The food industry has always been on the forefront of technological advancement. What started with home delivery evolved into game-changing delivery apps that brought a myriad mix of restaurants from across the city into our homes. Just when we thought we had reached the pinnacle of tech innovation in the F&B industry, Foodverse was born. A virtual universe may sound like something straight out of a science fiction novel, but this is no longer a farfetched dream.
Foodverse is short for Food Metaverse — an immersive 3D world where everything is about food. From virtual restaurants that can allow table reservations, to cooking up virtual food to placing a ‘real-life’ order, Foodverse provides many exciting opportunities for the food industry to market to global users and to monetise at a global level — without physical restrictions or scaling obstacles. Enabled by social media, businesses have been learning the power of brand building and digital presence, and Foodverse will take this to the next level with NFTs and Metaverse experiences.
The origins of Foodverse lie somewhere in the dark days of the pandemic. With multiple lockdowns and contact restrictions, food businesses took a massive hit — many finding it hard to retain staff, keep up with growing costs and finding willing customers. Businesses felt the pinch of purely relying on local and physical sources of income, which contrasted with the sudden boom and rise of digital food creators and ghost kitchens.
In 2021, Metaverse began to rise, drawing in consumers and businesses alike. For the food industry, the main question was the utility of a digital universe for a physical business that relies on taste buds. But Foodverse is not a substitute for real life. It is an enabler for the consumer to engage in a meaningful way with their favourite brands, chefs and restaurants, eliminating the current barriers of social media. Foodverse allows users to discover new brands, immerse in brand experiences, and swap their NFTs for real-life meals, thus enjoying this experience virtually and physically. And Foodverse will not be one specific idea: it will vary from business to business, as per their objectives.
Ever since the rise of blockchain and Metaverse, the UAE has been at the forefront of championing this technology for bettering businesses. The government has been promoting active research and development in this space, with events like the Dubai Metaverse Assembly enabling positive dialogue across industries.
Early movers like Pickl accept crypto payments and are now creating virtual restaurants that activate real-life orders. The Bhukkad Cafe, China Bistro, Art of Dum, India Bistro and Cali Poke are launching their iconic dishes as NFTs. Bigger names like Papa Johns UAE have announced plans to start their Metaverse journey through Pizza NFTs, whereas Chef Alexandros Sperxos released a series of seven NFTs that were also served to diners as a special experience.
The UAE is seeing a rapidly-rising interest in brands to announce their Web3 journey and, over the next few months, many more announcements will come to the fore.
Foodverse is the BC to AD moment for the food industry. The adaptation of blockchain and NFTs when simplified for brands can empower them to new opportunities. It is catering to a global community of foodies, irrespective of geographical barriers. It also eliminates the cost of physical infrastructure that is considered a barrier to scale in this industry.
Removing geographical restrictions allows brands to create new business opportunities. A UAE brand can scale its Foodverse community and gain attention in the UK, possibly leading to pop-ups and franchising opportunities. Whether you are a small brand or an already established food giant, you will have equal opportunities and an equal voice in Foodverse.
Apart from brands, Foodverse also provides an exciting playground for food enthusiasts. For gamers and digital participants, the platform will create unique opportunities to discover new cuisines, restaurants and recipes. They can play games, win NFTs, and swap them for a real meal at a local restaurant. Foodverse NFTs can power users to loyalty programmes and provide access to discounts, curated meals and more.
Metaverse is not a revolution; it’s an evolution. We are unlocking the next stages of possibilities. The next two years will see brands across the world outgrow social media and discover the true potential of 3D experiences. What comes across as news today with a brand dropping NFTs will be tomorrow’s norm. As businesses discover the monetary potential of Foodverse, we will start seeing more and more activity in this sector.
(Supreet Raju is co-founder of UAE-based OneRare, the world’s first Foodverse)
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