Foraging. The main food source for hunter-gatherer cultures, and the only way of life for humans until about 12,000 years ago. Anthropological evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer practices might date back as far as two million years.
It was the emergence of agriculture that began to change human food practices. Groups of people started to settle in one place – and instead of roaming across the land in search of food, communities grew and cared for crops in order to survive.
Today, there are still a small number of hunter-gatherer populations in the world. But industrial agriculture dramatically changed global food systems, and foraging for sustenance hasn’t been part of daily life for the majority of populations for a long time.
In a very different way, foraging has been reappearing as part of life in developed societies. It’s not relied upon for crucial sustenance – instead, it has become an unexpected part of high-end dining and premium food culture.
Well; probably lots of reasons. And while the romanticisation of hunter-gatherer culture comes with its own ethical questions, foraging is increasingly being integrated into health-focused local food systems – and even becoming the focus of fine-dining restaurants.
The growth in popularity of foraged foods (and the practice of foraging itself) is in part down to the growing demand for local food. Coinciding with a rise in awareness about the impact of nutrition on health, people are seeking out local, sustainable food sources – and locally foraged food gives them that, with an added feel-good factor.
On TikTok, the hashtag #foraging has garnered over 1.6 billion views. Instagram, too, has become a home for foraging enthusiasts, with millions of posts (from both professional and amateur foragers) achieving thousands of likes each.
Influencers showcase foraged ingredients and share the dishes they create using foraged foods. And this is driving a widespread demand for foraged food as a gourmet, hyper-local approach to food. The Atlantic called it ‘the foraging renaissance.’
And some influencers are teaching others how to forage for food, as a way to eat more sustainably:
Foraged food is, by its nature, a small and localised market. But one marketplace platform has recognised the potential for market growth, and is developing a strategy to connect foragers with premium food buyers across locations.
Foraged is a digital marketplace for wild foods. Launched in 2021, it announced USD $2.7 million in seed funding in July 2023, and reported over 400% revenue growth from 2022-2023. It currently lists around 4,000 products from 1,000 sellers, and customers include individual households and Michelin star restaurants.
Foraged food products are a niche market – but it’s clear that savvy F&B businesses can tap into the demand and generate profit here.
The future looks promising. As well as selling premium foraged products to customers, foragers are generating revenue via a growing demand for workshops and training – as more people seek to improve their diets and spend more time out in nature.
Foraging offers a way for people to step outside of the pressures of modern life and connect to a food system that feels authentic, healthy, and empowering. And it offers a link between humans and our environment – something that many people feel they’ve lost.
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