The future of food: What could this look like?

Netherlands: Potato based convenience foods found in the supermarket.

Netherlands: Potato based convenience foods found in the supermarket.

There is a world of unknown possibilities at our fingertips; no one knows exactly what the future looks like, yet we all have a hand in creating it. You might think that it’s hard to imagine a life with food much different than it already is. However, if you look to other countries, you can see that the future of food is already starting to take shape.

When you’ve explored as many European supermarkets as Belinda and Laura have throughout their research travels, you’ll notice that ready-to-eat convenience foods are king. They get allocated more fridge space than fruit and vegetables, pushing items like fresh herbs out of the chilled space. You might ask why this is, and it all comes down to what customers want. In the United Kingdom (UK), retailers can sell and make more money from ready-to-eat meals, therefore giving them precedence over other chilled items. These convenience meals cater for every occasion - from breakfast yoghurt pots and pre-cut fruit, to lunchtime sushi snack packs and sandwiches, all the way through to dinner time meals for a family of four. Providing a number of cuisine options, they even offer meal deals to their customers.

The rise of convenience foods has bought around a new term in the UK to describe the time and effort that goes into the traditional style of cooking – they call this ‘scratch cooking’. That there is a need for this term indicates that the food culture landscape in the UK is changing. And they are not alone. Over the last few years, you may have noticed that Australian supermarkets have slowly introduced more ready-to-eat meal options for consumers to choose from. This is not only because Australian supermarket trends tend to follow those of the UK, but also because there is a market full of consumers seeking convenience in an increasingly time-poor world.

UK: Ready-to-eat meals catering to people with dietary requirements.

UK: Ready-to-eat meals catering to people with dietary requirements.

As the culture of food shifts, so do the methods used to grow it. A glimpse into the future of food production is vertical farming. This is where food is grown in vertically stacked layers in artificially controlled conditions. As cities push further out into suburban and rural areas – onto what was once farming land – it will be important for food producers to be able to grow more food from a smaller operational footprint. So, although this type of food production is in its infant stage, it seems likely that we will start to see more of this method being used in the future, especially in densely populated areas.

As consumers and retailers push farmers to produce more food from less inputs, it is increasingly important for farmers to educate them about how and why they farm, and remind them of the vital role food producers play within the community. Whatever the future holds – whether it is a move towards convenience, or a return to scratch cooking methods – it will be essential to maintain a good balance and to look after the heath and nutrition of all members within the community. #howandwhywefarm

Netherlands: Vertical farm producing micro-greens for restaurants across Amsterdam.

Netherlands: Vertical farm producing micro-greens for restaurants across Amsterdam.