By Stephen Honner
Through increasing uncertainty, there is one guarantee – we will always need food. But how we consume food or the way we feed our growing population may soon look very different to the way we operate now. We speak with Tony Hunter, a Food Futurist, and 2020 evokeAG. speaker about the changes and trends in the food industry and the opportunities for our food supply chain in the future.
Making decisions on food in the future
Food personalisation is an emerging trend, which Tony believes will become more prominent in the future. It’s also one of the many upstream agrifood tech areas that continues to attract investment.
“One of the most interesting trends we’re seeing is the increasing emphasis on immunity. That’s one of the areas we’ve seen a massive boost during the pandemic,” said Tony.
Google search terms such as “immunity” increased significantly during the pandemic, according to Tony, as people started to focus more on their wellness.
“I think that whole personalisation trend is a major driver, not just physical health, nutritional health, cognitive health or general well-being.
“Wellness has gone mainstream in the last couple of years and that’s what people are looking for. They are looking for food to make them feel well.”
Most of us would have sat down to stream TV through Netflix or other streaming services. Whilst browsing, you may have noticed how these services provide you with a list of recommendations of what content you might enjoy. With the evolution of DNA testing, Tony sees this concept of recommendation for individual preferences applying to food in the future.
UK-based business, DNA Nudge is leading the way in this field, according to Tony. The company offers a DNA analysing service, which directs consumers to make healthier choices with food, based on their individual DNA. Consumers are given an electronic wristband, called the DNA Band, where they can scan the food item barcode and the wristband will alert the consumer whether the food is suitable for them.
Cellular meats as an alternative protein
There has been a lot of debate around alternative proteins and, in particular, cellular meats. Some of the narrative has been around that cellular meat will pose a threat to animal agriculture and will eventually replace the industry into the future. Tony does not agree with this sentiment and sees a way for both to exist side by side.
“In the immediate future, there’s room for both. We’re talking about having to almost double the amount of food that we need [to produce] by 2050 to feed close to 10 billion people. I struggle to see the replacement of animal agriculture in that time frame, just the sheer amount of factories you would need to build.”
Tony however highlighted the momentum the emerging industry is starting to gain by pointing to Memphis Meats, who back in January this year, raised $161 million in a funding round, which will enable the company to start building a pilot production plant.
So given Australia is a big player in the animal agricultural space, what’s Tony’s advice?
“I think we have to pursue both of these industries in parallel. If we ignore it and go into protectionism mode, great in the short term, but in the long term and if someone else does it, then we’ll suffer.”
Tony said it might be a few years away yet until we see cellular-based meats on the supermarket shelf. It is likely we’ll see cellular based meats in restaurants first, according to Tony.
“As to when we might see it in supermarkets, I think five years is fairly optimistic – maybe in 10 years.”
Insect consumption in Australia
Around 2 billion people in the world today consume insects but they haven’t really made their way onto the plates of many Australians. Is this about to change? Will we see silkworms or crickets in our fridges any time soon?
Tony believes there is opportunity for insects to be in our diet but just not in the skeletal form.
“Insects have very high-quality fats, the protein is very good and they have a very good amino acid profile. Protein and fats from insects can be incorporated into other products as powders. But why do we need the whole insect? Why don’t we just grow insect cells and then just use those? We could just grow the insect proteins and fats, and that’s it, we don’t actually need the whole insect at all.”
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