2018 reTHINK FOOD PROGRAM SUMMARY
The 2018 reThink Food conference convened a diverse audience of 200 professionals spanning the food service and related sectors in the Napa Valley November 7-9 to explore the future of food. As in years past, reThink Food’s speakers presented on a range of topics critical to innovation and change in the food system, including robotics and automation to address labor needs; the potential of virtual reality and wearables to enhance guest engagement and employee training; investing in and designing for diversity to build resilient and inclusive food experiences; and culinary, behavioral design, and communication strategies for promoting healthy and sustainable food options.
Several organizations chose to publicly launch their work at this year’s conference, including the premiere of the trailer for “The Last Harvest,” a documentary produced by Driscoll’s, meant to stimulate discussions about critical labor shortages—and potential solutions—in the agricultural sector; Datassential’s Food Studio big data ideation platform fresh out of beta; Fleishman Hillard’s research on “Gen Food” influencers who cut across traditional generational designations; and the Institute for the Future’s report on designing good food for the 21st century and its accompanying toolkit.
Additional highlights of the program included some of the nation’s leading robotic scientists from Carnegie Mellon University discussing the implications of robotics on everything from agriculture to culinary preparation to assisted eating; an update from Michiel Bakker on how Google uses its food program to translate a vision for larger food systems change into real impact and outcomes; and Rizal Hamdallah of Tyson Foods explaining how the nation’s largest food company instills innovation into its corporate culture. Chef Jenny Dorsey presented an excerpt from her “Asian in America” project, using custom VR videos and guided tastings to explore her personal evolution as a chef, while IDEO led smaller breakout sessions around busting bias to unlock diversity and inclusion mindsets towards greater innovation.
In addition to an evening reception curated by the Google Food team with a special appearance by Bear Robotics’ Penny the autonomous running and bussing robot, this year’s conference also featured an Innovation Showcase brunch fueled by the technologies of tomorrow, including the Morirobo crepe robot, Hestan Cue smart cooking system, Chowbotics’ Sally the Robot, and Natural Machines’ Foodini 3D printer.