Retrospective 2021: Embassy of Food
What will the supermarket of the future look like? And what kind of food will you be able to buy there? Clearly, the production and consumption of food will change. The Embassy of Food is investigating how this change takes shape. During Dutch Design Week 2021 (DDW21), visitors were given a glimpse into the supermarket of the future.
The Embassy of Food wants to hold up a mirror to people regarding food. This concerns consumers as well as large companies and governments. “There is a big difference between what people say and what people ultimately do,” says Chloé Rutzerveld, curator of the Embassy of Food. “During previous exhibitions at DDW, people were often very enthusiastic about projects related to food, but in the end, it didn’t get off the ground. Why is that? We think that’s fascinating.” Rutzerveld investigated this together with Annelies Hermsen, who was also a curator of the Embassy. For example, they looked at what designers encounter when developing a project and collaborating with other parties. Rutzerveld says, “We are looking at the role of the designer in the food system and the food transition and how we can fulfil it.”
‘Perhaps we will soon be able to contribute to the growth of our own crops, or we will be able to decide for ourselves which cells are used to make our cultured meat.’
This research and a number of fascinating projects were reflected in the exhibition during DDW21. Visitors walked through the supermarket of the future, with new products and habits such as advertisements. This year the supermarket was still ‘under construction’. The extended version will be on display next year. According to the curators, supermarkets are fascinating places where people come together, regardless of their age and background. “Perhaps by 2050, there will no longer be a supermarket as we know it today. More often, people are now ordering groceries online. Perhaps the supermarket is a place where you can taste, learn about, and influence the food you ingest. Perhaps we will soon be able to contribute to the growth of our own crops, or we will be able to decide for ourselves which cells are used to make our cultured meat.”
Meat from fantasy animals
What will you find in the supermarket of the future? Meat from fantasy animals, for example. Marije Vogelzang has created four fantasy animals for her Faked Meat project. Nowadays, plant-based meat substitutes are always copies of real meat, such as hamburgers or sausages. As a result, the meat substitutes are always inferior to the original. According to Vogelzang, storytelling around meat substitutes can also influence the design and taste of the meat. That is a new and interesting way of thinking about the protein transition. In addition, you will also find cultured meat in the supermarket, made by Yuval Yancovitch in his project Evolving In Vitro. He develops cultured meat with special growth structures, which gives it a special eating experience. For example, vegetable ribs – just like the original variant – can be attached to a bone. Every designer implements the food transition in their own way.
In addition to the food itself, the supermarket of the future will also have clever packaging. Fusilli pasta could, for example, lie flat on the shelves in the future to save space and packaging material. And then it will curl when you cook it. This ‘Morphing Paste’ is an example of a practical application developed in the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. And how about packaging that shows how fresh your product is? Rui Xu is working on this in his FreshTag project. Through a pH-sensitive colour code system, you can see whether your product is still fresh from the colour of the packaging. This smart and dynamic monitoring system should replace the generic shelf life system to reduce food waste.
Annelies Hermsen took a unique view of food as a concept. She developed a new nutritional concept for patients in the oncology department of the Radboud University Medical Centre. She translated the (negative) experiences of patients regarding the food into a new concept that is more attractive both visually and nutritionally. Patients were offered an assortment of seven smaller dishes instead of three large ones. In addition, new presentation techniques and nutritional advice also fit in with the new way of working. Patients stayed in better shape and needed less medication for nausea. Hermsen would also like to integrate such concepts into the supermarket of the future. For example, separate nutritional packages could be put together for pregnant women, people with conditions such as eczema or irritable bowel, and those recovering from surgery. In this way, our diet better matches our needs at a given moment.
There are different ways of looking at the food transition, which the designers have shown in the supermarket of the future. Ultimately, we need a combination of new concepts and solutions to practical problems. This year, the Embassy of Food focused on seven themes, both for the exhibition and for the subsequent events: education, technology, non-food, packaging, health, food waste and protein transition. The affiliated designers’ projects in the supermarket of the future are all uniquely in line with this idea. These themes were also central during the Embassy conference. Several entrepreneurs who have been working on the food transition pitched their ideas to a panel of food industry leaders. These are Gerard van der Bijl, Senior Vice President Tech at Albert Heijn, Deborah van der Zee, Vice President Food Benelux at Unilever and Rick Schifferstein, Associate Professor Food Design at TU Delft and Principal Editor at International Journal of Food Design.
At Albert Heijn, we use all our knowledge and strength to make better food accessible. For everyone. This is one of the reasons why we are a strategic partner of the Embassy of Food. We exchange information and ideas and inspire each other.— Marit van Egmond, algemeen directeur Albert Heijn
Inspire and enthuse
For example, Nadine Bongaerts, founder of start-up Gourmey, makes ethical foie gras from stem cells. Maria Fuentenebro and Mario Mimoso of design studio Sharp & Sour came up with a museum for foods that are going extinct, such as bananas, avocados, coffee, chocolate and wine. The designers want to initiate difficult conversations with the museum. Katinka Versendaal of The Eatelier was commissioned by EkoPlaza and, in collaboration with Wageningen University, to make several beautiful products from fava beans. For example, imagine fava yoghurt, fava feta and favambert (fava camembert). Finally, Emma van der Leest inspired the conference visitors with a snack wall made from fungi. Imagine, for example, an energy drink and an acne cream made from good fungi. These just grow in the vending machine.
The Embassy of Food brings together different people from different backgrounds. From curious consumers to people who work in business and governments. One of the Embassy’s partners is Albert Heijn. “At Albert Heijn, we use all our knowledge and strength to make better food accessible. For everyone. This is one of the reasons why we are a strategic partner of the Embassy of Food. We exchange information and ideas and inspire each other,” says Marit van Egmond, general manager of Albert Heijn. The Embassy plays an important role in this. Curator Chloé Rutzerveld says, “We want many designers and partners to be able to join in planning the interpretation of the supermarket of the future. That way, they can contribute to a joint vision for the future.”