Food & DrinkThe food of the future: how far will we...

The food of the future: how far will we go?

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Insects, algae, concentrate pills… Reality and fiction have given us all sorts of ideas to  feed ourselves in the future. What and how will we eat  tomorrow? Will you continue to enjoy your mother’s or your grandmother’s stews? Will you have to settle for the first thing you find in the fridge? Those questions are very personal, but globally, we can venture to see some trends that will give us some clue about what the food of the future will be like.

However, it must be borne in mind that  the way we eat is not the same  all over the world. Not even in two countries that share borders. Globalization may have played a big part in making us all eat quinoa or avocado toast. Or for us to drink the latest trendy drink, like kombucha or detox shakes. But the gastronomic culture  of each country continues to influence a lot. With some variations but with some traditions that continue to mark what is eaten in homes in certain geographical areas.

Fashion, marketing and food industries aside, there are millions of people who  survive on what little  they can get from the land. Others may  choose to eat  something that is grown a few kilometers away or on the other side of the planet. And there are those who must  adapt their food  not to the availability of the supermarket but to their pocket. So it is not easy to guess what the food of the future will be like for all these people. However, let’s look at some examples of what’s to come.

Food, between necessity and business

Let’s start with the bad. The human being is technologically capable of generating enough food for all the inhabitants of the planet. But it is one more sector of the economy. What implies companies, markets, commercial interests, etc. Or in figures. According to the UN, in its 2021 report on nutrition and food security,  between 720 and 811 million  people went hungry in 2020. And it is that the production and distribution of food is not the same everywhere.

The  demand for food  has increased with the turn of the century. In this 21st century, we are more and more. And in certain countries, more food is demanded. On the other hand, in certain parts of the planet more variety of food is requested due to the  diversification of diets. The good news from the UN report is that this  shift towards healthier diets  can help curb world hunger.

But so that everyone can eat, investment policies, public spending, trade policies and, basically, ensuring an   uninterrupted food supply chain are necessary. To which must be added other essential policies such as avoiding waste and waste of food  and supporting local and/or small-scale production.

What will the food of the future be like?

Far from  fads or anecdotal news  that appear in the media from time to time trying to sell a strange product for certain markets, researchers from all over the world work to  improve the food  we already have so that the food of the future offers us more benefits. Better conservation methods, foods with more properties than the default ones… In short, it is about reducing environmental impact and optimizing food consumption.

Looking back, we  enjoy innovations  that have changed our relationship with food for the better. Freezing, dehydration, aseptic packaging and packaging, sterilization… And what are to come? For starters, make  food more nutritious. Proteins, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamins… Today’s foods have more of these than in past centuries thanks to the fact that humans have “domesticated” fruits such as tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, rice, corn, bananas or watermelons. Originally, some were inedible or tiny in size. Today, we have larger varieties, greater resistance to insect pests or enriched at source.

And if we talk about adding improvements to food, we should also try to  remove or reduce fat, sugar or salt. Actually, this problem is associated with the  processed products, not with the raw materials. But one way to combat diabetes, obesity and/or coronary problems may be to combat the excess of certain elements directly in food from its cultivation.

Another interesting trend is the search for alternatives to the  way we farm  today. With the aim of using less land, fertilizer and water, much progress has been made in areas such as  vertical cultivation. Less space is needed and everything is measured in detail to optimize resources. What’s more, vertical farming can be combined with  hydroponics, which consists of supplying aqueous solutions that contain everything necessary for the plant to grow. And if we talk about  food for the future, research is already beginning to take advantage of the deep sea to  grow algae  instead of collecting it. Instead of agriculture, we would talk about  aquaculture, although in Spanish, this word refers to the breeding of fish. In any case, the consumption of algae is a nutritious alternative and on the rise in many countries.

A creative and eccentric future

In the usual lists of new food trends of the future, sometimes  realistic solutions are combined and others rather eccentric  or that try to introduce new products that are common in certain gastronomic cultures but not in others. The introduction of  insect proteins  is the most popular. However, cultivating these specific species on a large scale implies a consumption of resources that is not environmentally sustainable.

The most promising trend is the  3D food printer. Many of us long to be able to get the succulent dishes we see on the screen off the television. Something impossible for now that, perhaps, we will achieve in part thanks to food printing. The idea is to combine raw materials of different  textures, nutrients and flavors  to achieve a minimally edible dish. Currently,  3D printing  is used in experimental cooking and, more seriously, in confectionery or pastry.

Another trend that brings us closer to science fiction is the  personalized food of the future. In other words, by  sequencing our genome  and analyzing our metabolism, it is possible to design foods that are ideal for us. Either to reduce certain excesses or to cover certain absences. Or simply to  have a healthy diet. Obviously, we are talking about a very distant future. And, apparently, nothing cheap.

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