The favourite topic of the industry about the future of gastronomy and food at the Window to the Future (W2F) Conference was passionately discussed, debated and contradicted, which shows how dearly we all hold food and gastronomy to our hearts. Patrick Willis, renowned Michelin Starred Restaurateur, introduced the panel with childhood memories, explaining that his culinary passion was born in his grandmother’s kitchen, and then was passed onto his mother, generation by generation. “You are what you eat, but how do you eat?” this question was raised by Catalin Cighi, Managing Partner at Cain Hospitality Innovation (CHI). Peter G. Rebeiz, Chairman & CEO at Caviar House & Prunier explained that gastronomy was about passion for life, sharing and culture. In the past, eating was an activity that was originated at home in a family circle. Today, eating is just as popular or even more, but it can take place in different geographical and social contexts. The new dining room is the kitchen, people used to have dining rooms and used them regularly, today, they are empty spaces, as was pointed out by Peter Rebeiz. Are future homes going to have kitchens installed?
Eating out is certainly a trend that is not going to vanish. During the panel, the experts talked about new concepts; Patrick Willis about the timeless importance of a good wine list, correct prices and friendly service. André Mack, Director at Lausanne Hospitality Consulting raised the topic about the concepts of temporary restaurants, which are popular in Beirut for instance; is “AirF&B” the new AirBnB? Philipp Mosimann, Managing Director at Mosimann’s London, extends his catering services to different continents on a temporary basis, for the Olympic Games for instance, the last ones took place last February in Pyeongchang. Renowned Chefs open restaurants in cities, luxury brands open restaurants with food and beverages branded with their logos, e.g. Gucci Osteria in Florence or Ferrero with their Nutella Cafés in Chicago, New York and one is expected to open in London soon.
The imminent popularity of these new concepts is linked to customer’s search for brand trust, as Peter Rebeiz said, in his restaurants he noticed that when customers do not know a brand they want to know the product inside out. Supermarket products have to be labelled with extensive descriptions. Despite information abundance, the industry will need to find means to increase transparency, a simplification of the food chain could be a solution. Another solution would be to introduce universal indexes and certifications for organic produce or the negative environmental impact they have. The Country of Origin (COO) is another element that will continue to affect customer’s purchasing decision. Scholars have found that collectivist cultures and developed countries usually favor domestic over foreign products. Another point is that consumers associate certain products with certain countries, for instance Russia with Vodka; these anchored beliefs are unlikely to change in the short term.
Moreover, consumers often state having preferences for organic products and paying attention to the COO, however their actions prove not to be in line with their claims.
The common challenge that both supermarkets and restaurants encounter today is food waste, packaging and the traceability of the products. Studies found that technology and big data are tools that can allow restaurants and supermarkets to track their food waste. A start-up co-founded by EHL Alumnis, Kitro, that was part of the METRO Accelerator program, offers solution to help restaurants limit their food waste and track it. Technology and innovation is expected to help educate not only the consumer on the food industry but also the supply side,
the food industry leaders and professionals. As Peter Rebeiz says, we are the ones who have to provide the transparency and stay loyal to ethics. Philipp Mosimann adds that out of 900 guests at a recent event, 140 guests had dietary requirements. The demand’s expectations are evolving, and the supply has to adapt to it. Companies such as Gastromotiva create new food products directly from food waste, which is another solution that encourages the industry to move into a more sustainable direction.
Regarding packaging, André Mack mentioned packaging from seaweed; innovations have improved shelf-life of fresh products, resulting in a decrease of food waste. Another novelty is zero-packaging grocery stores, which is a popular trend in the
U.S.A. Nevertheless, to open new stores or completely change existing brands takes time and willingness to change, scholars found that food neophobia is an important barrier in the industry.
Another issue is that any item associated to Bio or Organic usually comes with a price tag and most people cannot afford these options. However, studies showed that the adoption of sustainable nutrition can contribute to significant improvements of the food chain. For instance, vegetable-based diets help reduce obesity and malnutrition issues in developing economies and reduces food production’s important negative footprint on climate change (estimated to up to 50%, especially in field production).
Philipp Mosimann’s predicted that urban cities will innovate in their farming techniques and the world will have to pursue with research on meat alternatives, for instance soya enzymes that taste like meat. On the other hand, Patrick Willis reminded the audience that local farmers still play an important role and should be supported – is it better to eat an imported organic plant-based product than meat from the local farmer? Studies have shown that the energy used for greenhouse operations is substantial and justifies the sourcing of food products overseas.
Transportation of trade goods increases over 20% of global CO2 emissions, which includes transportation of food. Surprisingly, the covered distances matter less than the transportation modes. Indeed, large capacity vehicles are more energy-efficient. Catalin Cighi believes that whenever food production and its natural cycle is enabled only through human beings’ intervention there is an issue, as it is an artificial process. As currently two options exist to satisfy consumer’s complex demands and dietary requirement: either set up artificially environments to produce exotic foods or import from overseas, a window for technology and innovations in the greenhouse techniques sector is opened for the future of food production.
20 years ago we knew what we ate, today, nobody knows and even labelling is confusing. The experts of the Future of Gastronomy and Food Think Tank all agreed on education playing an important role for the future, “ethics comes first, then taste”, stated Peter Rebeiz. However, even an educated customer only rarely stays loyal to his or her claims. Research proved that customers are more inclined to change their diets when their health is in danger than when they consider the negative impact on the environment. In future, the world population is expected to have new dietary requirements for health purposes and will therefore include products that damage the environment less. Despite the purchasing power increase of developing economies, the population growth in their countries will outpace the improvement of life quality; the demand for food with low nutritional value and sustainability will therefore remain at its current level or even grow. These short-term changes set time constraints for solutions, the population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050; a food revolution with technology and innovations is foreseen. Large corporations in food and gastronomy, local producers, technology innovators, transportation specialists – all stakeholders see a window open to opportunities to improve the global food chain for the future and redefine gastronomy.