Mike Lee spent time as a kid marveling at concept cars at auto shows in Detroit. “This huge auto industry institutionalized the tradition of creating a non-production model concept whose sole purpose was to show the world what that company was dreaming about for the future.” Lee grew up and went searching for that kind of tangible look at innovation in the food world – and couldn’t find it. So he founded The Future Market, a futurist food project that looks at the ways food might be produced and consumers might shop for food in the future. Through concept products, specialized events, working shops and live engagements, the Future Market aims to be at the center of conversations around what our food systems will look like many years from now.
The Future Market focuses on two core areas of work – one is helping big food companies partner with startups and embed innovation into their own companies to act more like startups. Their innovation food platform, Alpha Food Labs, is a project designed to work with large corporations and food producers to help them maneuver faster through rapid prototyping projects.
If you were in NYC this past June, you might have seen a live demonstration of Future Market’s other big area of work: a conceptual grocery store of the future. The Future Market’s grocery store of 2042 looks like this: you walk into a market, filled with foods of the future – synthetic food, nontraditional forms of protein, sustainable and local produce – and a food ID system that knows your food preferences and nutritional needs through real-time biometrics matches you with products that are perfect for your health profile and palate but also meet your budget and are sustainable.
A little intrusive? Maybe – but food is core to life and what we put in our bodies, whether healthy or unhealthy, impacts not just how we feel today but our future health and well-being. People are bombarded with what’s considered healthy and what’s not and are often confused about what choices to make. And we’re seeing more companies come to the table to try and provide personalized nutrition options based on our own DNA. The Future Market is analyzing these trends and working to show consumers how these technologies might actually make eating and shopping more straightforward.
But Lee isn’t just interested in showing consumers what the future of food looks like, he wants to enable more cooperation across industries working in the smart kitchen to drive innovation.
“There is no open-source, uniform data standard whereby every food manufacturer can record the nutritional info, ingredient lists, processing methods, and ingredient provenance information into. That may sound like a really unsexy thing, but it prevents so much innovation from happening in the smart kitchen space,” comments Lee. “Imagine the web without HTML—every site used a different, proprietary coding language to create web pages. The internet would be a mess of incompatibility. It’s the same challenge if you want to create a smart fridge that understands all the ingredients within every item inside of it. If we had a uniform data standard that all food companies shared, smart fridges would be so much smarter.”
Don’t miss Mike Lee, at the 2017 Smart Kitchen Summit. Check out the full list of speakers and to register for the Summit, use code FUTUREMARKET to get 25% off ticket prices.
The Smart Kitchen Summit is the first event to tackle the future of food, cooking and the kitchen with leaders across food, tech, commerce, design, delivery and appliances. This series will highlight panelists and partners for the 2017 event, being held on October 10-11 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.