Friday, October 9, 2015

The future of our food

By: Jeanette Andrade, PhD, RDN/LDN

In late July of this year I attended the Institute of Food Technologist conference in Chicago, IL. I had gone there a few times before to present a poster or speak about my research and attend the afternoon sessions, but I rarely attend the early sessions as they do not appear “exciting”. This year I decided to attend one early morning session as the title appeared intriguing, “Futurist: Mike Walsh”. Mike Walsh is actually a business man who consultants companies and reviews data to assist them in advancing their company through the next consumer wave. He is not a nutritionist nor a food technologist/scientist, which helped make my decision to hear his talk. For those who are reading this blog you may already have some questions one of them being, “Why listen to a talk with someone who is not an expert in the area?” Well because we have so many non-experts writing about the future of our food and shaping the way consumers buy food I wanted to know how he was going about this talk (e.g. going on a soap box about some trend or way we should be making our food). For example, think about any of the diets that are currently out there or the books that tell us certain ingredients are “dangerous” to buy even though that ingredient may simply be water (e.g. dihydrogen monoxide) and the amount of consumers who stop buying particular foods due to this misinformation. In any case, after his hour presentation I was impressed. This guy did his homework about the food industry and provided a non-biased opinion about the way food scientists/nutritionists are creating food to help feed the 9.6 billion people who are expected to be on Earth by 2050. 

He asked 4 main questions throughout his presentation with one of them being, “How do we know what consumers will buy in the future?” His response: “Ask an 8-year old how they view food and what they would like to eat.” So, luckily I have an 8 year old and was able to ask this question. Her response, “Ice-cream Popsicles.” 

As a dietitian I was not so proud of her answer and it really was not the response I thought she would say. I really wanted her to say, “Watermelon”. But it got me to think, it is what she wants. I buy many healthy food items, so no ice-cream comes home that often from the market, which is why she responded that way. 
I wonder if you get 8-year olds in a room who have been exposed to limited fruits/vegetables or food in general and asked them this question what would they say? We predict maybe the same food they are always eating, but what if they say something like, “strawberries, lobster, and caviar”? I mean if, like my daughter, they do not consume the food that often, possibly they may respond with an answer that we do not expect. So, if you have an 8-year old ask them, “If you were the one shopping for food this week, what would you buy?” The answer may shock you and lead you to believe kids really will shape the future of our food.


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