Each day the people of the western world spend more time laughing at cat memes on Facebook than they do preparing the food they eat.
What used to be ceremonial and righteous, food has now been reduced to a hand-to-mouth motion. An inconvenience at best, a necessary evil at worst accounting for no more than 22 minutes of their day.
What once was savoured and prolonged, is now cut short. Instead of counting what we get from each calorie, we count - and limit - the calories themselves. We no longer eat food, we eat nutrients, and fat, and carbs, and whatever else scientists convince us each month as being important.
It has become so confusing to eat. And we have never done it so poorly as we do today.
The smoking gun
In the food industry, velocity is the name of the game - and nothing sells faster than food on promotion (most food categories are about 50% sold on promotion). Not the best, not the newest, not the healthiest, not the freshest - what sells best each week is usually what’s in the flyer.
It’s no wonder why the western world is so overfed, yet simultaniously under-nourished: people have wanted more food for less.
The food industry has taken the most heat over this realty. We are an easy target: the clearest culprits caught with the smoking gun of over-processed, over-sugared, and over-marketed foods. But, in defence of an industry who feeds billions of people a year, these companies have been giving consumers exactly what they wanted.
Why are people ok spending $3 on a coffee (on which Starbucks makes a 92% margin), but when a bag of whole grain organic granola that lasts a week is $10 (on which the manufacturer makes 15% margin), they say it's too expensive?
To eat better and improve the health of the western world, this has to change. And change can only reach the mass scale it needs to if the very industry who followed the trends here, can be the trendsetters to get us out.
Thankfully work has already begun to reshape food - here are my predictions for food over the next five years.
Nine Food Predictions over the Next Five Years
- PROMOTIONAL FLYERS will become regulated. They will have to feature a minimum of 50% of foods that are widely considered healthy including plant based, low-sugar, and - perhaps even - modelled after Canada's food guide.
- LABELLING standards will be tightened further. Food labelling is become highly confusing for consumers and experts warn that it actually becomes detrimental to decision making. Expect a pull-back of claims related to human health and environmental sustainability (e.g. margarine may no longer be considered to "boost heart health")
- FASTER FOODS, CHEAPER EATS will lose relevance. Consumers will continue to become more open to paying more for wholesome, natural and organic foods. Similar to how we are open to paying for good content on Netflix vs YouTube, we will see as a society that prioritizing good food is important (we will save elsewhere).
- CULTURAL INPUTS to food decisions will see a resurgence as consumers lean harder on family recipes, Mom's input and customary cooking.
- CANADA'S FOOD GUIDE will evolve to include a greater emphasis on plant based. Michael Pollan's famous Haiku will become a mantra: "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”
- BIOTECH will create cultured meat, and it will hit store shelves. This meat leverages cultured animals cells in a laboratory to - effectively - grow meat. Prototypes currently exist and shows promising results. One day soon meat will be birthed in a petrie dish, verses in utero.
- SEASONALITY will become embraced. Consumer demand and retailer profitability will drive a throw-back to offering more seasonal goods to avoid the transportation and complexity associated with supplying off-season foods. Studies show that as a result of our deseasonalization of foods, we are consuming only 1/4 of the species of fruits and veggies we used to.
- MAINSTREAMING OF ORGANICS + NATURAL. Currently rendered to small areas of the store, the organic and natural food sections will become mainstream. Instead of launching organic/natural products as novelty items, manufacturers and retailers will begin to treat these as product improvements. Believe it or not, but air bags used to be a luxury option in cars until they became mandatory, and the same will be had for organic and natural products.
- ORGANIC prices will become parity to traditional products. Thats right, with scale, organics and natural foods will be able to be priced equivalently to what we pay today for mainstream food. What will help achieve this parity are the sugar taxes that get placed on the over-processed and more traditional foods.
The New Age Food Movement
I believe the next ten years will be the single largest period of change in the way we have eaten in several generations. The industry seeing the most amount of advancement will not be financials, automotive, or even technology - it will be food. It’s one reason I joined the food and beverage arena when I did, to be apart of a movement that will define a generation.
The new age movement is all about learning how to commercialize goodness - food companies will add value by actually adding value, instead of adding value by reducing and removing. The new age of food is about doing well by doing good.
Follow my channel as I seek to make sense of the New Age of Food.
Greg leads the largest Plant Based & Natural Foods foods portfolio in Canada - over $160 million in consumption. He is a leader of the future of how Canadians feed their families and themselves.