Jellyfish supper delivered by drone? Radical future predicted for food

Boiled jellyfish with peanut dipping sauce on the black plate

Jellyfish suppers may feature regularly on our menus, a report has predicted. Photograph: armcreation/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The food of the future could come in the form of stick-on patches and pills or be delivered by intravenous drip, according to a report that predicts what and how we could be eating as far ahead as 150 years from now.

Jellyfish suppers washed down with algae milk and bread made from insect protein may eventually become the norm, while shoppers will be able to pick up “lab-grown” meat kits from dedicated supermarket aisles – or get them delivered by drone.

The report, commissioned by Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second largest supermarket, with input from futurologists and plant scientists, explores what we will be eating and how food will be produced in 2025, 2050 and in 2169.

It predicts that advances in technology and artificial intelligence will allow diets to be personalised and give consumers the option to consume nutrients and vitamins they need through a patch or pill, or in fortified foods.

More of us – driven by unprecedented awareness of animal welfare, health concerns and eco-anxiety – will put the planet first when writing our shopping list, the report says. It notes that current foods are not sustainable for an expanding global population that is predicted to increase to 9 billion in 30 years, and more than 11 billion in the next 150 years.

Sainsbury’s predicts that by 2169 it could be routine for people to hold details of their nutritional and health information in a personal microchip embedded in their skin, which will trigger an alert to the supermarket. It would then deliver by drone suitable food and drink based on their planned activities for the coming days.

Future menus will inevitably feature less meat and dairy, it says. In the shorter-term, the report predicts a quarter of Britons will be vegetarian in 2025 (up from one in eight today) and half flexitarian (up from a fifth today) who eat meat occasionally. The “alternative proteins” market is set to swell by as much as 25% with algae milk predicted to be the next plant milk to take over from nut-based versions.

In 30 years, consumers who find it hard to wean themselves off the staples of cod, salmon, haddock, tuna and prawns could be enjoying a less orthodox oceanic offering – jellyfish. Typically seen in the west as a last-resort food source, growing interest from researchers and chefs is triggering a rethink. The abundance of jellyfish due to warmer oceans and reduced predators means it may well be found in the snack aisle as crisps or as part of prepared meals.

Insects will become mainstream, the report forecasts, and consumers will stock up on cricket flour for baking and grasshopper pasta. With nearly two-thirds of our food derived from just four crops – wheat, maize, rice and soybean – less popular foodstuffs such as moringa, kedondong and the bambara groundnut will find their way into our cupboards.

James Wong, a plant scientist, said: “For decades, diets have been simplified to include core ingredients that provided sustenance, and with that we witnessed a decline in the varieties of some ingredients. What we are seeing now – especially with the explosion of plant-based foods – is that diversity in food is returning to the British diet, including ancient crops like quinoa and south-east Asian staples such as jackfruit.”

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