Food & Drink: Ripe for a Rethink

It’s hard to imagine wholesale disruption of the food and beverage space, where innovation tends to be incremental. Our resident food anthropologist Dylan Gordon provides three prescriptions for change.

Vitamins & Minerals

Vitaminwater is so yesterday. With natural, unmanipulated foods being the champions of the day, “fortifying” water with synthetic chemicals is a turn-off. Meanwhile, bottled water brands are confronted with the public perception that their product comes straight from the municipal pipe.

Luckily, all water has magic: it’s in its minerality. Dig deep into the history of spring waters, and you’ll discover a spiritual and medicinal mythology of healing and rejuvenation, from the Fountain of Youth to La Roche-Posay. In today’s most innovative restaurants, water sommeliers are tapping into the unique mouthfeel, flavor profile, and locale-specific terroir provided by any water’s unique mineral mix, building a new category of premium beverages worthy of connoisseurship.

The time is ripe to redeem minerals from their back-of-label obscurity on grocery and convenience bottles, and rediscover their magnetism as water’s natural – and supernatural – ingredients. The virtues of a taste of the local meet the miracle of health and wellbeing by the glass.

The next Vitaminwater? Maybe it’s mineral water.

Nutrition, Delivered

As the time and skill needed to cook for oneself continues to vanish, take-out, delivery, and restaurant meals are no longer the stuff of special occasions. Instead, they’re the bedrock of the daily diet.

Finding healthy fast food, however, often presents a formidable challenge. The bar is set high: dietitians recommend a daily intake of five cups of fruits and vegetables, made up of nutrient-dense, deeply-colored varieties. Iceberg certainly doesn’t cut it, but neither do spinach or microgreens. Count on them to fill your quota, and you’ll need ten whole cups per day.

So how do we meet the minimum?

A full serving each of a dark green and dark orange vegetable at every lunch and dinner works, but that’s rarely on the menu. The first “restaurants” were pitched as houses of health – not pleasure – and served foods were meant to restaure one’s strength and vigor. Come to market with an easy, tasty, and widely-available offering built around superfood-commodity basics like sweet potatoes, kale, cold- pressed oils, and nuts (instead of starch, sauce, and lettuce) and there’s a chance to change the game again.

Simply Delicious

1. Take four free-run, air-chilled chicken legs. Massage a teaspoon of sea salt into each. Place on a pan in a 425° oven and bake until the thermometer reads 165°.

2.Roll one bunch of swiss chard lengthwise, and slice into one-inch pieces. Steam for five minutes. Toss with two teaspoons of ultra-premium, extra-virgin olive oil.

3.Toast four slices of bread. Rub each with a clove of garlic, then a quarter of heirloom tomato.

4.Salt to taste for a fast, delicious dinner anyone can make, if properly equipped.

Partially-prepared meals that buyers finish at home give convenience foods some of the social and emotional aura of the family meal; the higher proportion of personal involvement, the greater the effect. As professional chefs and the public embrace straightforward recipes that let the full flavors of premium ingredients shine, they go beyond the popularity of pre-cut vegetables by introducing other higher- quality (and margin) building blocks. Further value is added through detailed no-fail recipes and inter-shelving with a key tool, like a steamer basket or instant-read thermometer, to make truly impressive home cooking amazingly accessible.

the author

Dylan Gordon

Dylan Gordan is a resident anthropologist at Idea Couture.

the author

Maya Oczeretko

Maya Oczeretko is a senior innovation strategist at Idea Couture.