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SXSW 2023: Predictions for the Future of Food — and What They Mean for Today

March 30, 2023
By Jennifer Aguilar

SXSW is known as the mega-event for exploring what’s next in tech (with a taco in hand). A highly anticipated interactive conference sandwiched between a film and music festival, the event brings together industry professionals from tech, food, education, entertainment and health for one week of sessions, exhibitions, networking opportunities — and did we say tacos?

Returning fully in person this year with its expected amount of gusto, the buzz coming out of SXSW 2023 was all about AI – be that artificial or augmented intelligence – and community. These themes dripped heavily down into the food track where advancements in soil and water case studies, carbon neutral beef pilot programs and the commercial viability of cell-cultured or cultivated meats were explored alongside the philosophy that humans’ relationship to land, animals and each other is both communal and ancient.

An undercurrent moving through it all continues to be the social environment, impact and emergence from the pandemic whether your part in the food business is a producer, at the supply chain or in food service at any scale. The past few years and recovery from them lingers in every consumer decision, workplace culture and inflated costs. In attending SXSW, it would seem the solution lies in deeper community connections and diversity of thought as well as diet.

From a Media + Platforms point of view, Reddit and social media are places where unique communities are thriving. While brands are harnessing a video-focused social media platform effectively to deliver outcomes that are 1.4X greater for the food and beverage category, Reddit remains a place anchored in realness and the spirit of discussion where brands could both be doing and gleaning more. It starts with finding your audience, listening and observing, moving into interactions and then on to commentary that could become a powerful thought leadership and reputation tool.

While brands are frantically deploying fan strategies for the metaverse, there’s a simultaneous push for live interactions centered around food in the real world (IRL). Science has shown a “feast paradox” — evidence that people who eat with other people do indeed consume more food but have better health outcomes. With retail stores failing every week, many of these empty spaces will become experiential — expect to see culinary collaboration centers rising all around.

And SXSW wouldn’t be complete without taking away a trend that is poised to reshape an industry’s landscape in the near future. For food research, development and innovation the opportunity is in air. By leveraging air to change texture and shape to send certain neuro-signals to the brain, food experiences can be completely transformed and improved while using half the typical water commodity.

In the end, food futurologist Dr. Morgaine Gaye sums it up best: “We think we eat what we eat because we like it, but that’s not the reason. Food is a social communicator that shows us and others who we are.”