Sainsburys aisle

I was baffled when I first encountered the term ‘food futurologists’. Everything I’ve heard from them since inclines me to apply an alternative F word to this genus: fantasists.

Revisiting the colourful predictions made in Sainsbury’s Future of Food report, published in 2022, I learned that one year from now, a quarter of all British people will be vegetarian.

Hard to credit, when only 4.5% of the UK population currently eats a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Yet by this time next year, Sainsbury’s futurologists envision a typical family sitting down to a bank holiday vegan meal. The menu features root vegetable soup with seaweed and hemp seeds, bread made with lichen, and kombucha.

All ingredients will be ordered by app and picked up at a store where micro-greens lap up LED light and water on hydroponic shelving, while a community chef wok-fries diabetes-busting moringa leaves. Not familiar with moringa? Do keep up. Twelve months from now, Sainsbury’s thinks it will be a global crop providing a low-glycemic, high-nutrient alternative to flour.

Sainsbury’s longer-term predictions up to 2169 get wackier, and decidedly sinister. They feature ‘farms’ cultivating plants to make growth serum for cells, grow-it-yourself ingredients for home-cultured meat, fish, eggs, and milk, meat ‘assembled’ on 3D printing belts, ‘artisan’ factories run by robots, intravenous breakfast, nutrients delivered through skin patches (part of your ‘personalised optimisation diet’), and even the prospect of food grown on Mars.

Sainsbury’s appetite for novelty food tech has always outstripped that of the general public and other cannier chains. You’d think it would have learnt a lesson from its misplaced enthusiasm for GM tomato purée, introduced in 1996 and delisted three years later. Even when discounted, it bombed.

Recently, the Alliance for Natural Health wrote to Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts arguing that the chain’s apparent taste for gene-edited, synbio, fake foods would alienate its customers.

Hopefully Sainsbury’s buyers, who work on the unforgivingly commercial frontline, pay not one blind bit of attention to the sci-fi storylines emanating from its quality and innovation department and the nutty professors who provide its script. If this is the future they are pushing, they should expect a profit-crushing backlash from customers.


Have your say

The Grocer wants to hear from you about this article and the topics raised in it. If you would like to submit your opinion to be considered for publication in our letters section, get in touch at