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Seems like you can’t swing a Nyan Cat these days without reading about NFTs.
For the uninitiated, NFT stands for non-fungible token, and in a nutshell it’s a way to use blockchain technology to create scarcity — and value — around digital goods. Some examples include NBA Topshot, which lets you “own” digital highlights of NBA games, an NFT album by the Kings of Leon, and oh yeah, Taco Bell released its own digital art as NFTs this week.
I will readily admit to being an old man, so the thought of paying top dollar for what is essentially bragging rights associated with “owning” a piece digital art escapes me. I don’t get it. But, thanks to the Taco Bell example, rather that just shouting get offa my lawn, I started thinking about other ways food companies could use NFTs.
Again, the basic premise around NFTs is to create value by using the blockchain to authenticate and limit the number of “original” digital items available. Copies can still be freely made, but the value for the buyer is in owning that validated original.
At first it seems odd that food and eating, which are entirely physical acts, could ever have a collectable digital counterpart. But with a little creative thinking, food-related NFTs could become a way to drive awareness of their brand and possibly make a little extra scratch on the side.
Here are just a few ways NFTs could be used in the food world:
Recipes: A chef/restauranteur could mint and sell recipe NFTs. I imagine there are a number of cooks out there who would buy an limited edition original recipe from a Thomas Keller, or Padma Lakshmi or (insert famous chef), even if the menu was already in a cookbook. Bonus, instead of just admiring the recipe, the owner could actually make the meal. This approach could also work for bars/bartenders.
Menus: Collecting restaurant menus is already a hobby for some. Making them digital NFTs would open up a new wide open market. Menus are digital anyway, but if a restaurant added some artwork and released limited edition, menus could move from just useful to collectable.
Food Photography: Modernist Cuisine is already known for its high-end photography. Physical prints can be bought (starting at $850), but making them or any other food photography a digital NFT could make those images more affordable (or, you know, possibly even more expensive).
Wine: Wineries could offer up “digital corks” that accompany sales of fancy bottles of wine.
Of course the mere fact that a food tech blog is writing about NFTs could be a sign that the fad is over. Things that shine this bright on the Internet (we’re looking at you, $69 million dollars for NFT art by Beeple), tend to burn out quickly.
But there are some high-powered folks like Mark Cuban who believe in (and have invested in) NFTs. And Taco Bell’s NFTs sold out in half an hour (with all the proceeds going to charity), so there still must be some air left in these tires.
At the end of the day and after our pandemic year, restaurants could use any source of income they can get, so digital NFTs could be a very real opportunity.
Seattle Food Geek, Scott Heimendinger helped me bounce some NFT ideas around for this story.
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