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Food trends from the 1950s to today

Woman in yellow long-sleeved shirt watching TV
Feb 17, 2023 By WGSN Insider
Updates from WGSN

Trends may come and go, but often they exist in a cyclical fashion. Explore trends of the past, current and future with Mike Lee, co-founder and co-CEO of Alpha Food Labs.

Mike is also founder of The Future Market, a futurist food lab that explores what our food system could look like in the next 5-10 years. He joins us in this episode to share his expertise on innovating foods and marketing them from the consumer point of view. We also touch on sustainable and regenerative agriculture and food and what the future of eating together as a family will look like.

Black and white photo of Mike Lee
Mike Lee

The temptation of instant gratification

“Usually if you eat a salad, you might feel light, but it’s not like you eat a salad and an hour later say, ‘I can literally feel the pounds shedding off my body.’ Whereas if you have a cup of coffee, tea or beer, or a glass of whisky, you know within an hour what it did to you. 

“It gave you a kick in the butt to get your day started or it took the edge off and you started relaxing. There’s something tangible about those things, which is why it has enduring value. And people are hardwired to understand a certain food by how it makes you feel in the moment.”

People eating healthy food
Mikhail Nilov/Pexels

Taste the sustainable difference

“One of the primary things you choose on food is taste. And it’s surprising to me how sustainable food is sometimes marketed as ‘net zero carbon’. Well, what does that taste like? So if we want to scale this idea of sustainable and regenerative agriculture and food, we need to find ways to demonstrate to people that sustainably grown food is actually more delicious than non-sustainable food.”

Man holding hamburger in two hands
Sander Dalhuisen/Unsplash

The cyclical nature of trends

“I think preferences can be somewhat cyclical. We had this moment in the 1950s and 1960s, where people embraced technology in their food. Oh my gosh, it’s a frozen TV dinner – all I have to do is put it in this thing called the microwave. And then 30, 40 years later, everyone’s like, what’s in that? I’m not eating that. Maybe we’re at the beginning of another embrace of technology with Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger, and then coming soon is lab-grown meat.”
– Mike Lee, co-founder of Alpha Food Labs and founder of The Future Market

Head to Apple or Spotify to hear the full discussion on our Lives of Tomorrow podcast episode, From TV Dinners to Lab-Grown Cows.

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