Next week marks the reopening of London’s restaurants – at least for outdoor dining – for the first time since December 2020. Menus will likely be full of the joys of spring; perhaps an asparagus starter followed by some young lamb. Needless to say, your author already has several reservations in his diary. While not just thinking about upcoming meals, we have read several recent articles that provide interesting insights into what dishes dining venues may be serving in the future.
If burgers from the likes of Beyond and Impossible have already given us a taste for what ‘meat 2.0’ might taste like, then innovation currently underway takes things to a new level. Any company which calls itself Redefine Meat gives you an insight into its level of ambition. If you want your alt-steak to taste like the real thing, then why not try and 3D print it? Redefine Meat has mapped more than 70 different parameters of beef – everything from juiciness to mouthfeel – and is then replicating them on a layer-by-layer basis using 3D printing techniques and plant-based material as the substrate. Another potential palate-whetting approach is that being pursued by SavorEat (coincidentally, both it and Redefine are based in Israel), where a robot chef kitted out with ingredient cartridges can customise your (meat-free) burger for you. It can apparently be 3D-printed and grilled within six minutes.
Many people might consider pairing their steak with a nice ripe tomato (not forgetting the chips, of course). Soon it could be possible to enjoy a ‘super’ tomato which can help lower blood pressure and aid relaxation alongside your redefined steak. Last week saw the release in Japan of what is believed to be the world’s first genome-edited tomato for the consumer market. Pioneered by Sanatech Seed, the tomato (a Sicilian Rouge variety) was developed using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. As a consequence, the tomato contains up to five times more gamma-aminobutyric acid than a regular tomato, helping to deliver the aforementioned health benefits. Seeds are being currently distributed on a trial basis.
Although stories such as these naturally attract headlines and the curiosity of both investors and gourmands, a much more serious consideration is also at work. Food innovation is necessary in order to feed a growing population. Forecasts from the United Nations (UN) predict 11.2bn people on the planet by the end of the century versus 7.7bn in 2019. How we feed them against a backdrop of shrinking arable land, growing water shortages and more extreme weather conditions remains an enormous challenge. Bear in mind also the first three Sustainable Development Goals of the UN: no poverty, zero hunger and good health & well-being. Given that the global food market is currently worth over $11tr, the stakes (no pun intended) for disrupting it are undoubtedly high.
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