Sustainable Food Innovation

In our group, we use culinary research and development to make flavourful sustainable foods, natural sciences to study how they work, and social sciences to explore how they can contribute to food culture. Through this union of innovation, transdisciplinary research, and open knowledge-sharing, we work for a food system that is more sustainable, equitable, and transparent, offering foods that are more diverse, nourishing, and delicious.

Alongside the larger social, political, and economic changes needed to redesign the food system, food innovation offers a supplementary way to address food systems’ enmeshed problems of waste, unequal access, undernutrition, diminishing diversity, and blandness.

In our whole-food approach to culinary R&D, we have a strong focus on fermentation, upcycling of by-products, and plant-based sources of umami. We focus on flavour because we observe how deliciousness and pleasure are key determinants of food acceptance, and thus of the dietary green transition’s success. A food may be the most sustainable by any metric, but if people don’t find it delicious, they won’t eat it, and if they don’t eat it, its sustainability potential remains unrealised.

The foods we develop for sustainability also provide opportunities for ground-breaking science. Novel fermentations in particular are fertile sites for studying how microbial ecology and evolution change in new environments, and how these shifts come to shape metabolism, flavour chemistry, and the taste experience. Combining laboratory microbiology, DNA sequencing, metabolomics, and sensory science, we use our culinary innovations to bring disciplines and methods together to address larger scientific questions.

While scientific research helps us better understand these foods, to understand how they might be accepted into food culture—or not—is a question for the social sciences. Using the tools of social research—ethnography, participant observation, interviews, questionnaires—we seek to understand how different people relate to different kinds of food, the microbial world, sustainability issues, and the larger social and cultural context that shapes food acceptance.

Through this combined culinary, scientific, and cultural work, we seek to explore and cultivate the connections between flavour, sustainability, and biocultural diversity. With this aim, we develop products not only as practical solutions or scientific model systems, but also to help us better understand and reframe the problem itself—encouraging thinking about edibility, food diversity, and flavour in more complex, just, ecologically resonant ways.