I spent the last few days re-imagining the way we eat, cook, source and love food at reThink Food, a collaboration of the MIT Media Lab and the Culinary Institute of America. The MIT Media lab is a cross-discipline institution that exists to leverage technology to focus on “human adaptability.” The CIA is the leading culinary education program in America. The joined forces of these institutions creates a conference packed with discussions aimed to redesign the future of food, set among magical setting of the CIA in St. Helena, Calif.
We were excited to not only sponsor the event, but I was given the opportunity to sit on a panel discussing the technological advancements that are making strides in healthcare.
Three themes stood out to me throughout the conference:
Transparency leads to trust
In a breakout session, we discussed that 74 percent of consumers want more restaurant transparency, and consumers are also interested in knowing the story behind food. The conference opened with the sharing of a new formula for sharing trust in food and innovation, where trust = discovery, benefits and integrity. Discovery isn’t just about new products; it’s about developing technologies that advance the food industry. You also need to communicate the benefits of your products for the consumer, from emotional to social benefits. Integrity is gained through heightened transparency – the food and beverage companies that are open to sharing ingredients in their products and provide transparency with distribution will win the trust of consumers.
Winning consumers’ loyalty is important because the most trusted source for product reviews and recommendations comes from other friends and family members.
Understand your supply chain and be upfront about what you do and don’t know
Transparency took on many forms at the conference. Charlie Sweat of Earthbound Farms spoke to the challenge of finding global traceability solutions. He brought up an example of packing apples in Chile and the distribution facility dealt with more than 3,000 different apple farmers, leading to issues with quality control when you have so many involved parties.
Sara Burnett, director of wellness and food policy efforts at Panera, touched on the short-term costs of total transparency, but the long-term benefit that gains consumer trust and shows integrity. On starting the process, the team took a look at everything in the supply chain and found that there were many gaps in their understanding of ingredients and production. They now have very clear ingredient and menu labeling claims.
Food as medicine
“Halo of Health”: Consumers respond to the “health halo” of packaging. They are drawn to foods that project health – words like protein, fruits and veggie servings, unprocessed, free-from, natural, nutritious.
“Nourishment from the inside out”: Head Chef Cortney Burns of Bar Tartine spoke to the amazing work they do in food preparation at Tartine, trying to make everything from scratch to discover how things are made. When she talks about food, she spoke to food as medicine and how we have to feel food from the inside out and leave every meal totally nourished.
Nima participated in a panel with two scientists and a doctor, who are each taking a different approach to proactive health through lifestyle and wellness. Shocking fact: 80 percent of chronic disease in America can be prevented through lifestyle (diet and exercise). Food is indeed medicine, and in the next few years we will have much better personalized diets and the tracking of those diets.
We are proud to be part of a movement enabling people with better food data, thereby impacting overall wellness and enjoyment of food. See you all next year!