The next sustainable food trend could be invasivorism

A weird word in the title is definitely one for your next dinner party. In contract to promoting the use of local ingredients, locavorism or ‘indigenous eating’, invasivorism is a neologism describing the farming practices and eating preferences for invasive or non-native species in an ecosystem – plants and animals that have no natural predators and are thus throwing the environment out of balance or even causing the extinction of other local species.

Still in its nascent stage, we think invasivorism will become quite popular in five to ten decades, and intrepid hotel brands stand a chance at gaining some cache by being early adopters. Here’s some background on how the two of us are rationalizing this:

  • Climate change will increasingly come to dominate the news cycle and influence consumers’ buying decisions, especially as Gen Y and Z gain spending power and vote with their wallets for brands that align with their identities or ideologies
  • A big part of climate change will be the push for sustainability, in building design, in construction materials, in electronics, in energy usage and in the foods we eat
  • Concurrent to the actual carbon emission reductions and sustainable farming practices that businesses can support, there also is the reputational bonus that companies can accrue by being a trendsetter, as we pithily call ‘going green to be seen’
  • As erratic global food supply chains and inflation impact consumers’ habits in the grocery store, producers will pivot will new low-cost offerings such as previously undesirable vegetable crops, insect-based foods and invasivore foods

You may scoff but shifting food consumption is the norm, not the exception. Tuna used to be bycatch; now it’s a delicacy often pricier than steak. Only discontinued a decade ago, Pizza Hut locations famously used kale to decorate their salad bars (not for consumption); now kale is a ‘superfood’.

Part of our job as strategic planners is not to be weathervane consultants but to handle the present-day situation concurrent to developing a visionary plan for the next decade. Right now, environmentalism is largely a value-add to make guests feel good about their hotel selections (with the ability to command a few extra dollars in rate for the privilege). There may come a time soon, though, when sustainability is scrupulously scored and businesses failing to get a good grade are shunned by prospective bookers.

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To this end, we see supporting invasivorism as a worthy pursuit for hotels looking to attract the next generation of guests and as part of developing an aspirational culture. Here are some specific thoughts for this practice and the goodwill that hotels can earn:

  1. Help build an economic value chain around the farming and the consumption of invasivores
  2. Reduce the stigma of eating these species by transforming them into palatable dishes
  3. Raise awareness for the need to cull invasivores to bring indigenous species back into balance
  4. Offer a point of differentiation to help with the marketing and PR of your F&B program
  5. Round out a brand-wide sustainability initiative that incorporates numerous departments

It isn’t all green to gold, though. One of the main obstacles is that many invasivores are hard to transform into something palatable at scale or they are quite inedible to begin with. Take the four Asian Carp species that have violently invaded the Mississippi River system. Their double spines make them significantly harder to fillet while their slimy flesh isn’t attuned to the average Western tastebud.

Not merely a soylent green alternative, we see the invasivorism trend having applicability for haute cuisine. People opt for sophisticated fine dining experiences not only to attain satiety but also to be inspired by the chef’s wild, esoteric ingredient combinations…as well as, per the opener, having something to talk about with friends at the next dinner party.

Call it bragging rights. By promoting the ingestion of foods that are not native to a land, you are inspiring your customers to reframe the environmental conversation and making them feel good in the process for their active contribution. Above all, if you build enough of these sustainability-related experiences into your brand – of which invasivorism is one possible inclusion – your guests will adore you for it and be willing to pay above-market rates for the opportunity to stay with you.

This article may not be reproduced without the expressed permission of the author.

Tags: food trends, invasivorism

Managing Partners at Hotel Mogel Consulting, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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