“The world in the next five years is going to be unrecognisable from today and the next two years are critical, we are really going to be shaken up,” says food futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye.
The food industry has a lot on its plate – Brexit, technology and global warming are all threatening to change the contents of our shopping baskets forever.
Sensational headlines warn of global warming killing of chocolate, raisins and sultanas, coffee costing more and tasting worse and vineyards decimated by extreme temperatures.
So we asked Dr Gaye and health writer and fellow future-gazer Lyndon Gee how our big shop will be transformed in the future.
Banana drama: Price rises could make Britain’s favourite fruit less appealing
Gee: The Cavendish banana, the world’s most common variety, is under threat globally from a fungus, so we could see bananas go up in price soon. In the 1950s the main variety was ‘Gros Michel’ which was wiped out by fungus. This reliance on a single cultivar illustrates the need for biodiversity. New antibiotic-resistant viruses could have a huge impact on livestock or poultry, driving up prices.
Peachy keen: Britain farmers could bear the fruits of shifting growth
Gee: Global warming will cause some crops to become more expensive in the future as growing conditions change. Cocoa production is feeling this at the moment. Production of many foods will shift from traditional areas. We’re already seeing UK farmers trying out southern European crops, so look out for English apricots, soon to be joined by English peaches. We could see British almonds, even olives, which are being trialled in Kent.
Air today, gone tomorrow: 3D printing will add a new dimension to chocolate
Dr Gaye: Anything that can be 3D printed will be attractive because it can produce highly detailed designs at the cheapest cost. With 3D printing you can make, for example, boxes of chocolates that have really intricate lattice designs but with lots of air in so the chocolate content will be lower to keep costs down.
Super-duper foods: Hybrid crossbred plants to the rescue
Gee: Hybrid crossbred plants, such as the ‘Kalette’, a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale, have already hit the shelves and will be joined by a host of new cultivars. Selective breeding will give us foods with super-enhanced nutrient content – real super food.
Dr Gaye: I expect we will be eating more seaweed algae and insect protein while our food will also contain lots of cannabinoids and CBD.
Lose the booze: The bottle will be beaten by price
Dr Gaye: I think we will see less alcohol in in our food in the future because of new taxation, while people are drinking less alcohol. The generation that drinks the most is aged around 55 currently and we are going to see that age group fade out. We will see alcohol in luxury foods like merlot ice cream instead. Buying bottled water will also be more of a statement – you will buy it with flecks of gold in, for example.
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Brexit has-beans: Goodbye to the EU, hello to new fruit and veg
Gee: Brexit is the biggest short-term shake-up for the UK in terms of farming and food. Under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), tariffs make food imported from outside the EU more expensive and this disproportionately effects poorer households. We could see some prices go down. Leaving the Common Fishing Policy could also have an effect on the fish we eat. A shift in agriculture policy could mean a favourable environment for smaller, more innovative farmers producing more diverse crops. Look out for exciting varieties of fruit and vegetables, chillies, quinoa, beans or legumes.
Eat up your wrapper: Packaging is going edible
Dr Gaye: In 10 years you’ll see much more edible packaging and packaging that is compostable. Examples like Bob’s Burgers in Brazil, where the wrapper for their burgers was edible, or Ooho!’s edible water bottle will become commonplace.
Gee: Packaging will look very different in 20 years’ time as we lose our love affair with plastic. New vegetable-based edible packaging and biodegradable compostable packaging will come to the fore.
Death to diets: Vegan and vegetarian are just the beginning
Dr Gaye: Going on a diet will be old news. Buying food for a specific type of diet will be narrower than just vegan or vegetarian and will fit a profile that is more specific to you, based on genetics and other characteristics.
Gee: But there will be many familiar foods too. Expect lots more vegetable protein, British quinoa, apricots, peaches and almonds. It will be healthier, with nutrient-charged fruit and vegetables. In real terms it will be cheaper too, as yields get greater and mechanisation improves efficiency.
Basket case: Long live the shopping wall
Dr Gaye said: The idea of the shopping basket is kind of old-fashioned. I think that what will instead use a shopping wall, which will be placed where you come off the tube, for example, and you will touch a button for what you want and it will be delivered to your home an hour later. The internet and online shopping will no longer be separate things, it will be all around us.
For more on the future of food and the planet, check out this week’s Earth Day Special Big Issue, including Chris Packham’s call for us to be more Attenborough and how to grow a wood from the man behind behind Doddington Moor. Buy the magazine from your nearest vendor or from The Big Issue Shop here.