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We Are Changing, And So Is Our Food

We need food to survive. But that’s not enough, we need the right nutrients. Our food is evolving to match our requirements

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I am a diehard optimist who is obsessed with keeping my team at work and myself focussed on improving food and nutrition security in the nation.

Food security is a country’s first imperative. India has had to fight its way on this front for years after independence and today we can take pride in the fact that we are largely self-sufficient. However, as we have advanced, nutrition security has become the next critical milestone. Cost of food, value of nutrients in daily consumption and access to nutritional food material are some of the new-age challenges. At CSIR-CFTRI, our work is focussed on them.

In today’s rapidly changing lifestyle and food habits, we have seen the transition from homemade foods to fast foods and now to slow foods. In the future, we can envisage a shift from simple grocery stores where we pick up food to cook at home to smart stores and eventually to smart cooking by 3-D printing! Since each person has unique nutrition needs, tailor-made nutrition will be the answer to optimum health; it will become a household application. Having technology-enabled, personalised nutritional foods that we specifically need, sitting in the comfort of our own homes, is not just an upcoming attraction or a fancy idea, but a future way of life.

Plant-based foods have gained significant momentum in the present, but growing your own food at home will be a popular trend in a couple of decades. One will be able to grow fresh food at home, taking food safety to a whole new level. Further to this dynamic change, plants will be part of our housing system with walls and terraces hosting aeroponically and hydroponically grown produce . The growth of these home plants will be powered by uniquely designed modular solar pods to get the best of natural solar energy for optimum nutrition in plants. To better preserve fresh food grown from your surroundings, there will be smart refrigeration system at your own home. Plant-based foods with unique proteins and fats is the space that is just around the corner. A new food ingredient from green leafy vegetables (leaf oil) will soon be part of your diet with oil and phytochemicals for active lifestyle.

Advanced food technology and nutrition research indicates that the future belongs to intelligent food ingredients. Be it a good fats powder or a nanotechnology-enabled spice mix, specific food ingredients for specific nutrition needs are in the offing. The future of food is also an interesting future of energy metabolism. Slow glucose release from foods like rice will make high-carbohydrate favourites healthier to eat.

The food of the future will address the economic costs of nutrition better than ever before. The low-income population forms a large chunk of the global consumers today. The World Bank has indicated that there are 638.3 million people globally who form the low-income bracket. The future of food therefore is minimal processing for maximum freshness.

The future of food industry is going to be centred on energy efficiency with a zero-waste model. The energy-intensive food industries of today will transform into food industries that generate their own energy from by-products of processing, and in some cases, contribute excess electrical energy to the power grid. The by-product could also be used to produce high-energy food ingredients to resolve the issues of malnutrition in parts of the world.

CSIR-CFTRI is working in tandem with global advancements in food processing, leading in many segments with its own pioneering research and setting benchmarks for future research in the field. Some of the products developed by CFTRI are already transforming markets, enhancing values of existing food products and adding to new categories in the market. India has a great opportunity to be the centre of advancement in this field — it is after all one of the biggest food producers in the world. With our pioneering research, just imagine the potency of Indian agriculture globally!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Ram Rajasekharan

The author is director, Central Food Technological Research Institute

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