Food and drink

What The Future Market’s 2065-style food is really all about

Mike Lee wants to be the Elon Musk of food, sparking innovations in how we eat. Here's an update on his forthcoming pop-up shop, The Future Market.

Mike Lee leading part of a summer design sprint. (Photo courtesy of Studio Industries)

Food needs its Elon Musk, according to Mike Lee, founder of Studio Industries, a food industry-focused creative agency.

Musk puts out big ideas, like the Hyperloop, and it gets people talking seriously about what’s possible. It breaks them out of the boring question of “what can we do?” and pushes them to “what could we do?”

All of it is just to elevate the conversation about innovation in food.

To that end, Lee’s company has initiated The Future Market out of its Downtown Brooklyn offices.

“Our goal is to use The Future Market to become really good thought leaders in the future of food,” Lee told us during a recent phone call. “It’s a vehicle for us to say we’ve thought very ambitiously and very creatively about what’s possible, but also to say that we know how to solve your problems today.”

The Future Market will attempt to imagine what sort of mass market foods will be available 50 years from now. What will the packaging be like? What will the taste be like? What real foods will be used to make them?

Look for a digital version to come out next spring with a real pop-up store somewhere in New York City around the end of 2015. That store will have maybe a dozen products, made with brand partners, that visitors will actually be able to buy at the store and take home.

Early version of "The Future Market" at the Future of Food Expo in Brooklyn this year. Mike Lee in the center.

An early version of “The Future Market” at the Future Food Expo in Brooklyn this year. That’s Mike Lee in the center. (Photo courtesy of The Future Market)

Lee worked in food in various capacities for eight years before founding his company. The Future Market originally seemed like a way to establish credibility as a company, Lee said, but he’s beginning to think that it might be its own business.

The food industry isn’t a comfortable space for visionaries, Lee explained. It’s the nature of the business. Food is so capital intensive that the big companies move slowly. “More often than not, you get things that aren’t terribly groundbreaking, they are really just incremental changes.” The idea of The Future Market, he said, is to jolt food innovators out of that painfully slow cycle.

In terms of technology he’s interested in, Lee said a lot of it is a long way away from the consumer. We are in an era where any kind of food processing is suspect, but Lee says there’s also a chunk of the food world where technology is having an impact. “It’s where there’s a lot of cool stuff happening but also where controversial stuff is happening,” he said.

For example, he pointed to high-pressure pasteurization (HPP). It’s a way to destroy pathogens in foods without changing the taste or the nutrients of the food. Super crunchy juice bars, he said, go out of their way to promise they don’t use HPP, but, Lee argues, the purist approach makes it hard — maybe impossible — to deliver the experience and benefits of raw juices to middle America.

Exploring the right times, places and ways to deploy these technologies is what the company is aiming for. “All of it is just to elevate the conversation about innovation in food,” Lee said.

Single-crop snacks

Single-crop snacks: a Future Market offering at last summer’s Future Food Expo. (Photo courtesy of The Future Market)

Companies: Studio Industries
Series: Brooklyn

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