News of the death of food science has been greatly exaggerated. It just changed names. Now we enter the era of “food tech,” and with it, the prospect of bringing the best of culture and science together in closer harmony.
When faced with big problems, we’ve got a town full of problem-solvers who tend to rise to the occasion. The influence of Silicon Valley on natural products will be direct and dramatic in the coming years. While social media and mobile technologies have played central roles in the wave of transparency that continues to wash through our food supply in a highly public manner, the next phase hits even closer to home.
Take Bill Gates, who published a report, “The Future of Food,” to his blog last year. He identified three companies—Beyond Meat, a fake-meat maker that seems to have cracked the code on texture and taste; Hampton Creek, using plants to replace the egg in branded products like cookie dough and in food-service mayonnaise at your local Whole Foods Market or Safeway; and Nu-Tek, turning potassium chloride into low-sodium salt—as the kind of innovators capable of charting more sustainable paths to food production globally. You could also add Kite Hill to the mix with their growing line of dairy-free nut-milk cheeses. Each of these companies seeks to right a large societal challenge, and they’ve got the resources to make a real charge at solutions that stick.
Even the Institute of Food Technologists caught the fever to go big with a new platform, FutureFood 2050, that places sustainability and wellness as its first two pillars of research and investigation. We should also note that “food culture” makes the list too, a far cry from the days of yore when innovation centered more squarely on additives, colors and flavors.
These are all examples of the pivot just beginning to find purchase in the practice of food science. It’s a pivot toward technology, but not away from consumer demand. It’s a pivot that hears the call for big thinking—1 billion obese globally versus 1 billion hungry—and finds power in the cultural resonance of movements to effect the change. It’s a pivot that could actually reframe the debate around science’s role in our food supply, and add some clear reason and evidentiary nuance to the riotous emotions surrounding GMOs.
For more on the pressure to evolve the premise of food science in today's culture, might we suggest a full dowbnload of the 2015 NEXT Forecast, now available?