San Francisco Design Week (June 20-28) triumphed once again, coordinating a week-long city-wide festival that showcased some of the most ground-breaking ideas, design, business and entrepreneurism in the Bay Area. As part of this, Pearlfisher hosted an evening event, bringing together a stellar line-up of three influential and progressive brands to join a panel discussion on ‘Designing the future of food & drink’.

Pearlfisher moderated the event and was joined by David Lester, Co-founder at Olipop – the first clinically backed digestive health drink that benefits the microbiome, digestive function and metabolic health, Philip Saneski, Vice President of Product at ReGrained – rescues the nutritious grain created every time that beer is brewed, and upcycles it into SuperGrain+ flour using patent-pending tech, and Reilly Brock, Content Manager at Imperfect Produce – fights food waste by finding a home for ‘ugly’ produce through a delivery service.

The invited guests took to the stage to discuss and debate everything from how brands can elevate the taste and emotional value of new food processes and alternatives to how brands shift the conversation around sustainable innovation from why we need it to why we want it?

Here are our top 3 takeaways:

1. Design yourself new food moments and expectations – Reilly, from Imperfect Produce, was clear that in his business, and in the new food culture, design and communication is key to so much more than just conveying a fundamental benefit or flavor. He was adamant that, in his business, people don’t necessarily, or overly, care about the look of the food but do care about both the nutritional and economic value and of course, the taste and enjoyment factor. Furthermore, this is where design across all mediums has more of a pivotal and elevated role in promoting an engaging, aspirational or influential message to drive ethical or progressive change on a wider scale – while simultaneously inspiring consumers to create better food moments.

“Design and content has such a powerful role to play in making people feel inspired and creative – even something like food waste doesn’t have to be depressing. We can have fun with it but still be earnest in our mission – and this is very much key to how businesses consciously reconnect people with their food and where it’s from.”

Reilly Imperfect

2. Get creative with waste – We know that waste is an issue for all of us – from the manufacturers to Joe Public – and it is crucial that we pay proper attention and commitment to creating a better food chain and legacy across all sectors. Phil, from ReGrained, is fixed in his vision, and speaking out about what he sees as the wider purpose for brands, which is the need to start scaling, sharing and creating exciting new sustainable initiatives to establish new food legacies that help brands integrate dynamic new systems into their businesses. The panel agreed that this needs to be intrinsic and work in parallel with innovating and re-imagining new food options, and how this is communicated and expressed, to excite while fostering a new sense of appreciation and value for the ethically and wellness-minded consumer.

“We need more companies thinking about spent grain because we’re really one of the only ones – we are reaching out to people about how we can pioneer new technology, create an information exchange, a new internet of waste innovators. We’re starting with spent grain but there are other by-products that occur specifically through processing that could have another life.”

Phil ReGrained

3. Don’t make consumers compromise – Many food and beverage brands have failed to graduate from the natural channel to a mainstream market because they require some compromise with regards to taste, price, convenience or all of the above. David from OLIPOP argued passionately about the need to create products that are as delicious and fun as the unhealthy alternatives they’re replacing, while still holding to high nutritional standards. A common thread for the panel was a humility that brands need to meet consumers where they are in order to give more people access to better-for-you products.

“People shouldn’t have to choose between something that tastes good and something that’s good for them. We just need to get better at product development and marketing. We’re proving with OLIPOP that it’s possible”

David Olipop

For everything from making new alternatives an everyday desirability to maximizing the impact of the healthy snacking phenomenon to creating a lasting food legacy for all, these brands are leading the way. How are you future-proofing your food & drink brand?

If you couldn’t attend this event but are interested in learning more about designing the future of food and drink, you can get in touch with us here.