When your author is not researching and investing in future trends, one of his key hobbies is food. This entails both cooking at home and eating out. Much of the latter activity is recorded via a dedicated restaurant Blog. Considering the top culinary themes for 2024 therefore constitutes an obvious topic for further investigation.

It was hard not to escape the impact of AI over the past year. Expect it to become more ubiquitous in 2024, especially in a sector such as restaurants. New restaurant technologies will be increasingly supported by AI, a view shared by the National Restaurant Association in its 2024 outlook. Think generative, in terms of drive-through and predictive in the form of labour, supply and marketing mix management. And why not ask ChatGPT (or similar) to generate new dishes? A simple request to OpenAI’s chatbot for a novel pizza topping generated a suggestion for “Asian Spice Fusion” comprising sriracha chicken, sautéed shiitake mushrooms, jalapenos, sesame oil drizzle and coriander leaves. It sure sounds tasty.

Much as we all like pizza, expect there to be more evidence over the coming year of the shift towards healthier and more sustainable food products and away from ultra-processed foods. Mintel, a market research firm, believes that the latter – soon to become widely known by its acronym, UPF – will soon become the “new junk food.” Younger generations, in particular, are turning increasingly to products that have been farmed sustainably and might even be upcycled – that is, made from food waste. Interested (and non-disgusted) readers can read more here.

One other trend to watch for in 2024 is further evolution in the debate about cultured meat. We first discussed this topic in 2021, but in the almost three years since writing, there has been relatively limited progress. Regulators have now granted approval for cultured (i.e., lab-grown) meat to be sold in Singapore and the US. However, outside of test kitchens, only two restaurants in America currently sell cultured meats, per a recent piece in The Economist. Your author hopes to visit one of them, in San Francisco, later this year. Nonetheless, given the significant greenhouse gas impact attached to producing animal protein and the likely falling costs of cultured meat as the industry scales, lab-grown food may be on all our plates sooner than we think.

10 January 2024

The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.

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Alex Gunz, Fund Manager

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