Retrospective 2022: Embassy of Food

What will the supermarket look like in 2050? Will we still do our shopping in shops or will we order online? And if everything can be ordered online, why will we still be going to the supermarket? The Embassy of Food investigated these questions during Dutch Design Week 2022 (DDW22). Based on various themes, designers set to work on their future visions for supermarket. Visitors were taken on a journey through three possible future scenarios: the supermarket as a lifestyle coach; the supermarket as a living lab; and, the supermarket as a super being.

Type Update
Published on 1 December 2022
Part of Embassy of Food
Retrospective 2022: Embassy of Food
Part of Embassy of Food
Embassy of Food - credits: Bram Saeys

“Of course, there is not just one definitive version of the future. Multiple scenarios are possible,” says Chloé Rutzerveld, curator of the Embassy of Food. She thus chose to work out three possible future scenarios this year. The Embassy of Food set up an Embassy Lab, called the Supermarket of the Future. This lab gave designers the space to experiment. All projects eventually came together in an exhibition focusing on experience, wonder and heightened awareness.

Boost your health

The supermarket as a lifestyle coach focused mainly on the relationship between food and health. Personal data and its analysis also played a major role. For example, Merle Bergers designed an installation where you can get a serving of microbiota as if you were simply grabbing a cup of coffee. The microbiota are all the bacteria and viruses in our body. The microbiota influence, for example, your intestinal flora and other parts of your physical and mental health. Bergers’ machine determines which microbiota you need based on a touch of your finger. These are spread over your body by means of a mist. “In thirty years, you may go to the supermarket to boost your immune system or mood,” says Rutzerveld.

Discovery and experimentation

The second theme, the supermarket as a living lab, focused mainly on the development of new products. Will the supermarket of the future be a place where we become acquainted with new developments, such as lab-grown meats and genetically modified fungi as new ingredients? “That could bring research into new products and consumers closer together,” says the curator during the interview.

Read the full curator interview with Chloé Rutzerveld here

Malu Lücking researched microalgae as a food source in her Landless Food project. She discovered that the taste profiles of some microalgae correspond to the taste of seafood and flowers. Because we can produce algae on a large scale and at a relatively low cost, it is a very suitable ingredient for nutritious food. This could mean that in 2050 there will no longer be crabs and mussels on our plates, but microalgae with the same flavours.

Nonhuman Nonsense - credits: Bram Saeys

AI as supermarket manager

The last theme was the supermarket as a superbeing. What if the supermarket manager of the future is no longer human? What if we ask advice from Artificial Intelligence (AI) when it comes to nutrition? We humans have different weaknesses and desires, we are fuelled by a profit motive and we don’t always do everything for the right reasons. AI may make different choices – in the field of sustainability and the environment, for example, but also with regard to ethical issues,” says Rutzerveld. 

That is why design studio NonHuman Nonsense developed a new supermarket concept. In AI-BERT’s The Fresh Place, AI is in charge (GPT-3 for text and DALL-e for image). As a consumer, you have a conversation with the algorithms, after which you are presented with a personalised product. This takes into account your personal preferences and global developments, for example, in the field of climate change. For the time being, it mainly produces bizarre products such as rat milk ice cream and nuclear fudge balls. With this concept, the designers want to make the public think. What are the pros and cons of AI in the supermarket?

Want to know more about the designers? Check out the WDE Spotlight with Diya Samit

Be open to change

During the Embassy of Food conference, the designers presented their visions for the future according to theme. Audience members imagined themselves in the future supermarket and were challenged to think outside the box. Designers entered into a conversation with the audience to collectively consider the possibilities. Because – as various presentations showed – to really make the transition to a different way of producing and consuming food possible, it is important that consumers be open to change. It is also important to listen carefully to each other. We determine the future of food together. 

In addition to the conference, the Embassy of Food also organised an event in cooperation with EIT Food. The interactive event ‘Redesigning a Broken Food System’ was intended to facilitate the exchange of ideas and enable participants to learn from experts. It also hosted the premiere of the documentary series What we Eat.

Stimulate and inspire

The projects and research were on display at the Embassy of Food exhibition in the Klokgebouw during DDW22. As a visitor, you went from world to world and discovered different future visions for the supermarket. For example, visitors could talk to the AI of AI-BERT’s The Fresh Place. Rutzerveld wanted to hold up a mirror to people in a stimulating and interactive way about what they eat and why. 

View Chloé Rutzerveld’s curator tour through the Embassy of Food here

A large number of partners are affiliated with the Embassy of Food, including supermarket chain Albert Heijn. “We see that consumers are becoming increasingly interested in health,” explained Anita Scholte op Reimer, VP of Quality, Product Safety & Sustainability at Albert Heijn, during the conference. The company is therefore conducting various studies to see how they can help consumers achieve a healthier lifestyle. The DOEN Foundation and EIT Food are also affiliated partners. “They have a lot of in-house knowledge,” says Rutzerveld. “In addition, we are bringing together the various networks of the partners. This way we can help strengthen one another.”

Do you want to contribute to the Embassy of Food or are you curious about future developments? Sign up for the newsletter, visit the Embassy of Food homepage or contact us.

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