It is estimated that the world population will increase to almost ten billion people by 2050, and all these humans need to be nourished properly. However, the food resources on the planet are limited, and a transformation of our global food system is required.
The modern diet is extremely monotonous. 75% of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and 5 animal species. Rice, maize and wheat make up almost 60% of calories from plants in our diet. This is not only harmful to human health because many valuable sources of nutrients are excluded, but it threatens the resilience of the food system as well. There are between 20,000 and 50,000 discovered edible plant species, of which only 150 to 200 are regularly consumed. And with the lack of demand for diverse consumption comes the loss of genetic diversity. Thousands of rice types in Asia have shrunk to dozens (e.g. Thailand from 16,000 types to mere 37). 80% of cabbage, pea and tomato varieties has been lost in the USA. Monoculture farming has a profound impact on fragile natural ecosystems, shaking the balance of soil composition with the depletion of nutrients and leaving crops more vulnerable to pests and pathogens. The resulting usage of fertilizers and pesticides often leaches into water systems—especially when used inappropriately—and endangers the well-being of nearby animals, birds, and plants.
Our food habits must change. Transitioning an animal-based diet into a plant-based one will be significantly less water, land, and greenhouse gas intensive (60% of all greenhouse gas emissions are due to animal agriculture). Diversification is also needed, not only to improve health but also to heal the nutrient-drained environment.
Knorr and WWF have a shared ambition to drive change. They have collaborated with The Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington to create The Future 50 Foods Report. It contains a list of 50 ingredients that should be eaten more because they are nutritious, have a lower impact on our planet than animal-based foods, can be affordable and accessible, and taste good. This set of criteria is modelled often the Food Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) definition of sustainable diets, including vegetables, grains, cereals, seeds, legumes and nuts from all over the world. The aim is to increase the intake of versatile nutrients (including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) and replace meat, poultry and fish with plant protein.
They have invited many partners in the food supply chain to make these ingredients more commonly grown and widely eaten, including FoodPairing. We’re taking the opportunity to analyze the flavor profiles of the Future 50 Foods to help chefs use the foods and find new and astonishing pairings. Future 50 Foods is the beginning of a journey towards change, but it doesn’t require that we give up on delicious flavors. We will publish new ingredients from the list on our blog step by step so stay tuned.