Marije Vogelzang wants you to think deeply about your food — so much so that, in her next project, she trained as a hypnotherapist to test whether it could enhance ‘eating awareness’. “It’s not about working with eating disorders, it’s about seeing if we can really realign our experience with food,” she says. “I want people to get away from thinking of food as a magical substance that we should be paying more attention to.”

Vogelsang is at the forefront of an innovation you may not have heard of: food design, which is the bridge between a deep understanding of how we interact with food, and, on a mass consumption level, the products that appear on supermarket shelves. . She points out that food design is all around us, although it has become more formal in recent years. Reims University recently launched a course on “Culinary Design”, and the Italy-based Food Genius Academy opened its third School of “Food Innovation” in Shanghai. Later this year, Vogelsang, who is also the founder of the Netherlands Institute for Food Design and author of a book lick itwill take up a professorship at the University of Kassel in Germany.

“Foods like jelly or pasta are not designed, even if we don’t tend to think those products were designed at all,” Vogelsang says. “Increasingly, there is more design in our different food cultures, from finding ways for native crops to survive to ways in which the aroma and flavor of food can trigger memories in caring for the elderly. Farming was a design process too. Tomatoes, though For example, it is not naturally red as we think.

Indeed, food design responds to macro trends – food has become an expression of identity and fashion; We are now more mobile, so we eat on the go more often; We are seeing a blur of work and leisure time, and we may have less time to prepare food; We are an aging society and may need foods that are easier to eat or more digestible. But it also responds to micro-trends, most notably that our consumption is often shaped by commerce’s emphasis on novelty, at least in packaging and presentation.

This partly explains why foods once considered exotic—cabbage, kombucha, kimchi, quinoa, or tofu, for example—suddenly become mainstream, and why about 50% of mass-market food sales today relate to products that were not It was only known five years ago. According to a study conducted by the SIAL International Food Fair. It’s also why most of the new food items we see on the shelves disappear within a couple of years, never finding a foothold in our kitchen cupboards. But some ideas are still stuck. Rolled ice cream, bubble tea, toast, nut milks, lab-grown meats, and soy-derived meat alternatives were largely unheard of a couple of decades (or even a few years) ago, but they have responded to shifts toward eating more functional and healthy food. and ethical. Social media fosters a new fascination with the way food looks and our inner desire to consume sugar.

More recent ideas have included lettuce ketchup, marshmallows from cabbage, fruit made to be chewed or reconstituted into jelly-like blocks for easier portability, or snail sausage. Or how about the idea of ​​black milk, printed toast, rice-based fries, burgers in the form of reminders of the eater’s meat origins (ideas from Studio Minali Maeda) or cereal eggs, biceps lollipops and flavored twigs?

Given the significant problem of food waste, other proposals have reused foods that were normally considered disposable, such as oyster mushroom stems. They even use technology to invent entirely new foods. Maidan Levy, a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, proposed “new fruits,” which are 3D-printed skins made of cellulose that are injected with liquids rich in vitamins and minerals. Or Carnegie Mellon University’s Morphing Matter Lab experiments on the transferable quality of flat-packed pasta because the shape of the food determines, in part, the energy required to cook it. “Food is kind of a smart substance,” says Lening Yao, head of the Morphing Matter Lab. “It transforms when it absorbs water or when it’s cooked.” “It is basically a biomaterial with many ingredients that can be played with. Creative thinking is required to make new ideas in food comfortable for consumers to adopt, which is not easy in a food industry that is somewhat conservative at first, especially under pressure Recent innovation (that comes from) the likes of rising food prices.”

Vogelsang also proposed the concept of “vegetarianism” to help us view meat substitutes more positively as a category of their own, rather than as second-rate substitutes for real meat. A recent experiment saw cubes of various plant materials dyed black and test subjects’ sense of smell stimulated while they ate them. How has color, or the lack of it, shaped our perception of food? Can an artificial response be claimed?

“I think understanding how we interact with food – ‘eating design’ rather than just ‘food design’ – is really important, much more than well-established design disciplines like graphic design or web design,” Vogelsang says. “Food is elemental. So it’s amazing how little the potential of design in food has been explored yet.”

“I still find it difficult to explain what I’m doing because this is not product design,” says food designer Anneliese Hermsen. “It is more about standing in front of processes and using intuition and understanding changes in the way we live in order to develop new products. It is about bringing both sides together: food producers who often find it difficult to match the type of their products to the changing needs of consumers, mostly because they do not The agility of their operations, and consumers who may be reluctant to explore new ideas in food. It’s about encouraging both to be more introspective.”

Hermsen points out that this new discipline must deal with the facts that we are psychologically compelled to be initially wary of all that is new in food and that we are very accustomed in our relationship to it. Then there are the cultural differences, too. Some cultures have a history of interacting with others and seem more willing to embrace new ideas, but others tend to have specific ideas about what constitutes food and what does not. Which is why, when Hermsen recently experimented with bone broth made from male goats — which are typically discarded by the goat milk industry — test subjects said they liked the flavor but admitted they would still prefer buying chicken or beef broth.

It’s not just us consumers who need to be persuaded to be more open to new foods either. Other food design ideas have been proposed to challenge the food industry’s conception of what food is and how we relate to it. The problem, says Edouard Malbois — of the Paris-based food design agency Inifrance, which has designed food for the likes of Lavazza, McDonald’s and Nestlé — is that the food industry is still very much aiming at producing “substitutes” in categories that already exist. Fixed staples rather than breaking any mold with something original and better.

“The industry is stuck using the same production methods with the same overproduction,” says Malboa, who recently launched his own creation, the Grand Jardin, which are cold-brewed teas served in wine-shaped bottles. “It’s true that food industry paradigms don’t change easily, but food design must lead the way in fresh thinking about what we invest in food, how we make it, and what we expect from it.”

Caroline Nibling, food stylist and author future sausage An upcoming book on Nutrition (MIT, Spring 2024), argues that this young, progressive discipline is also campaigning for positive change for both the industry and the consumer. First, she argues, food design can help us restore a basic understanding of the mechanisms of food. What is fermentation? How does cheese turn into yogurt? Despite our obsession with fancy restaurants and sophisticated dishes, the basics seem to be lost.

“Then we’ll have more confidence in new foods and less need to put our faith in everything the food industry tells us,” says Nibling. “But the food industry itself also needs to understand that designers — not just food scientists and developers — are becoming increasingly necessary to help boost not only consumer acceptance, but production efficiencies and commercial benefits as well. When the furniture design industry needs a chair, it doesn’t ask for a chair. Nobody in marketing.But that’s what the food industry does, making a lot of false assumptions about what consumers will accept, and thus limiting the nutritional variety that will be better for nature, our bodies, and the entire diet.Food design may be a new discipline, but it’s the missing link that It can make what we eat and how we eat so much better.

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