Towards new bespoke food
The first Alimentaria was held 40 years ago. The food we eat today is not what it was then. The preferences and eating habits of consumers has changed, and the industry and distribution sector has had to innovate constantly to keep up. The average person in Spain eats 662 kg of food per year.
The variety of food available has increased immensely over these four decades. Spain has been introduced to new ingredients, flavours, raw materials, processes, formats, packaging and forms of preservation. We have seen the emergence of phenomena such as “light” or “free” varieties, the arrival of frozen food and ready meals, and functional foods. Food now comes to us, fresh, washed, peeled, chopped and packaged for immediate consumption, like our ready-made salads, or cooked dishes chilled and ready to eat, and treated products with textures and aromas to remind us of fresh food.
What will be eating after 2016?
Our food now adapts to the different lifestyles and needs of each consumer. There will be more and more specialized products, intended for rapid easy consumption at different times, with an emphasis on healthy options and specific groups of consumers. In the medium term, there will be further advances in the area of personalized diets, meaning food prepared specifically for certain genetic conditions.
Broadly speaking, and according to the consultancy Innova Market Insights, this year is the year of organic produce labelled as “healthy”, “natural” and “- free”, and locally sourced products subjected to less processing. At the same time, there will be increased demand for superfoods: these functional, improved products aim to increase our well-being and prevent illness.
The concern for all that is natural and ecological means there are greater numbers of vegetarians, of a sort. The flexitarian diet is catching on –there are even specialized restauraunts such as Fax&Kale, run by Teresa Carles in Barcelona, where vegetables are the main feature , accompanied by the occasional use of animal products of the highest quality. Vegetables are also increasingly present in children’s food, in shakes, juices, yoghurts or cakes, for example, while new meat-free alternative proteins are sourced from seaweed, peas, soya, cereal, nuts, seeds, whey and even insects.
Health comes first
Consumers care about their health, and will opt for products which contain active ingredients such as calcium, omega 3, fibre, collagen, prebiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, and so on. They aim to improve their well-being, prevent illnesses and get an extra boost of energy or proteins to enjoy a healthier, more active life. This is also the reason there are so many foods which are “free” of gluten, lactose, sugar, salt or fat.
Another factor which is increasingly popular is locally sourced, or kilometre zero, food, made with certified local materials and without artificial additives. There is greater awareness of the problem of wasted food, and given current social trends, there will be more formats for individual portions. On the other hand, the internet is increasingly relevant when it comes to food and drink, for shopping, commenting on food and sharing our gastronomic experiences.
The future of our food will also be affected by technology. Will we be printing whole meals out in our homes? Smart robots and appliances will communicate and cook to our specifications, and even take charge of doing our shopping. It may sound like science fiction, but it is closer than you think.
In fact, there are already devices, gadgets with sensors and applications that combine food, health and well-being: you can detect allergens, ingredients or the nutritional profile of a dish through your mobile phone, enjoy online nutritional coaching services or cook a recipe in 30 seconds from ingredients in capsules. This burgeoning FoodTech revolution is present in Alimentaria through some of the start-ups with disruptive ideas that are driving Reimagine Food such as Impact Vision; Healum; Visual Tagging; Nu4Mat or Diet-creator.
Innoval, products that set the pace
Despite Alimentaria as a whole being a showcase for new ideas, Innoval is the area where the latest developments within the industry are highlighted, and trends most clearly signposted. This year nearly 300 products are being presented. We would single out: snacks based on peas; cakes made with Chlorella, a seaweed rich in proteins; ecological vermouth; a home made tonic of wild strawberries; vegetarian Frankfurters; healthy pizzas made with tritordeum, a new cereal which is half wheat, half barley; fruit caviar; or instant coffee with magnesium to reduce tiredness.