“Well, that was an encouraging day!” Rosa, a brain augmentation engineer, reflects as she takes a few intentional, deep breaths before she steps away from her garden desk and grabs the bag packed earlier by her robotic assistant, Kush. Rosa then jumps into her waiting autonomous-driving vehicle for the 40-minute ride into Portland. She is so looking forward to dinner with her sister. While there are many ways to connect virtually with one another these days, nothing beats sitting around a table having a meal together—and this weekly ritual is one she tries hard not to miss. Her mother has told them both so many stories about the community dinners her friends started 20 something years ago—how these gatherings nourished her inside and out and ultimately fed many of the huge food innovations that fuel her daughters now.
This is the opening paragraph for a longer scenario I was invited to contribute to a new book in which 50 futurists imagine how the world will transform during the next 50(ish) years. This chapter paints a world in which our kids 3D print their breakfast cereal—fortified individually with what each needs for the day based on their body chemistry, schedule that day and mood. It envisions robots helping us prepare community dinners as families of all sizes gather in spaces intentionally designed for connecting. And drones that share extra portions of clean meats, grains and vegetables abundantly grown in labs and vertical farms to those across town who can’t join that evening.
Admittedly, it’s a very optimistic view of what’s to come. And why does it make sense to think about the future this way—when this all seems widely different than how we live, shop, cook and eat today? Because, as we can see, so much of this already is happening in emergent pockets here and there. The US military is exploring ways to 3D print individual meals for soldiers. Vertical farms and artificial intelligence continues to expand into our food systems—as do robotics and distributed internet applications.
And when you are able to link tech innovations and growing societal needs together into a story, you start to see how one new concept quickly connects with and accelerates another. You can also get a taste of how radically many things will change as the fundamental role of food, community, and connection will be considered in our overall health and well-being—for everyone.
Super exciting times ahead! We’ll get there by exploring today what the future needs and expects from us then. And by considering what we are each in a unique position to contribute and create to it.
I recently spent three days looking over the horizon with 21 leading food manufacturers and retailers. After sorting which of 10 news headlines were real versus “yet to happen” (it ain’t as easy as it sounds) and hearing from both industry analysts and food/retail tech entrepreneurs, we began imagining how we’ll buy a basket of items from bananas to Oreos to eggs to lab-grown bacon in 2025. Transporting your open mind into the future this way, makes you wonder about the role of brand in the years ahead (will Nabisco cryptographically ping the Oreo recipe to my Foodini printer?), options for alternative distribution/access points (suburban farms?), and the radical importance of fostering both trust and delight with the shopper (undeniable!).
I always love reading this collection of food trends. As you dive in, too, I encourage to pick a few and create a story. Feel free to send me any favorites!
Wishing you a bright, bold and inventive new year that ensures we take good care of ourselves and each other. Inside and out.
Strategic Futurist, Speaker, Gatherer and Founder of Play Big Inc