The Future of Food – What We Can Expect in 2019 and Beyond

Food has long been something more than simple sustenance for us. Yes, it sustains us, gives us life and is a basic human need. But today food means so much more. It is a unifier, it is culture, it is tradition and is something that we relish in.

Each year we see new restaurants open, new Michelin stars awarded, exciting products launched and food developments happen – there’s always something new around the corner.

Here we look at the future of food, and what 2019 holds for this ever-changing and growing subject.

Sustainability

We’ve seen a growing number of bars and restaurants making the switch from plastic straws to more eco-friendly alternatives, such as paper straws, or even those made from pasta. Worldwide we see this sustainable mentality increasing, especially in Ireland.

Coffee shops have also caught onto this movement, with many selling their own branded reusable coffee cups or offering discounts to customers who bring their own “keep cups”.

In 2016, Galway Restaurant Loam was awarded a Three Star Food Made Good rating by the Sustainable Restaurants Association. Loam’s commitment to a number of different practices shows a new wave of how Irish kitchens are working. For example, they use every part of the animal and fish they cook in the restaurant; making bones from stock and using all the trimmings. They even send back appropriate food waste to their fruit and vegetable supplier to be composted.

This “closing the loop” mentality is vital if we want to live more sustainable and frankly is just good sense.

Speaking to chef Chad Byrne of The Brehon he says, “I believe the future of food has many different identities, one that is very personal to me is a holistic view, a full circle of chefs working in union with suppliers.”

“I think we have to educate the people of tomorrow and food will have to be sustainable”

Food Waste

In March 2017, the Food Waste Charter of Ireland was signed into effect, in an effort to reduce the countries food waste by 50% by the year 2030. This is a call to action for individuals and businesses to make small steps towards reducing their food waste.

According to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the cost of food waste per household in Ireland, each year is between €400 – €1000 each year. I can think of a million other uses for that lump of cash, can’t you?

Eating seasonally is an easy way to reduce the environmental impact of our food habits. Not only does this cut down on the number of resources needed to produce foods that are not in season, but it also gives us much more fresh and delicious foods to enjoy.

Sourcing your food locally means that you can pick up fruits and vegetables that might otherwise be thrown away by large retailers, due to its aesthetics. For example, ‘odd looking’ fruit and vegetables that are not appealing to customers. Personally, I don’t mind if my carrots are bent out of shape, as long as they taste good, I’m happy.

A prominent figure on the food scene in Ireland is chef JP McMahon, who regularly advocates for better food waste policies, sustainability, and food education.

JP says, “We need to keep moving towards more sustainable practices in terms of food waste and recycling. There isn’t a one size fits all answer. Each business needs to look at what they do and see how they can reduce waste; this can be energy, food or other products. We also need to look at what we’re buying. Less air miles and more organic food is the way forward as far as I’m concerned.”

Food For Fuel

Self-care isn’t a phrase just for yogis or health food fans, it’s a movement that is spreading into all walks of our lives, even mental health. In 2019, we will see more people become increasingly conscious about the health benefits of food, not just for fitness or weight loss, but for its other amazing properties. More food providers are filling their menus with nutrient-rich foods that have an impact on our physical and mental health.

People are more discerning with their food choices, with a growing number of people living a fitness filled lifestyle. We see diners opting for foods that boost brain function, improve the immune system and give us heaps of energy. Who hasn’t drooled over Nutbutters Instagram feed, at their self-christened #SexyHealthyFood? Not only does their food look good, but it’s also good for you, and customers know this. Menus like those in Nutbutter are full of fresh Poké Bowls full of fresh vegetables and lean proteins.

Even more formal dining restaurants are leading the way in this health food movement. Dylan McGrath’s Rustic Stone has a menu that aims to add good nutritional foods to your diet without compromising on flavour. With each item clearly marked with icons denoting whether a dish is low in saturated fats, sugar and more, guests can dine like kings while maintaining a good eating regime.

Increasing numbers of people who are choosing to go vegetarian or vegan speak for themselves. Besides the important ethical values of these diets, people are understanding more the health benefits of plant-based lifestyles.

Drinks

Over the past year, we’ve seen more and more natural wines on the market. “Biodynamic” and “organic”, are terms we are finding more regularly on our wine labels, and this won’t be stopping in 2019. Here, wines are made without any additives and there is often no filtration used, often giving the wine a cloudy appearance. Consumers may opt for natural wines to tie in with healthier lifestyles (no added sulfites are used in natural wines, which can have a big draw to customers) as more people are heading towards more sustainable lifestyles.

Perhaps linked to peoples increasing healthier lifestyles, there is a growing demand for alcohol-free beverages and ‘mocktails’. More and more bigger brands such as Heineken and Erdinger, are producing alcohol-free beers, and Irish brand Noki & Co. have even released 0% alcohol G&T’s. We want drinks that are full of flavour but without the headache the next morning!

In 2019, we can expect to see an increase in the popularity of sherry, especially in restaurants. People will enjoy the many styles of sherry such as fino, manzanilla, amontillado, and oloroso. The concept of sherry being a drink you’d find in your grandmother’s cupboard is slowly being wiped away.

Speaking to Lynda Coogan from Wine Tasting Ireland, she tells me “These fortified wines are very food friendly, as there are so many great tapas restaurants in Ireland. Try the various styles with tapas, risotto, paella, stews, casseroles, and mature dishes.”

Packaging

Tying in closely with sustainability and food waste is the issue of packaging. With growing problems caused by pollution, and single-use plastics frequently washing up on beaches around the world, consumers are becoming more discerning about what they’re buying, and retailers and producers are taking note. Recently it was announced that Lidl would be removing non-recyclable packing from all their whole fruit and vegetable range. The mega-retailer plans to continue this in relation to their fresh fish products also.

According to Plastic Free Challenge, we produce over 300 million tonnes of plastic each year worldwide. The change in mentality towards plastic waste is evident, with venues across Ireland swapping single-use plastic straws for paper or biodegradable alternatives.

The European Parliment voted to ban single-use plastics such as straws, plates, cutlery and swabs by 2021. This initiative aims to tackle “the top 10 plastic products that most often end up in the ocean”. Even fast food chains such as McDonald’s and the Irish owned Supermac’s, are making the switch. The latter has even introduced biodegradable burger wraps, as well as recyclable cups and paper straws.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) food loss and waste amount to around $680 billion dollars in industrialised countries.

This past September saw Ireland’s first plastic-free café open in University College Cork. The Bio Green Café sees plastic bottles replaced with glass, and all plastic condiment sachets replaced with reusable containers.

2018 also saw the worlds first plastic-free supermarket open in Amsterdam. Ekoplaza Lab was a pop-up store collaboration where all its packaging was paper, glass, aluminum or biomaterials. Growing demand for less packaging will see more supermarkets follow suit.

FEATURE BY SINÉAD SMYTH

Sinéad is a Culinary Arts graduate from DIT. She is a passionate cook with a love of fine dining and modern Irish cuisine. A gin lover, Sinéad loves seeking out cosy new pubs and sampling a variety of craft beers.

If she’s not dining out, Sinéad loves travelling the world exploring new cultures and cuisines. Working with TheTaste allows Sinéad to fully immerse herself in the Irish food industry.

Sinead Smyth Sinead Smyth

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