a series of “meal problems” and “meal solutions.”  The faster people can shop, cook and eat, the better.

He predicts that people will care about health sometimes, but for the most part it will be comfort food — something that helps you unwind, that provides pleasure, and perhaps reminds you of what you ate as a child before food got so “complicated and dangerous.”  Watson thinks we’ll see people swinging from indulgence to health on a daily or weekly basis — sometimes even in the same meal.  We’ll save up food credits from healthy eating or exercise and then “spend” these points on indulgent foods or physical activity.

He believes storytelling, authenticity and trust will be major themes in the future.   People have become cynical about food and are seeking “realness.”  They want to know where things (and people) are coming from, physically and metaphorically. They want to know what the story or narrative is so they can make up their own mind about the “facts.”  Life-story labels will tell us how things are made and where they are from. This means real people with real stories to tell. Watson says this will be good news for brands with history and heritage, but it will also benefit retailers that can tell a story through a hands-on experience.

Food has become a consumer issue tied up with everything from politics and globalization to fashion, economics and national identity, writes Watson, who chronicles a multitude of food trends that will shape the way we eat in the future.  But he starts this chapter on food and drink with a quote that made me smile:  “If enough people predict something it won’t happen,” J.G. Ballard.

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