Just back from Bangkok, where I attended the 2018 Innofood Conference, held at Thaifex. Bangkok is always worth a trip, and this time was no different. A great 2-day conference, providing glimpses of what food industry will look like in the future. The main theme was – in fact – innovation in food. This can be rephrased in: how food industry will answer to the big changes of our environment and society?
9-billion people will teem on our planet in few years from now; pollution is increasing, and so is world temperature; population is aging and living longer, yet suffering more and more from diabete, obesity and cardio-vascular disease; food resources are scarce. Will the future look grim?
After what I heard at Innofood, I would say : “Not really, future may be as amazing as ever”. Here some of the takehome from the conference.
AI in food industry and digital food
Food industry may reach a 100% (or almost) automatization in the coming years.
Moreover, business models may evolve and reach a point where food can be produced almost upon orders by end consumers – reducing stock and therefore waste.
3-D printers will be used more and more to “print” food domesetically – which will eventually move food production into everybody’s home. Think about having a 3-D printer churning out pasta, or mashed potatoes, or …. meat? It is just a matter of having the right cartridge. Will food companies become eventually “food cartridge” companies? Think – for example – of mineral water. Is that so impossible to think that some companies will start producing active filters or cartridges that – used domesitcally with tap water – will allow the consumer to bottle its favourite mineral water? no more PET recycling packaging issue…
Shift towards vegetable proteins
This seems unavoidable – it is just a matter of sustainability. No way can the world supply enough animal proteins for 9 billion people. So we will need to find creative solution for the use of vegetable proteins. Several companies already offer “vegetable” chicken – apparently with chicken real taste. Then think about water lentils, seaweed, etc.. Hardcore meat eater will need to consider – one day – adding insects to their diet – every body gives for granted that insects will be part of our menu anytime soon.
Food shall provide better nutritional values for people. This means not only providing a more healthy food-diet to people (less salts, sugars and certain fats, for instance) but also achieving higher nutritional values directly from agriculture produce.
More sustainable industry
Plastic use in food packaging shall be dramatically reduced, and factories shall also develop a more efficient CO2 footprint. Technology can help also to fight resistent bacteria – for instance by developing materials which kill bacteria through physical (electron “bombing”) or chemical (release of silver salts) way.
How will regulation fit into this?
This will be fascinating to see – in China as well as in other Asian countries. Regulation shall play an active role in shaping food industry’s future. For example, I believe that novel food applications will increase workdwide. A (sometimes) 10-year long or so process (such as in EU) cannot be acceptable in this frame. Will more countries introduce some “sugar tax” or “fat tax”? Will nutritional label polices change? claims be reframed? non-regulated claims be regulated?
This are only some of the questions. Future seems radious, or at least very interesting!