Going “back to nature” for health and sustainability, while taking advantage of transformative technologies, is the path forward for food, according to the new “Future of Food” report from Backslash, the cultural intelligence unit of TBWA.
Based on the knowledge, insights, and research of 42 TBWA Culture Spotters around the world, the report identifies four key areas that are shaping the future of food and the opportunities they present for food brands.
Strengthening social and environmental sustainability
It’s no longer enough to offer food that looks and tastes good. Food is now a critical component of promoting better health for the planet and its people. So consumers are more likely to shop with social responsibility, environmental impact, and personal wellbeing in mind.
Areas where food businesses can positively contribute to this movement include tackling food waste and promoting moderation, providing greater transparency and informative labeling, and supporting inclusivity through partnerships that honor heritage dishes and flavors.
Going back to basics with consumption
Stockouts during the pandemic, tightening budgets, and rising food insecurity has led to a shift from reliance on convenience and speedy meal deliveries to taking the time to make more meals at home. Consumers have developed an appreciation for the process of preparing food in their own kitchens, and many are looking to become more self-sufficient by growing their own food and raising livestock.
Brands can support this desire to be more hands-on by educating consumers on the journey from farm to table and helping them experience the process through initiatives like urban gardening.
Blurring the lines between food and medicine
As consumers seek to improve their health and wellbeing, they have greater expectations for the food they buy. They’re not just seeking foods that are healthy and offer functional benefits — they’re increasingly looking for personalized nutrition that meets their unique dietary needs and improves their mental state.
The opportunity for food companies here is to steer customers away from comforting junk foods and toward products and recipes that will help them feel better and adopt healthier habits.
Embracing innovative technologies
Where before there had been some resistance to technology’s involvement in food production, consumers are now seeing its critical role in reducing food waste and addressing the climate crisis. They’re also interested in trying lab-grown meat and cultivated dairy products, viewing them as more sustainable, humane alternatives.
A lot of attention is on AI, too, as its capabilities in food are no longer limited to robotics and inventory management. Consumers are using AI tools to get inspiration for recipes and meal plans. And brands’ use of AI is expanding to product development — from staying ahead of food trends to planning new formulations.
For a more in-depth look at these cultural forces, see Backslash’s full report.