What does the future of food look like? May 2017

In average, EU citizens consume 69 kg meat per person every year. That’s a lot of meat. The question isn’t any longer if we must change our consumption patterns. But when. And, more importantly, in which way. There are many alternative protein sources, like algae or insects. But are we ready to put grasshoppers on our plate?

Together with YouGov we have conducted a survey in the Nordics to get some answers. So let’s have a look in the crystal ball and see if we can spot the future of food.

 

Are you ready for the future of food?

The hunt for the next protein source is on. Food scientist are exploring new ways to solve the equation of feeding a growing population with decreasing resources. The answer is spelled alternative food sources and new technology.

So far, scientists are heading in five different directions:

 

Algae

Algae can feed humans and animals and can be grown in the ocean. A big bonus with land and fresh water in increasingly short supply. Algae farming could become the world's biggest cropping industry. It has long been a staple in Asia and countries including Japan have huge farms.

 

Insects

Insects provide as much nutritional value as ordinary meat and are a great source of protein. They also cost less to raise than cattle, consume less water and do not have much of a carbon footprint. A lot of the world's population already eat insects as a regular part of their diet. But we will probably not eat them as they are, rather they will be ground down and used as an ingredient in burgers and sausages.

 

Nanotechnology

This technology will have a huge impact in a lot of areas, food is just one of them. By using nanoparticles, you will be able to alter crop and food in an undetectable way. Like, for instance, much more effective ways to distribute pesticides and fertilizers in to crop, nanocapsule infusion of plant-based steroids to replace meat’s cholesterol content and nanoparticles to selectively bind and remove chemicals or pathogens from food.

 

In-vitro meat

Scientists have successfully produced in-vitro meat, growing strips of muscle tissue using stem cells taken from cows. Growing meat in a lab rather than slaughtering animals would significantly reduce greenhouse gases, along with energy and water use. Production also requires a fraction of the land needed to raise cattle. In addition, it could be customized to cut the fat content and add nutrients.

 

GMO

GMO is short for Genetically Modified Organism. GM foods are produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. Most food modifications have primarily focused on crops in high demand by farmers such as 

soybean and corn. Genetically modified crops have been engineered for resistance to pathogens and herbicides and for better nutrient profiles.

People in the Nordic are a bit sceptic

The research firm YouGov has tracked Nordic consumer trends on health and food in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland since 2007. The survey is answered by men and women aged 16-64 with more than 2 000 interviews conducted in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

Among other things, they asked the respondents about how they feel about these new ways to solve the future shortage of food and if they personally could consider eating it.

 

Algae is fine, GMO not so much

Most people had no problems with the use of algae for food production. Insects, on the other hand, where not so popular. Sweden stood out as most negative, 38 percent compared to 24 percent who replied positively.

Maybe not so surprising, most people were unsure of their opinion on nanotechnology in food production, probably because they didn’t know what it was. More consumers in Sweden and Denmark are negative than positive to nanotechnology, in Norway and Finland that relationship is reversed.

Danes are the ones who are most opposed to in-vitro meat, with 65 percent negative and only 8 percent positive. This can be compared with 18 percent positive and 54 percent negative in Sweden.

GMO is the food solution the consumers are most sceptical towards, although Norwegians and Finns are a bit more positive now than last year.

If we look at the demographics, younger consumers in all four countries are more positive towards all solutions, apart from algae where all subgroups are rather even. Women are generally more sceptical than men.

 

Want to know more about the future of food?

You will find a downloadable summary of the YouGov survey, including the respondents’ views on health, climate and food, on Fazer Food Services website. Get it here