How about a career as a Food Futurologist?
BY DR MAHALETCHUMY ARUJANAN
Not interested in the common careers that everyone ventures into? Want to be a pioneer in a futuristic field that will have great demand in the future? How about becoming a food futurologist?
Food industry has a huge supply chain with many players from seed development to farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and adding value and creating novel foods. The industry requires skilled talent from various STEM and non-STEM fields. Food futurologist is someone with both science and non-science background, which makes the job so exciting and non-routine.
Before we get into what a food futurologist does, let us look at the food industry. It is a sector that will never die off but continue to evolve. It requires continuous injection of technology and new ideas and improvement. This is because of both the challenges and opportunities in this field. Food production must be increased by 70% according to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) by 2050. This is a huge challenge given the shrinking of natural resources such as arable land and fresh water; climate change; emerging plant pests and diseases and ageing farmers.
Consumer behaviour towards food is also changing. Many want a story behind their food and not simply produced in large-scale farms or factories. Cottage farming, home-based food preparation using traditional and family-owned recipes are appealing to modern consumers. There are also many types of diets such as vegan (no meat and any animal products), keto (high protein and fat, and low carbohydrate), paleo (meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds (similar to hunting and gathering), lacto-vegetarian (vegan who consumes dairy products), ovo-vegetarian (vegan who consumes eggs), and pescatarian (consumes seafood, eggs and dairy products) among many others. There are also diets for special needs like sports, geriatric care, patients with certain health conditions and children.
Food is a complex topic. It involves taste, nutrition, aesthetic, culture, history, health condition, economy, personal preference, marketing, fads and myths, and just many other factors.
Here comes food futurologists who looks at food from all these aspects. They predict the future of food industry and foods based on all the above factors and more. Food companies consult them to improve their products; and their ideas are sought to develop new foods, flavours and ingredients. They also play a role in improving the packaging to make it more appealing to consumers.
Many food futurologists are sought to write reports on trends in the food industry and policy papers to help governments to produce enough food and the right types of foods. Food futurologists are also often prominent speakers in the universities, corporate companies and in TV and radio shows.
Food futurologists must keep themselves updated with current technologies in the food industry. For example, mushrooms, seaweed, and algae are the forefront ingredients in food industry and are gaining both popularity and demand. Insect-based protein is another novel food. Technologies like genetic modification and gene editing are inevitable in the food industry. How will they be deployed and accepted by both the consumers and policymakers? Food futurologists will follow these trends and provide their insights to relevant players.
Artificial technology (AI) is another technology that will change the dynamics of how foods are produced. AI will be used in improving food packaging, sorting foods according to grades, managing the entire supply chain, quality control and studying consumer preference. Food futurologists follow all these trends that help them to provide appropriate advice to their clients.
Food futurologists are also able to predict what we will be eating and how our diet will change in the next 10 years. This knowledge will help their clients to start developing their products for the future so they can stay in business.
Food futurologists also helps in predicting if technologies will be stay, change or what new technologies are needed. This helps scientists to work on new technologies. Their predictions also influence investors on which research and technology to invest in so profits can be reaped.
Basically food futurologists are key partners to many players in the food industry and they are influential.
Does food futurologist sound like an interesting career?