From farm to lab: exploring the future of food

Burger Image from Pexels

We currently live in incredibly exciting but increasingly complex times when it comes to food. Not only in our complicated relationship with the food we eat and the challenges we have in deciding how much is enough, but also in the concerns and possibilities in where our future meals could come from and the wider role and purpose of food in our society. 

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, food is the ultimate goal for all species of life. Our human desires and experiences have been developed to secure a full stomach. It is fundamental to our politics, our relationships, our leisure and our identity. And the human species appears to be at the top of the food chain. However, perhaps we have become too successful in growing, developing and eating food. We overeat, over complicate and even over think our choices.

In today’s society, we’re lucky enough to have an abundance of restaurants, supermarkets and brands offering all kinds of food to choose from. It’s a huge part of culture and one which is constantly evolving. Different foods become trends and diets become fashionable. Thanks to our developing world in areas such as technology and science, the way food reaches our plates has changed and the possibilities of what can be produced are greater than ever before.

The future of food, therefore, has to be of the greatest importance to us a nation, a society and as individuals. As part of Starcom’s ‘Future of…’ thought leadership programme we conducted a study into the future of food. For brands, this insight shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The research of over 2,000 Brits found that in the face of Brexit, we’re not afraid to cut back. As food prices rise, nearly 60% would cut out luxury and treat items, and 43% would cut back on snacks and branded goods. Half claimed takeaways would be the first food expense to go, followed by eating out at restaurants (45%). Considering the continued rise in our love of discount food chains and supermarkets, such as Lidl, and the decline of casual dining chains such as Jamie’s Italian, these claims appear to be materialising in the here and now. It’s a call-to-action for luxury brands to think about cheaper options and an opportunity for supermarkets to build on their own brand offering.

In the face of these changes, innovation could be the solution. In just a decade, two in five of us believe we will be eating lab-grown meat. Shortages of meat and fish were cited as the top reason why people say they would eat lab-grown produce, followed by environmental and sustainability concerns. Pescetarians and vegetarians were the most confident with the speed of adoption with 59% and 51% respectively, believing it’ll be on our plates within ten years.

Alternative meat options are already available with the likes of Beyond Meat. But companies like Just, a food company growing meat in labs, are ahead in preparing for these expected changes. Despite lab-grown food not being at the top of the menu just yet, this company is working innovatively to address issues such as sustainability and a potential food shortage with a scientifically produced alternative. The challenge now is for marketers to persuade businesses and consumers that this is, and will be, a good substitute for real meat.

With food playing such a crucial role in our day-to-day lives, as well as underpinning our culture and the sense of who we are, it’s profoundly important that brands take the time to understand our desires and expectations around it. It's fascinating to look at the motivations and perceptions of consumers, but it should be a call to action for brands to be at the forefront of this topic - work more sustainably and create products that will be in demand. There are gaps in the market and opportunities to take advantage of, so with a good understanding of what consumers want, it’s the brands who create a great product now and effectively educate the market who will reap the rewards in the food of the future.

Jodie Stranger is the ‎CEO UK Group & president global clients EMEA for Starcom

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.

Come on in, it’s free.

This isn’t a paywall. It’s a freewall. We don’t want to get in the way of what you came here for, so this will only take a few seconds.