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Future foods: To be or not to be?

Foods change in popularity during different eras – here’s what you might see more and less of in years to come.

Bananas

They’re a year-round budget-friendly staple. But bananas are becoming increasingly difficult to grow.

Growing single marketable crops has led to a lack of genetic diversity in bananas, making major production areas vulnerable to disease. A fungus called Sigatoka can destroy harvests and the other major killer, Panama disease, is basically untreatable.

When the commonly exported Gros Michel banana plantations were wiped out in the 1950s by Panama disease, they were replaced by the ‘disease resistant’ Cavendish variety. But a new form of the soil-dwelling fungus capable of attacking these bananas has since appeared in Asia. If the fungus took hold around the world, it’s possible bananas could disappear from our regular food supply.

Solutions to the banana’s pest and disease problems may be found in traditional farming practices, like growing a diversity of crops and cultivars (a plant variety produced in cultivation by selective breeding), as well as using modern tools like genetic modification.

Pasta

A bowl of spaghetti could become a thing of the past if current trends continue.

Land around the world which was once used to grow wheat crops is being converted to other crops for biofuels. But increased demand for these biofuel plants is putting pressure on the food supply as well as increasing prices for commodities like wheat and other grains. We have already seen rocketing prices and shortages of pasta in Italy and tortillas in Mexico. And in Germany, increases in the price of beer during 2008 were partly attributed to increased production of biofuels.

Rice

Early in 2008, the price of rice shot up to double what it had been just a few months earlier. This was partly due to the rise in oil prices and partly due to drought around the world, including in Australia.

With these problems continuing, and with rice a staple food in many countries, we shouldn’t take the humble grain for granted. Kiwis are unlikely to riot due to a lack of rice – like they did in Haiti in April 2008 – but it’s possible we could see a lot less of this healthy grain on our shelves in the future.

Foods we may see less of in future

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Bananas
  • Foods laden with saturated fats: butter, lard, dripping, streaky bacon.
19732007
potatoespotatoes
tomatoestomatoes
cabbagelettuce
carrotsmushrooms
onionscarrots
lettucecapsicums
cauliflowerbroccoli
pumpkinkumara
kumaraonions
mushroomscucumbers
celerypumpkin
cucumberscabbage
Brussels sproutscauliflower
tarocourgettes
parsnipsasparagus
cornbeans
beansparsnips
asparaguscorn
silver beetcelery
swedesfresh herbs

 Source: Household Expenditure Survey, Statistics NZ

A global economic downturn and a focus on sustainability have seen people all over the world looking to the past for answers. There is a lot we can learn from how our parents and grandparents shopped and ate, and we are seeing a growing trend towards cooking more at home, growing our own foods, preserving, and other money-saving practices. We are likely to see more of this in the future.

Possible changes in Kiwis’ future food habits

  • Growing more: Seed company Yates has reported a 70% jump in vegetable seed sales over the last year
  • Preserving more
  • Cooking more at home and making more foods from scratch to save money and control what’s in our food
  • Buying more local food from farmers’ markets and local growers
  • Less packaging: The Packaging Accord was signed in 2004 by the packaging and packaged goods industry, local and central government and recycling operators. Food retailers aim to reduce plastic shopping bag consumption by 20% by June 2009, and manufacturers are finding ways to reduce packaging – saving on resources including transport costs – and recycled packaging.

Did you know?

  • Supermarket buyers are presented with between 5000-6000 new, changed or repackaged products every year.
  • Oyster sauce was ‘accidentally invented’ by Mr Lee Kum Sheung, the founder of the Lee Kum Kee company. Mr Lee was a restaurateur when he discovered the sauce from an overcooked pot of oyster soup.
  • The first supermarket in New Zealand opened in Auckland in 1957. Before then, grocery shopping meant visiting a number of specialist stores.
First published: Jan 2009



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