FoodTrends: Slow down and listen to the story

For the next six months, Italy is hosting a dinner party —and the entire world is invited to attend.

With exhibits from 145 countries over a 12-million-square-foot area, the expo is a showcase for the many cultures of food and environmental technology. Some pavilions have vertical farms. Brazil has transplanted a tropical forest. And some countries are exhibiting jointly their staple products— such as rice, coffee and cocoa.World-famous architects have designed many of the pavilions — most of which will be dismantled when the Expo shuts down.

One of the more low-key pavilions belongs to the Italian-born Slow Food movement. Since it was founded in the mid-1980s, Slow Food has contributed to a growing worldwide appreciation of artisanal food products and local food production. Slow Food is also a strong voice against big agro-industries, whose low prices it blames for pushing small farmers out of the market.

Lorenzo Berlandis, vice president of Slow Food Italy, says the world must change its mindset about food production and the culture of waste. “We hope that at the end of this event, we can reach a new vision and new perspective in food production — how can human beings feed the planet, feed humanity respecting biodiversity. [It’s] the only chance we have for the future,” Berlandis says.

We also singled out Switzerland’s pavillion, which challenges visitors on consumer responsibility: it features four silo-like towers filled with Swiss food products. Pavilion director Manuel Salchli says the towers will not be re-filled. “People are invited to take as much as they want to take, but they are also reminded of the fact that after them, we expect another 2 million visitors,” he explains. “So think of what you take and what you leave for others to come.” So far, Salsli says, visitors are not stuffing their pockets with freebies.

Carlo Ratti, who teaches urban innovation at MIT, joined forces with an Italian supermarket company and put the consumer at the heart of the food chain. If you move a hand close to a product, a digital display lights up, providing information on origin, nutritional value and carbon footprint. Ratti was inspired by the novel Palomar, by Italian writer Italo Calvino. In it, Mr. Palomar visits a cheese shop in Paris. As Ratti recounts the scene: “He thinks he is at the Louvre, that every product, every piece of cheese, tells him a story, about a different pasture, under a different sun. We wanted to take inspiration from Calvino and make sure the products can tell us their story.” The increasing interest in the story behind a food is just another way to monitor the quality and the unique traits of what we eat.

We will keep you updated on all the fascinating news and trends emerging from this year’s Expo. So, stay tuned 🙂


EXPO MILANO 2015 – Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life