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The food industry has seen radical changes over the past few years, and if Wunderman Thompson’s latest report is anything to go by, there are plenty of exciting innovations on the horizon. In its nineth edition of The Future 100: 2023, the intelligence company singles out 10 interesting trends to shape the direction of the food and drink sector for years to come.
Commenting on the report, Emma Chiu, global director of Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, said, “All signs should point towards a bleak and chaotic year as a rocky economy, political instability, and environmental deterioration persist.
“However, people are determined to show resilience, innovation, and joy in the face of continued hardship.
“The stress of the past years has put an emphasis on optimizing both the mind and body, and a holistic approach to health is evident across all categories as people expect to positively enhance their wellbeing at every touchpoint, suggesting that every brand needs to be a health brand.”
Here are 10 food and drink trends to know about:
Diners are embracing extraordinary culinary experiences that offer inventive menus, theatrical preparation, and extreme locations in 2023. In fact, extreme dining provides a unique escape from everyday life for consumers, relishing memorable experiences that take them beyond the usual restaurant setup.
The metaverse is influencing the food and drink industry, inspiring new flavor profiles and reimagining the dining experience. Eating and drinking is a distinctly physical experience—but brands are starting to explore how this translates into the virtual realm, and how virtual experiences inform physical food and drink products. As virtual lifestyles evolve, expect to see more creative reinterpretations of food and drink for the future of metaliving.
Zero-proofing is the new cool. In fact, the Guardian reports British 16-24-year-olds are the driving generation shunning alcohol, with 26% fully teetotal. The past few years have seen a steady rise in people wanting low- or no-alcohol options, as beverage brands started producing more refined non-alcoholic alternatives.
Now, these products are being integrated into social settings, thanks to modern bottle stores with tasting counters, and chic bars going completely teetotal.
There is a growing cultural interest in nature-inspired, foraged diets and lifestyles. In an evolution from foraged cocktails (trend 41 in “The Future 100: 2022”), consumers are combining their desire to be sustainable with a growing interest in rewilding in daily life.
Fine dining is offering a new tier of elite eating experiences for the upper echelons: one that prioritizes membership and exclusivity, and caters to the crypto elite. For example, premium London restaurant Casa Cruz’s four-story New York establishment hybridizes the clubstaurant approach even further. The main restaurant and lounges are open to the public, but only investors paying upward of $250,000 to join have access to the dining room and roof terrace on the fourth floor.
The wine industry is ripe for disruption—and new players are starting to explore Web3-enabled reinvention. Wine companies are taking inspiration from cryptocurrency and the metaverse to set up as a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO. This distributed leadership model spreads ownership and decision-making power throughout the winery’s community, meaning everyone with an NFT has equal voting rights over the future direction of the venture. Wunderman Thompson predicted the rise of DAOs in “The Future 100: 2022,” looking at how the Web3 economy is providing an alternative to corporate employment.
Three new ingredients
Wunderman Thompson’s three ingredients to watch include Sansho peppercorn, a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine with a zesty flavour, Yaupon, a sweet and earthy naturally caffeinated plant, and Achiote, a vibrant and tangy spice popular in Mexican cooking.
Cell-cultured meat or dairy is a promising way to produce animal protein without animal suffering and environmental degradation. But until very recently, it’s been very expensive to do so. With investors pouring money into exploring lab-grown alternative proteins, it makes sense that some see their first applications in high-end dining.
In 2021, scientists at Osaka University created wagyu beef—complete with streaky fat—using 3D printing, while Dutch scientists were experimenting with lab-grown caviar.
The dining industry is feeling the financial effects of the energy crisis in Europe. Chefs are taking extreme measures to innovate the dining experience while conserving money and reducing energy costs.
For example, in October 2022, a restaurant in Frodsham opened without mains power, serving guests a nine-course tasting menu by candlelight as a protest against rising energy costs. Next Door used charcoal, smoking, curing, and fermentation techniques to prepare the dishes, with fire to heat tea and warm drinks and food. Instead of fridges, and the cellar was used to store ingredients.
Future dining settings will do more than reduce food waste or use biodegradable materials: the entire environment will be designed in an eco-friendly fashion. For example, Vrå, a restaurant in Gothenburg, Sweden, uses furniture made from food waste and byproducts.
Created by local designer Carolina Härdh, the pieces aim to help guests visualize the value food waste can have if reused properly. Sustainable practices in the food industry are evolving, allowing brands to do more than reduce their food waste. Circular design in restaurants and social environments is the next iteration of eco-dining.