DESIGNING FOR NewTastes

How the design industry can set out the path for the future of food.

The last year has seen people reconsider the food they put in their bodies like never before: whether the rise of veganism in the UK (40% increase), investment into meat, egg and dairy substitutes (USD 3.1 billion), or the search for immunity through food (with 6 out of 10 global consumers on the hunt), our pandemic defined year has changed the way we think about the connections between our food, our health and our wellbeing.

The food and drinks industry has rallied.

Consumers are presented with an ever increasing range of innovative products which promise to be better, healthier and more sustainable.

Whether lab grown dairy, plant-based meats, social elixirs or nootropic drinks, in recent years we have seen the emergence of new specially developed, functionality-focused, food and drink products.

These not only offer a wide range of health and wellbeing benefits, but are purpose driven, wearing their intentions for life improvement on their sleeves and presenting their positives to the body, community and environment at their heart.

These product types offer extraordinary opportunities for the F&B industry and for us as consumers, demanding a total reset of the status quo as to how we think about our food and drink.

But their differentiation and innovation is a double edged sword. Whilst their promises, benefits and potential for change grab headlines and stir curiosity, their mix of sci-fi origin stories and skeuomorphic positioning can alienate.

Enjoying food and drink reminds of places visited, times enjoyed, of serendipitous moments with loved ones and experiences that will last a lifetime. So if the future of our food begins in a lab, can improve your mood, microbiome, even libido or promises to help stop climate change, how can we celebrate its functional benefits whilst enticing, driving appetite appeal and enjoyment.

While we creatives may not be the people coming up with the processes or science behind these new products or deciding on their legislation, what we can do is help the industry define and describe them, shaping their positioning and ensuring that consumers understand their purpose and desirability equally.

So, when a milk isn’t necessarily milk, here are 3 thoughts that can set us on a path for designing for new tastes.

SPEAK

We need a different language, new terms to describe these new foods. Usually it is the process rather than the ingredient or product which confuses consumers and so we need to develop a descriptive framework which is informative but not off-putting.

SENSE

We need new sensory cues to show and express these new textures, tastes and mouthfeels. These products need to stand on their own, but the initial hurdle is how to find the right references to give consumers something to relate to.

SITUATE

We need to reframe the past, educating each other beyond our preoccupation with ‘natural’ and our negative perception of purpose-created or artificial, realising that in fact many of the food stuffs which have become our daily staple are more artificial than we realise.

The food and drinks industry is at a turning point. Consumers are becoming aware of the importance of their food and drink for their wider wellbeing and its impact on the environment and now is the time for the industry, whether the established global players or the scrappy start-ups, to work together to define the framework and build the foundations for how consumers will see these products.

This is the design industry’s call to arms — we have a responsibility to create better stories, products and services that support this shift and educate others towards this tasty, sustainable and beneficial future.

Author: James Ravenhall, Creative Director at NewTerritory

An independent creative consultancy exploring better ways of living, working and moving.