Throughout the ages food has always reflected how we live and the technology available to us. From our ancestors hunting and gathering for their fire-pits to the futurists and their space-age dehydrated packaged foodstuffs, to the convenience-seeking suburbanites and their microwaveable ready meals, we continue to see the symbiotic relationship between man, food and technology.
So what will the next wave of innovation bring for the up and coming socially-obsessed digital natives? How will they fuse taste with technology, or combine the social event of eating with social platform of sharing? In short how can brands adapt to the 21st century food experience?
Technology has driven much change in our relationship with food. One brand that has harnessed our relish for discovering new and surprising tastes with smart technology is mustard and vinegar specialist Maille. Famous for its boutique store in London, many flock to savour its sensorial delights. However it’s not something people are likely to do that often. Which is why they developed the discovery spoon.
As you sample different mustards in store an RFID within the spoon allows you to tap your favourite flavours, saving them for another time. Then by scanning your spoon, you can review your preferences and have them emailed to you tout suite. It also gives Maille the opportunity to send you personalised emails in future, full of expert tasting notes, recipes and offers around the things you like.
But what’s the next level? At New York Fashion Week designer Rebecca Minkoff recently brought virtual reality and digital trials to the catwalk. Though Minkoff’s runway looks were available in-store immediately following the show, shoppers didn’t have to be in New York to see what the clothes would look like on their own bodies. Thanks to a partnership with Israeli startup Zeekit, potential buyers could skip the changing room and simply take a photo of themselves on the app to see how how they would look in the clothes.
Imagine if this kind of virtual sampling could be brought to the world of food. Imagine wondering what something tasted like and being able to try it via a Zeekit equivalent for food.
We know digital natives love social media even more than they do technology. So how will the platforms meet tomorrow’s hunter-gatherer demands for sustenance as they swipe and share? For sure, food culture is rapidly moving on from three square meals a day, to grazing through the day, to 24/7 bespoke food solutions delivered immediately. Could this mean that in future people will expect to live a food lifestyle much like they expect to live their social media lifestyle? That is, highly personalized, whenever they want it, in a format that they prefer. In other words, will we start to think of food itself as a platform?
And what might this mean for food brands themselves? Will they be required to segment by social platform for example? Will we see sensorial artisans demanding Instagram, provenance storytellers heading for Facebook, fun-time live-in-the-moment types loving Snapchat, those suffering food FOMO wedded to Twitter, and so on?
Perhaps none of these provocations will prove necessary, as we’ll just simply Foogle a way to satisfy our culinary curiosities. After all Google has already experimented with multi-lingual dining as a means to bring the world around the table.
Small World, Google’s pop-up in New York, was designed to connect different cultures from the four corners of the earth. Chefs from across the globe created different dishes that appeared on the menu in their native language and visitors deciphered the text using Google Translate. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase global melting pot.
So what does this all mean for tomorrow’s taste technocrats? Let’s look at the menu:
Embrace tech. Technology isn’t only there to assist delivery. Think how it can create whole new brand experiences.
Share the dish. Future foodies live and dine on social. Will your brand be sitting at the same table?
Personal taste. Never mind what’s on the menu. Consumers know exactly what they want, and they want it now. Can your brand make the experience more personal?
Create a legacy. Go beyond the immediate, the here and now. Consumers of the future will need new food sources from new supply chains. How will your brand lead in whole-system thinking? Food makers. Move from consumer thinking to prosumer thinking. As food sources come under pressure, future consumers won’t just consume, they’ll need to produce their own. Field to fork will become garden outside (or inside) to kitchen, factory and table. Can your brand help to facilitate this?