The Future of Food and Drink

We love to make it, read about it, Instagram about it and we are surrounded by more of it than ever before. Food and drink. Some would say we’re obsessed by it, which has driven the industry to become highly dynamic when it comes to demanding consumers seeking diversity, quality and value.

With the end of a whirlwind year fast approaching, comes the analysis of exciting global trends that are set to take our tastebuds by storm in 2018. The food and beverage sector is in for a game-changing year with even more business growth expected and a whole lot of brands turning their focus to food and drink as it maintains it’s position as a valuable ingredient for many retail precincts, social hubs and brands in both Australia and around the world.

Here at the projects*, 2017 marked a serious love affair between our team and the world of food and drink. We even managed to make our gluttonous dreams come true and put the two together for Lion’s pop-up restaurant,The Dining Table — 10 nights, 10 of Australia’s coolest chefs pairing drool worthy meals with a variety of beers. I still have heavenly dreams about it.

Myself and many others are spending more and more of our hard earned dollars on food festivals, delivery services, tightening our grip on sugar and trying to keep up with the who’s who of the culinary glitterati. This week we’ve delved a little deeper and have identified a variety of trends that are growing in the food and drink category, not only relating to what people will be eating but also the business of food experiences, showing a brief insight into how you too could find your brand’s secret sauce.



This year YouTube and online streaming services introduced us to the whacky South Korean practice of “mukbang” — an internet craze where one gets on camera to eat a huge amount of food and have a chat with their audience. Our obsession for food has gone beyond just eating it ourselves, and into a growing fascination with watching strangers eat. Gosh, humans are resourceful. The trend has now made its way to the US and Europe, with many personalities (also known as food pornstars) generating a living from eating online. Searching ‘mukbang’ into YouTube yields over 1.7 million results, with the “eaters” earning up to 10K a month. What does this all mean? Well prepare not only to Instagram your food moment, but livestream it, too.


The experience of eating is also moving beyond what’s on the plate, with designers focusing their attention on tableware as a means of shaping the dining experience. Design studio Michel and Fabian, created a kooky spoon that claims to improve the flavour of food by mimicking the experience of licking one’s finger. Skeptical? Let me introduce you to The Goûte spoon.

“Our idea is to reconnect people with that sensuality of eating, but in an elegant way. The Goûte spoon is an extension of the finger, if you like.” — Charles Michel


Premium brands have begun to embrace the low end. Take Alexander Wang’s SS17 NYFW runway, which was fueled with 7–11 and McDonald’s. We’ve also seen upscaling of previously low-end products, with the exclusive Speakeasy serving bespoke dishes with Spam as the star. In 2017, the high-low tables turned and we expect more of this low-browing, as untouchable products become more accessible to the general public.



While Kombucha has been around for centuries, it has only of late made its way to the mainstream market. Much of it has to do with the growing consumer desire to find healthier alternatives to carbonated soft drinks. In such a competitive and increasingly saturated market, how does one make cut through and create a meaningful connection with mass consumers? LA’s beverage company Kombucha Dog has taken a crack at it. Besides their delicious, naturally fermented beverage, what makes them truly stand out from the pack? They have taken Kombucha a step further, wanting to add another benefit: giving back to dogs. Every bottle is labeled with the picture of a rescue dog awaiting his or her forever home. By working closely with local rescue groups, Kombucha Dog has helped place over 100 dogs with their forever families. By tapping into a large relevant consumer passion point of doing good in the world (and dogs of course), the brand has creatively broken perceptions and made a quirky, feel-good statement. Just by picking up a bottle, you could fall in love with your new favorite beverage — and your new best friend.


You probably won’t believe me when I say that a sugar-free, non-artificial, zero-calorie, zero-hangover spirit exists. Yes, yes it does. Seedlip is the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit, that has a pretty fan-cay bottle too. Consumers’ drinking habits are evolving to appreciate beverages with a lower alcohol content that offer the buzz without the same risk of a hangover. Breweries, distilleries and wineries are also putting fresh and local ingredients front and centre in their response to consumer demand for healthy choices. For some brands, such as Scotland’s Caorunn Gin, the use of local ingredients is at the core of their ethos. Bompass & Parr’s ‘Anti-AGin’ is made with botanical ingredients like collagen, nettle, Gotu Kola, chamomile, witch hazel oil and burdock, which make the drink “the alcoholic equivalent of a facial”.


In the non-alcoholic world, functional foods and their strong association with health benefits has lead to people acquiring new tastes. What’s more, among the top trending Google searches in the beverage category, flavours associated with plants and herbs are seeing strong growth. One of those flavours is matcha. One business taking a hold of this trend is Matchabar. The hyper-trendy NYC and LA cafe serves both bottled and iced varieties of the caffeinated green tea powder, pitching it as an alternative energy drink to coffee or Red Bull. Surprisingly enough music mogul Drake also recently invested in the company. Up next in the earthy flavour family? I’m keeping my eyes on turmeric and chamomile.


If you’re not too fussed on hopping on the matcha train, but still worried about stained teeth from coffee, never fear, CLR CFF is here. Coffee addicts can now find solace in clear coffee, thanks to Slovakian brothers David and Adam Nagy. The beverage reportedly tastes like a cold brew, but looks like water and can be drunk cold on the go, or even in cocktails.



With the “wellness” lifestyle on the rise and consumers beginning to understand that what they eat influences how they feel, brands are exploring innovative ways to package food as “mood enhancers.” Earlier this year UK’s Monarch Airlines introduced a mood-enhancing food menu to create a calmer in-flight experience for passengers. The curated menu featured the “Mood Food” box, which included echinacea and liquorice ice-cream to boost immunity, green tea and lavender cakes for relaxation and herbal tea to reduce bloating. Definitely beats those weird scrambled eggs you sometimes receive.


The unlikely hero in the future is definitely going to be insects. Yep, they’re going to take over the world in a more helpful way than we think, as an alternative source of protein. The market for alternative proteins is not a groundbreaking discovery, however getting people to change their perceptions around eating bugs is a more recent development. The conversations around the ‘creepy’ and ‘gross’ factor of eating bugs is rapidly growing with a number of brands taking a jab at it. Take ‘proudly strange’ protein bar company Exo, who have successfully made a statement in the food industry with their “no-bullshit” approach to communicating their products main ingredient, cricket-flour. Would you be game?

The world’s food and drink obsession is at an all time high, making it an exciting time to be involved as the industry rushes to compete with ever changing cultural movements. Some shifts may be more absurd or novel than most, however it is clear that both consumers and brands are exhibiting a more considered attitude towards consumption. We are more aware than ever of the health and environmental implications of consuming too much sugar and alcohol and are becoming more familiar with a wider range of protein choices. It is optimistic and inspiring to see an industry innovate and move forward creatively. But it is also important to mention that in a world with 7.6 billion mouths to feed and 1.3 billion metric tonnes of food waste to tackle, the real underlying challenge for the food and beverage industry is clear. We all need to care and value the food we produce and eat, and brands ultimately can play a very important part in both moving the industry forward creatively and ethically.