Hanni Rützler’s interest in food (not just nutrition) began after high school while abroad studying Business and Ecology at MTU in Michigan. “How is it possible that such cultured people could eat so incredibly poorly?” she asked herself. Back in Austria, after trying out different classes in biology, philosophy, and sociology, she enrolled in a food science degree at the University of Vienna. The connection between humanities and natural sciences became is what sets her apart from the pack.
Today, still fascinated by the diversity of eating habits and how they change, she dedicates her time to researching food trends and future topics as a food scientist and health psychologist. Her consultancy, futurefoodstudio, links future studies to culinary and futuristic food solutions – from meat substitutes to insects.
What are the biggest challenges you see facing the food & beverage industry?
For decades, food production in Europe and the USA has been focused on efficiency. This focus has made us well-fed, wealthy, and led us into abundance. However, it has failed to provide answers to many of the current challenges we face. Rather than provide answers, focusing on efficiency has limited the agility of the food industry. In an increasingly complex environment, simple answers are often not very complex, but rather require a paradigm shift from “cheaper, faster, more” to a new way of thinking; one that embraces diversity, doesn’t deplete natural resources, and gives back to nature.
What do you think makes you a successful future food pioneer?
Despite all these years as a consultant in the food and beverage industry, I have not yet lost my sense for all things possible.
What do you imagine the future of food will look like? Which trends do you think we will see in the future?
Food trends are by my definition always answers to current challenges, desires, and wishes. Around the world, they are closely linked to particular food cultures. And – despite globalization – food cultures are diverse and evolve at different paces. This means it is important to meet diversity with diverse answers and solutions – individualized, mass-scale technology cannot meet this increasing complexity. Variability can only be managed with variability. Therefore, the future of food is varied and colorful and we will learn to deal with the surplus of complexity.
Which food innovator or innovation inspires you?
Right now I am inspired by food artists like Marije Vogelzang and her alternative view on the future of meat – keyword “fake meat” – or Madelaine Berlins, who uses staged dining events to pick up the issue of migration – an issue food producers and trading businesses will increasingly face in the future.
Do you think it is important for brands to “co-create” with their consumers?
Yes, because I have the impression that many brands have cared more about themselves and the distribution of their products in recent years, rather than analyzing the change in eating and consumer culture. Consumers are no longer just “consumers”. They are and want to be part of decision making. Co-creation makes it possible to learn to communicate at eye level and to gain knowledge about yourself and the needs of your customers, which may not be possible with conventional market research techniques.
Is there something you want the creatives and entrepreneurs who participate in the project to consider when submitting their ideas?
The primary issue is not to bring more and better products to the market. The aim is to find answers to those challenges and problems that really matter to customers. How can I increase the appreciation for food and thus also contribute to the reduction of resource consumption? What is my product’s life like before, during, and after the expiry date? Which information – from storage to processing – does the customer really need? What information is actually useful and does not only serve to satisfy legal requirements? What can I learn from the food experiences of my customers?
What made you decide to be a jury member for the futureoffoodandbeverages.com project?
I appreciate the refreshing new approach to the subject and the work of colleagues who have invited me to participate. A critical analysis with new, innovative solutions, concepts, and ideas is in the center of my own work. I am so looking forward to the jury work and to people and projects that await me here.
Hanni Rützler is a jury member for the Future of Food & Beverages project. Download the free success story to discover how the think tank explored how the future of food & beverages will look like.