Let’s be honest, half of the trips taken to IKEA are primarily for the meatballs; wandering away from the arrowed-path and stumbling upon a collection of household items you didn’t know you needed is just an added bonus. And while the iconic meatballs aren’t going anywhere soon, the company is looking to bolster its culinary offerings and continue to pave the way in both furniture and food innovation.
With the Future Food-Tech Summit happening this June in New York, source Future Food-Tech New York interviewed IKEA Food Services’ Managing Director Michael La Cour, who is speaking at the event, to learn more about IKEA’s plans for advancing food innovation, reducing food waste, and collaborating with start-ups in the food-tech space.
“Food has been an important part of IKEA from the beginning,” La Cour told Future Food-Tech New York. “The first IKEA Restaurant opened in 1959, only a year after the first IKEA store opened in Älmhult, Sweden. Later the IKEA Bistro and the Swedish food market was added to the concept. The IKEA meatballs are a true IKEA icon as well-known as BILLY bookshelf and KLIPPAN sofa and as Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA’s Founder, said: ‘You can’t do business on an empty stomach.’”
La Cour noted that close to a billion people visit an IKEA store annually, with more than 660 million people stopping by the food court in more than 400 stores across 49 markets. With so much foot traffic driven by hungry patrons, IKEA has had ample space to continue to innovate its menu and look for new flavors and recipes its customers will enjoy.
Currently, IKEA creates food based on the five Democratic Design principles: function, form, quality, sustainability, and low price—which has encouraged IKEA to examine the whole value chain, from sourcing to the final product, in order to offer food items with health and sustainability at their heart.
“We want to inspire healthier and more sustainable eating and lifestyles in our Restaurants, Bistros, and Swedish Food Markets. One could say that we have become obsessed with developing delicious, affordable, healthy, and sustainable food. Simply: better food for people and the planet. We believe that through our business we can support and influence positive change,” La Cour said.
One way IKEA is keeping sustainability at the forefront of its culinary endeavor is tackling food waste in its stores through its “Food is Precious” initiative, which has the goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by the end of August 2020. As part of its Bootcamp project, IKEA is also exploring sustainable food options by partnering with start-ups who are changing the game of healthy, sustainable eating. For example, one start-up IKEA is working with is exploring fruit flies as an alternative protein source, while future-living lab Space 10 recently launched five new menu items in partnership with IKEA.
“I think that we are looking at an industry that will go through an end-to-end change in the coming years. Technological innovation will play a vital role in that change. Facing the challenges that I mentioned earlier, I think we should see this moment in time as a golden opportunity to engage with smart, useful technology that can have an impact throughout the value chain. Whether it’s the smart scale for food waste or digital supply chain solutions, with the emergence of the internet of things and blockchain I think that we’ll see some radical changes ahead which can form part of not just our business processes and how we work, but how we address issues like health and sustainability: food waste, data from farms in our supply chain, clean meat, bio-simulated materials like milk and insects to name a few. The whole industry is abuzz with these kinds of initiatives,” finished La Cour.
To read the interview in its entirety, click here.
For more on companies innovating the way we eat, stick with us at Deli Market News.