Food of the future

  • Food science and technology is responsible for designing the food of the future.
  • Current trends focus on healthy and sustainable food.
  • INFINITIA offers viable solutions to companies that want to introduce or modify foods on the market.

Everything in a pill format, fat-free food or perhaps a diet based on pills or food from NASA. These are some of the ideas that come to mind, often influenced by science fiction films, when we talk about the food of the future. We interviewed Elena Díaz, dietician-nutritionist in the food technology department of INFINITIA, a leading industrial consultancy in Aragon, to ask her about her vision of the food of the future.

In general terms, what will the diet of the future be like?

I can’t say for sure what our diet will be like in a few years’ time. What we can know is that it will not be as we think of it today, just as our diet has changed from that of our grandparents. This is because diet is as changeable as the possibilities and needs of society and, therefore, trends respond and adapt to the moment. These changes also affect the production of food and the way it is consumed.

Looking at current trends, we can leave behind the futuristic ideas of science fiction about food. All the signs are that food will tend to become more conscious. More sensorially, nutritionally and sustainably conscious.

How has food evolved throughout history?

There are three distinct stages throughout history that help to shape current habits in Western countries.

The first of these is in food management itself, in ensuring food sovereignty. With the advent of the industrial revolution came security. Large-scale food production combined with advances in microbiology made it possible to guarantee food availability and safety, together with technical and legal developments.

The third phase is the one we are going through now, where the concept of quality has taken on a much broader meaning. Consumers are now not just looking for something that tastes good, they are demanding higher quality. New, previously unconsidered variables such as environmental awareness, animal welfare, or the nutritional quality of the food enter the equation.

Can you tell us a bit more about this new concept of quality? Where does it come from and where is it going?

New food trends in developed countries are focusing on healthy and sustainable food. This stems from the increased awareness of the food-health relationship that goes hand in hand with the possibility of eating sustainably. Moreover, in the context of the pandemic, people have become even more concerned about both aspects.

The demand for more sustainable products can be seen in the increased demand for products with a lower carbon footprint in their production (label or preference for local products).

In addition, there is greater concern for reducing food waste, both at domestic, catering and industrial level. Proof of this is the rise of techniques such as batch cooking, start-ups that act as intermediaries between establishments and consumers to sell products that would otherwise be thrown away, or innovations for the revaluation of by-products from the food industry.

In terms of health, products with a low level of processing and quality ingredients are in demand. In addition, trends that prioritise the consumption of plant-based foods over animal-based foods, including vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets, are increasingly present in society. In addition to having sustainable and potentially healthier roots, these movements are also driven by animal welfare.

In addition, the ease and speed of preparation works in favour of the products that adapt: the daily frenzy invites us to spend less time preparing dishes, which is why “quick meals” are appearing, albeit of high quality. And tasty, which is becoming one of the biggest challenges for the food industry.

Some examples that we can already see in the market?

Let’s say, there are different degrees of maturity of trends. The food industry is constantly working to develop new opportunities and solutions.

Restaurants are the most tangible showcase of future trends. Let’s say, it represents the trends that have “passed the filter” of the innovations proposed by the food industry. The next level is to reach the consumer at the household level.

Among the most cutting-edge and established trends are alternative protein (algae, insects, vegetables, etc.), vertical gardens, enriched foods, 3D printing and personalised nutrition.

What role does industry play in this process and what can INFINITIA contribute?

As we mentioned, industry plays an essential role in proposing and developing solutions to current needs. Changes in food trends have become a challenge for food science and technology and all the areas that, as a multidisciplinary science, it encompasses. This ranges from dieticians-nutritionists, engineers, biotechnologists, food technologists, chefs ….

INFINITIA offers viable solutions to companies that want to introduce or modify foods in the market, and has experience in this field. Some success stories are the study of alternative proteins, 3D food printing, disinfection technologies and food quality determinations.

What is your personal proposal?

I believe that the environmental and health crisis of recent years has promoted collective and individual reflection on the importance of creating resilient food systems that focus on health and sustainability.

However, in order to reach such a system, I believe that we must not forget the factor of accessibility, both economic and physical, for the majority of the population to say that these objectives have been achieved. Today, many of these trends require the development of technologies to be able to scale up to an industrial level. Although there is still work to be done, I believe that the industry is on the right track.