"Drunch", Chris Sanderson explains, is the future. It's lunch … but a long, drunken lunch, that rolls into dinner. It's how 40 and 50-somethings, no longer willing to stay up till the wee small hours, will kick up their heels. And along with iPad wine lists, boozy brunches and Paleo Diet menus, it's one way restaurants might keep current in a competitive world.
The UK-based company that Sanderson co-founded, The Future Laboratory, is in the business of looking at how we live now, and projecting from that how we'll spend our money in the years ahead. He has been in Australia delivering "Futures Forums" where paying customers come to hear what research can tell them about where to find success.
The audience at the Food and Drink Futures Forum at Melbourne's RMIT also heard from taste-makers including chef Andrew McConnell and Fairfax Media food writer Jill Dupleix. Here's a take-away menu.
● We're getting older. So food will need to be stocked on lower shelves, with bigger lettering on tags, in single servings, and with medicinal qualities. By 2015, boomers will control more than half the global grocery spend. And Sanderson cites a figure of 77 per cent of boomers choosing food and drink to boost their health.
● But we don't want to have less fun. The "SKI" generation (Spending the Kids' Inheritance) are kicking up their heels like there's no tomorrow (because they know, at their age, there mightn't be one). Cashed up boomers and 40 and 50-somethings are living it up. Their catch-cries ''fomo'' and ''yolo'' (fear of missing out, you only live once) are giving rise to phenomena such as the "drunch" (long, drunken lunch) "which suits an ageing demographic. They're quite happy to go home (drunk) at six in the evening, but don't want to stay up until three in the morning", Sanderson says. He adds baby boomers love food online, spending on experiences, and "if they buy a barbecue it's going to be the most expensive in the range".
● We're going to want to eat and drink healthy. Salt, sugar, fat and obesity are being "put under the same microscope" as drugs and alcohol. Big brands will hop on the bandwagon, Sanderson says, pointing to Japan's Suntory, famous for whisky and spirits, buying British beverage-makers Lucozade and Ribena in September last year. Expect to see more lower-alcohol and lower-kilojoule drinks and restaurant menus "become as specific as the back of labels on products, and more transparent" when it comes to revealing fat, salt and kilojoule counts of dishes, Sanderson says.
● We want our food to make us well. This might very well explain why the big four Japanese convenience-food makers have joined forces with pharmacies. Food will have medicinal qualities.
● We'll get nostalgic about our dinner. Post-recession, Sanderson cites a boom in sales of sticky sponge puddings in Britain. Comfort food will help us keep it together. Punch and ''lawn drinks'' will make a return, as evidenced by the Punch Room at Ian Schrager's London Edition hotel.
● There'll be no more red wine with Coke. Discerning Chinese consumers are looking for "proof of quality when it comes to food and drink". China's emerging middle class will drive other demands too. Sanderson says: "They have an unquenchable thirst for premium alcoholic drinks."
● Food will take over the locker room as well as the medicine cabinet. "Brands are reimagining food as sports and health supplements," Sanderson says, as many of us take an aggressive line on diet and exercise, turning to things such as the 5:2 Diet (two days of virtual fasting); becoming vegan, alternating bingeing and purging, or taking to "caveman culture and the Paleo Diet". We'll see restaurants such M.O.B. in Paris, which does vegan fast food. And many of us will embrace fortified, synthetic and genetically modified foods that promise to enhance our performance.
● We'll party like it's 1999. The millennials (born circa 1980-2000) "are dominating the food and drink market", Sanderson says. "They rank spending on food more highly than on electronics." Really? They like eating more than their phones? Nearly half text about food, or use social media at the table when they eat out. They love craft beer, trying new cuisines, batch-produced drinks and conviviality when they eat out. The menu's on an iPad? Even better.
● We'll want to eat local. US snack food manufacturer Lays is identifying the field where their ingredients were grown, on every packet of chips, Sanderson says, predicting a "continued growth of localism". Here in Australia, he cited the "Track my Maccas" app, from fast-food giant McDonald's, which claims to tell you where the burger you have in your hand came from, down to individual farmers. "Companies will source more local ingredients and promote that," he says.
● Franken-foods may be here to stay. The cronut may have started it, but culinary thrill-seekers will ensure hybrid snacks and cuisine mash-ups will follow in the footsteps of the ramen burger, the egg and bacon-filled breakfast doughnut, flavoured popcorn and foods such as Adriano Zumbo's chouxmaca (half macaron, half choux puff). Super-savvy foodies seek ethnic fusion foods (Sanderson cites Cajun Italian), esoteric ingredients, and primitive experiences.
● Dumpster diving will be in. "More of us are questioning sell-by dates" Sanderson says, of a trend identified that sees more people looking to use ''waste'' better. Dumpster diving will be acceptable, charities will work to redistribute unwanted food and businesses will cash in. Examples? The Espresso Mushroom company in England sells mushroom-growing kits that utilise coffee grounds, while Joost Bakker's Silo in Melbourne's CBD is aims to be a zero-waste cafe.
● We'll want DIY food. We'll tailor products as we want them, such as chocolate and muesli, with brands including Yoosli encouraging us.
● And we'll all play with fire. Seeking more authentic, earthy food experiences will fuel grilling, flaming, smoking. Sanderson cites Swede Niklas Ekstedt, whose Stockholm restaurant eschews electricity for cooking over coals and fire.
● Tea will be the new coffee. Well, maybe we made that up, but Sanderson told his audience that cravings for no-alcohol and detox drinks would give the brew a boost. The influx of Asian cultures will drive new teahouses and a lust for rare teas. We might even see more hip, alcohol-free events or bars, such as London's Redemption. Sanderson is also predicting a push-back against juices because of their high sugar levels.
● Hello, hipsters. Spirits will go all crafty, with inner-city distilleries using science to create interesting flavours.
● We'll toss out wine tossers. Trying to woo younger, less interested drinkers to wine means it's presented "in a way that puts consumers at ease and brings a new sense of informality". Putting a list on iPads can deliver an 11 to 20 per cent increase in sales, Sanderson says. And sites such as Europe's winecast.com (motto: "wine that's you") will cater to this market.
For more information or to buy the report, go to thefuturelaboratory.com
What direction would you like to see food and drink take in the future? Share your suggestion or prediction using the comment function below.
CORRECTION: the original version of this piece referred to a long drunken lunch that rolls into dinner as ''dunch''. This is incorrect. The word has been changed to ''drunch'' in the text.