Food trends: from digital dining to healthy junk food

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food-trendsThe future of food includes holographic chefs, smart knives and egg-white crisps (1), according to trend analysts. But will kale ice lollies and edible soil ever catch on?
It is a blustery winter morning in Mayfair, London, and 100 or so (2) well-heeled representatives from the advertising and retail worlds are huddled in a lecture theatre at the Royal Institution. This is the future of food, according to Stylus, an “innovation, research and advisory firm” that scours global markets to pinpoint the most influential emerging trends for companies such as Saatchi & Saatchi, Bacardi and Hotel Chocolat.
Edible QR codes
Harney Sushi, a restaurant in San Diego, has attempted to tackle the problem that 52% of Californian seafood is supposedly being mislabelled, by devising edible rice paper QR codes (3). Using smartphones, diners can call up detailed information about the provenance and global stocks of the fish they’ve ordered.
Interactive cocktail lounges
Logbar in Tokyo issues customers with iPad Minis (4) upon entry. The menu is on the tablet, which you can also use to communicate with other drinkers and view, “like” and order what they’re drinking. You can even invent your own cocktail and earn 50 yen (about 30p)(5) when someone else buys one.
Momentum Machines’ robot churns out 360 gourmet burgers an hour, chopping all ingredients as it goes so that everything is fresh, fresh, fresh. Orders can be customised, too. You want a patty of one-third pork and two-thirds bison? No problem.
Smart knives
One of Electrolux Design Lab’s contenders is a knife that can check levels of harmful bacteria, pesticides and nutrients such as sugar, vitamins, protein and fat in the food it cuts (6). It also emits negative ions to help keep the food fresh .
Alcohol-aware ice cubes
Keep one of these in your glass and it will warn you when you’re guzzling too fast (7), and send a text message to a close friend if you ignore it. When you’re drinking moderately, the cube flashes green in time with the ambient music. If you start drinking more quickly it moves to amber (8), and red is your final warning.
Food tattoos
A Spanish company has developed laser tattoos for fresh produce, which can safely apply logos, provenance details and even QR codes on to fruit and veg. So far, the stickers have been irritating and un-eco (9).
“Health” chocolate
There is an increasing number of well-off older people wanting to stay fit, so they will probably buy health chocolate. Expect to see more along the lines of French fruity chocolate Wellness Cacao, probiotic Ohso bars and IQ “superfood” chocolate.
Kale lollies
Nothing, it seems, can stop the march of the kale evangelists. Next summer, forget Magnums – it’s all about the kale ice lolly (10).
Chia pods
Chia, an ancient grain that is favoured by vegan raw foodists (11) as a great source of protein, omega-3, fibre and slow-release carbohydrate, has been morphed into a snack food. Mixed with coconut milk and fruit, it comes in a dinky “pod” with a spoon. Expect to see more chia products for “on-the-go nutrition”, as Stylus’s Mandy Saven puts it.
Egg-white crisps
IPS (Intelligent Protein Snacks) contain protein, half the fat of regular crisps and fewer carbs, too. No mention of salt levels, though.
Savoury yoghurts
Carrot, tomato, parsnip and beetroot yogurts are a thing in New York. Milk from grass-fed cows and naturally sweet (12) vegetables seem a winning combination – it can’t be long before it comes to the UK.
Insect bars
Chapul protein bars have introduced the notion of insect-eating (13) to America. They contain 15% more iron than spinach and as much B12 as salmon, and the insects are disguised by other ingredients including chocolate, coffee, coconut and ginger (14).
Edible soil
Yes, chefs such as René Redzepi and Heston Blumenthal have been fashioning delicious foodstuffs into fake soil for years, but we’re talking actual earth. Last year, the Tokyo restaurant Ne Quittez Pas introduced a soil-based (15) menu, including dirt and potato soup, dirt risotto with sea bass and dirt ice-cream. According to Yoshihiro Narisawa, a chef from another Tokyo restaurant, soil is rich in umami (16). This could catch on.

(Adapted from on 23 May 2014)

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