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Pickled jellyfish, dandelion coffee: our future food?

Pickled jellyfish, dandelion coffee: our future food?
Michael Urban, PhD - Chief Sustainability Strategist

Michael Urban, PhD

Chief Sustainability Strategist
Conor Walsh, CFA - Lead Portfolio Manager, New Food Systems and Co-Portfolio Manager, Circular Economy

Conor Walsh, CFA

Lead Portfolio Manager, New Food Systems and Co-Portfolio Manager, Circular Economy

How would you feel about a meal featuring an amuse bouche of pickled jellyfish, a starter of kelp noodles and a synthetic burger for your entrée – capped off with a cup of espresso made from dandelion root?

If this strikes you as far-fetched, you may need to think again – at least according to London-based sustainability researcher Hannah Tucker. She organises dinners for corporate clients that feature these dishes and others she believes could become mainstream in future decades – perhaps even in our lifetimes – depending on the path we take.   


Need to know

  • Disruptive changes to global industrial food systems will dramatically alter the way we produce, distribute and consume foods
  • The transformation is being driven by the need for a system that can feed 25% more people (up to 10 billion) with 20% less land (under 4 billion hectares) by 2030, while helping restore the planetary boundaries 1
  • As the transition unfolds, the entire food and agriculture sector will fundamentally change through three main themes: sustainable food production, sustainable food consumption and cross-cutting enabling solutions. On the consumption side, the shift to alternative proteins and other more sustainable diets provides exciting investment opportunities


Disruption Dinner

Tucker began Disruption Dinner in 2017 to explore the environmental, social and technological forces reshaping the world in the 2020s and beyond. She uses food to explore these complex topics in a way that makes them more relatable on a personal level. “Many of the foods we not only love but depend upon are highly vulnerable to disruptive changes in climate”, she says.

That message is aligned philosophically with the convictions behind LOIM’s recently launched New Food Systems strategy. We recognise the urgent need to produce fewer animal-based foods, replace industrial agriculture with more regenerative practices and technologies, and distribute food more efficiently to eliminate waste.

The resulting shifts will cause major changes to the risks and return profiles of hundreds of listed food and agriculture companies. We expect innovative businesses to disrupt existing profit pools and create new ones. By 2030, we estimate that new food systems will represent a USD 1.5 trillion annual profit pool (from 600 billion in 2021).


Jellyfish, the great survivors

Tucker outlines three possible outcomes for our future, and the dishes served at Disruption Dinner all correspond to one of them:

The first is a doomsday world, where our continued reliance on and expansion of the industrial food system becomes a major driver of the collapse of nature. Jellyfish are a clear contender for doomsday dinner tables, given that they have survived all previous mass extinctions. They continue to thrive today even as hotter, more acidic and slower-flowing ocean waters put other fish populations at risk. 

In her second scenario, we use modern capabilities to take control of nature, moving toward a synthetic way of life represented by plant-based and cultivated meat burgers. Alternatively, we may apply those same capabilities to collaborate with nature, creating a more regenerative existence strengthened by modern technologies. In this world, we might eat kelp noodles and beef from free-ranging, antibiotic-free livestock.


We found some of the more unconventional Disruption Dinner dishes to be quite palatable. The amuse-bouche of pickled jellyfish, for example, had a similar texture to bean sprouts and was surprisingly non-fishy. Kelp noodles have a neutral taste, so work well with different sauces. Tucker serves them with a tasty miso dressing, carrots, spring onions and sesame seeds. The doomsday world’s dandelion root espresso, on the other hand, may be a harder sell. It certainly lacks the flavour intensity – not to mention the kick – of the real thing. At best, we would describe it as a very weak decaffeinated brew.


The doomsday, synthetic and regenerative paths are all possibilities for the 2020s and beyond, both for our food system and for our lives more broadly, Tucker says. The ultimate outcome depends on the decisions we make today.

But one thing is crystal clear: our industrial food systems no longer makes sense.


Our diets are failing us

Our food systems are damaging our climate, biodiversity, forests, oceans, fresh water and soil. In fact, after energy, food systems are the main contributors to climate change, causing more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions.2 They are also hugely inefficient; for example, it takes about 30 calories of animal feed to make 1 calorie of beef. Just 55% of the world’s crop calories are eaten directly by people, while 36% is used for animal feed.3

As of today, we have cleared almost 50% of all habitable land on Earth to make way for agriculture.4 To transform the global food system, 1 billion hectares of that land (a fifth of the total) need to be returned to nature by 2030.5 At the same time, we need to find ways to feed a quarter more people.

Our New Food Systems strategy aims to capture the investment opportunities created by disruption throughout the entire food value chain as we work to avert the doomsday scenario. It focuses on three themes: 1) sustainable food production, featuring biological and synthetic inputs; 2) enabling solutions, such as smart-farming technology; and 3) sustainable food consumption.


Eat more plants

On the consumption side, the transformation will profoundly alter the way foods are manufactured and distributed. Major areas of change are likely to include peas and pulses as major sources of protein, and alternative dairy products – e.g., plant-based milk and yoghurt − and compostable packaging becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Will jellyfish and kelp become dietary staples? While it is too soon to predict exactly which foods will be on our tables, we do know that diets will include more plant-based proteins. 

Meat consumption will not go away entirely, though; sustainable producers will still win in the new environment. But the meat and dairy aisles of supermarkets need to shrink markedly, and meat options on menus need to become rarer. EU and North America are expected to reach “peak meat” by 2035.6

We are also already seeing green shoots of technology for cultivated meat, with Singapore becoming the first country to grant regulatory approval for such products. Estimates show that it could take up to 15 years for production to reach price parity with traditional meats, but costs are coming down significantly, and this trend is likely to accelerate as frontrunners gain scale.


A new world of food  

Whether we end up eating more kelp, nori or even foods yet to be discovered, we find all of these developments in the food space very exciting. The transition away from our industrial economic systems is not merely desirable; it is inevitable because they cannot be scaled within the physical boundaries of the planet. For example, we are on course to run out of land to produce the amount of meat required given population growth and rising incomes.

In conclusion, food systems epitomise our problematic relationship with the environment, but also hold immense potential for transformation – providing benefits for the planet and human health, as well as investment opportunities.

Consider the changes to the average restaurant menu and supermarket aisle in the past decade, and then project that into the future: when it comes to food and food consumption, the world of tomorrow will be very different. This will bring huge market upside.

How are we investing in this transition? Click here to learn more



[1]  (UNEP, 2021).
[2] (Crippa , et al., 2021).
[3] (Cassidy, West, Gerber, & Foley, 2013)
[4] (FAO, 2021).
[5] (UNEP, 2021).
[6] SystemIQ (2020)

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