Food Report: From Cycle to Network


We used to get our vegetables fresh from the market, warm bread from the local baker, and meat from our own cow – if at all. Now, mass producers and major operators dominate. What will happen tomorrow?

Grafik Netzwerk Kreislauf

An absolute division of labour has long reigned in the food sector: one person produces, another processes, another delivers. And every child learns in school that milk comes from cows. This is what the supply chain looks like – or rather, the supply cycle, as recycling is also an important part of the process.

But a change is starting to occur. The supply cycle is being replaced by a supply network: rather than purchasing their ingredients from a wholesaler, chefs source them from farmers. And consumers are also increasingly emancipating themselves. They no longer buy their vegetables from the supermarket, but from the weekly market – or they grow their own, whether in an allotment, on the balcony or right in the kitchen. Production is followed by consumption, without any intermediate steps.

But the reorganisation of the food sector isn’t just affecting intermediary trade. It’s affecting every step. What concepts are already out there?

  • 3D food printer: Producing your own food by using your printer: pour in a paste and end up with a pizza. Processing, distribution and retail don't apply when we can print food directly onto our plates.
  • In vitro meat: Sausages no longer come from the farm; they’re manufactured in the laboratory from animal stem cells. Animal processing becomes unnecessary when meat is produced in this way. Directly from the test tube to the barbecue.
  • Vertical farms: Food production is going vertical, using less space. Herbs, salad and vegetables are being grown on walls, with production moving from countryside to city. Long transport routes disappear and the customer collects their own vegetables on foot or by bike.
  • Robot & drone delivery: Traditional logistics become redundant when drones or delivery robots can bring us our food. Distribution is being reorganised.
  • Food waste prevention: In order to reduce the quantity of rubbish we produce, food is sold without packaging and every part of an animal is used. The particularly environmentally-conscious collect reusable waste from restaurant and shop bins – a practice known as dumpster diving.
  • Nose to tail: From nose to tail and root to leaf, everything makes it onto our plates. Recycling becomes unnecessary and new ingredients make cuisine more creative.

You can read about the other trends changing the food world and the likelihood that they will become established in the new European Food Trends Report GDI study.