Food trends in 2024

Food experts predict that food trends will be shaped by a desire for authenticity, environmental protection, and exciting flavors. They also believe that global flavors will be a big trend, with chefs creating dishes that reflect their diverse backgrounds. Asian ingredients, like black sesame and ube, will become more popular as people will start to appreciate the unique qualities of different Asian cuisines.

Sustainability will be a key focus, with companies creating alternative chocolates that don’t rely on cocoa, which is leading to deforestation. Other companies will try to reduce their water usage by creating products like waterless plant milks. These trends show a move towards food and drink that is not only tasty, but also kind to our planet.

How Japan became hooked on meat

In 1939, the typical Japanese person only ate 4 grams of meat per day. Today, the average person eats 130 grams, and their favourite meat is pork, not fish as one might expect. One of the reasons for this significant change was the rise of Western influence in Japan.

Japan was known as a vegetarian country in medieval times. The national religions, Buddhism and Shinto, are both in favor of plant-based eating, but the Japanese couldn't eat meat mainly because of a shortage of arable land. As a way of dealing with this problem, Japan’s rulers banned people from eating meat.

With the arrival of the Dutch in the eighteenth century, things changed. The Japanese came to associate the meat-loaded diets of the Europeans with societal success. And in 1872 Emperor Meiji ate meat in public for the first time, automatically lifting the meat-eating ban.

Moss helps cities breathe

The Amsterdam company Respyre has developed concrete and plaster that support the growth of moss. These materials can be used for new construction, as well as on existing buildings. The moss then acts as a respiration system for the city. It takes in water and CO2 from the air and releases oxygen.

Moss has other benefits, too. Watch this short video to find out more.

Do we need to replace the GDP?

The standard measure of economic performance, the gross domestic product (GDP), measures the value of goods and services produced within a country over a given period. However, the GDP doesn’t measure social factors like income inequality, domestic violence, drug addiction, or the impact of today’s actions on future generations. It also ignores sustainability and environmental destruction. It’s a very short-term view of market factors without respect to what’s happening on the social and environmental levels. As a result, the GDP gave us no warning of the impending global financial crisis in 2008.

But we continued to base our economic predictions on that metric. And it began to show economies recovering and growing—so everything’s going well again, right? But what if we factor in social and environmental realities?

Chopsticks become furniture

People throw away more than 80 billion pairs of chopsticks every year. Most of them have only been used once, like the cheap wooden ones you get in restaurants. All of those chopsticks end up in landfills. In China, environmental activists have documented rates of over 100 acres of deforestation every day to keep up with demand.

One start-up has decided to tackle this problem by using discarded chopsticks as a construction material. ChopValue, based in Vancouver, Canada, collects about 350,000 used chopstics every week, just from the Vancouver area. They then use the chopsticks to make things for the home and office, like bookshelves, cutting boards, coasters, and even desks. Founder Felix Böck explains,

Floating solar farms

Floating solar farms, also known as "floatovoltaics," are an efficient way to collect solar energy. They have a number of advantages over land-based systems:

  1. They don't occupy land that could be used for other things, like crop farming.
  2. They're up to 16% more efficient because the water keeps them cool.
  3. They reduce evaporation on hydroelectric dams, saving more water for hydropower.

But they also come with an environmental cost: the panels sit on plastic floats. So far, floatovoltaic developers have relied on virgin (new) plastic to keep the panels afloat. As we know, plastic is one of the biggest contributors to pollution, uses fossil fuels to manufacture, and is deadly for sea creatures. But a new floatovoltaic farm in Alqueva, Portugal, is under development by the EDP corporation, an energy company committed to sustainability. 

Health is a sustainability issue

Rare and neglected diseases remain a serious problem in our modern world, despite advances in science and technology. Big pharmaceutical companies don't fund research and development into treatments for these diseases because they aren't profitable. The drugs end up costing much more to make than they'll earn back, so they remain un- or underfunded.

Each rare disease affects relatively few people, so the market is too small to make a profit on treatments. Neglected diseases affect about 1 billion people, but most are in underdeveloped, tropical countries. So, although the market is big, treatments are a poor return on investment because the countries can't afford to pay for them.

Diversity of research sources

According to PhysOrg, a scientific publication, scientific knowledge used in international studies is predominantly sourced from English-language documents, as it is assumed that all scientific knowledge is available in English. However, according to research scrutinizing over 400,000 peer-reviewed papers in 326 journals, published in 16 languages, scientific papers written in languages other than English may hold untapped information crucial to the conservation of global biodiversity.

These findings have important implications for global efforts tackling the biodiversity crisis, where lack of evidence is an issue commonly faced when trying to implement evidence-based conservation. The authors demonstrate that incorporating non-English-language studies can expand the availability of scientific evidence on species and ecosystems into 12%–25% more areas and 5%–32% more species.

Farm-to-closet fashion

For $200, you can now invest in the eco-fashion label Christy Dawn. The label is selling "plots" in the organic, sustainable cotton farm in India that provides the raw materials for their clothing. At the end of the season, you're paid back with store credit. If the harvest is good, you might get back more than the initial $200 you invested. On the other hand, if it's a bad year for cotton, you could lose most or all of your money. 

Flip-flops made from algae

Algae is used in lots of ways, from food to health supplements to fuel. Now we can add flip-flops to the list. Flip-flops, commonly made from rubber, foam or plastic, are hugely popular all over the world. When people lose theirs on the beach, which happens frequently, the flip-flops are swept into the ocean to join the rest of the plastic pollutants collecting there. 

To solve this problem, new biodegradable "plastics" are being developed using something else found on the beach: algae. A chemistry professor at University of California, San Diego, Mike Burkart, is spearheading a project to make flip-flops out of algae so that, instead of creating pollution, they decompose naturally. Major shoe manufacturers are talking with Burkart about using his material, as are producers of food storage containers and other plastic items. 

Universal phone charging ports

Electronic waste is a huge problem. There's an estimated 51,000 tonnes of it globally per year, says the European Union. But a new law could put an end to one part of it.

The E.U. has passed a law that as of 2024, all phones will have a standard USB-C charger. Having a single type of smartphone charging port will make cables interchangeable and more reusable. This standard charger would also improve the customer experience. 

Maybe you've been using your phone when the battery runs low, and your friend offers you a charger, but it's the wrong kind. Many of us have had our phone die while we are out and about, far from our charger. A standard charger would solve this problem.

Saving the world with batteries

The 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to three scientists who played a large role in developing lithium-ion batteries: Stanley Whittingham of the U.K., American John Goodenough (at 97, the oldest Nobel laureate ever), and Japan’s Akira Yoshino. Whittingham created the first functional lithium-ion battery in the 1970s, then Goodenough increased its capacity two-fold over the next 10 years. Finally, Yoshino removed the pure lithium, making it much safer to use.

Lithium-ion batteries are indispensable in today’s world, used in everything from cellphones to cordless power tools to electric cars. Rechargeable and able to store large amounts of energy, they have revolutionized electronics. As the Nobel Committee put it, "...this year’s chemistry laureates have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society."

Rivers get a right to life

The Rights of Nature is a global movement that views nature not as something that we own, but as something that has rights. There are many important parts of this movement, but one of the most important is water. It is said that water is likely to be the most pressing environmental concern of the next century.

Bangladesh recently took the unprecedented step of giving rights to all its rivers. The Bangladeshi Supreme Court has said that anyone who harms a river will be tried as if they’re harming a living entity because each river has the right to life. People who damage the river can be taken to court by a government-appointed national river conservation commission.