Ikea is the largest furniture retailer in the world. But did you know that it’s also likely the largest meatball retailer in the world? Across its 340 stores worldwide, Ikea feeds people 2 million meatballs each day. Which is why Ikea’s high-concept Space10 lab is experimenting with a meatball of the future–one that uses zero actual meat. They call it the Neatball.
Their prototype Neatball comes in two versions. The first features root veggies like parsnips, carrots, and beets. It sounds a lot like your typical radioactive-red beet burger and is probably delicious. The second is made of mealworms. Yes, mealworms–the sustainable, high-protein larva of a beetle. “And for a true Swedish experience, we like to serve them with mashed potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry sauce,” Space10 writes.
Space10 also developed more sustainable versions of other familiar cafeteria fare, like a mealworm-laced burger recipe that you can duplicate yourself with any meat grinder and a stomach of steel. It’s 100g beet, 50g parsnip, 50g potato, and 50g mealworm. While people have eaten mealworms for millennia, and I know that I should be fine with the idea, Space10’s more attractive dishes are things like the “Dogless Hotdog.” It features a bright green bun that’s made with spirulina micro-algae, meaning it has tons of protein and nutrients that don’t make your skin crawl. Loaded with glazed carrot, roasted onions, beet and berry ketchup, mustard and turmeric cream, cucumber salad, and an herb mix, it looks like the hot dog of eternal youth. It certainly looks more fast-food appealing than Space10’s new salads, or its microgreen-infused ice cream–which, while keeping sugar to a minimum thanks to apple juice, apples, and lemon juice, looks more like an herb butter compote than a silky smooth delight for the tongue.
The Space10 team is careful to clarify that none of these items are coming to market, but it’s interesting to see Ikea’s thought process on the future of food all the same. After all, Ikea has already given us a veggie version of its famous meatballs that people seem to like. And Space10 released meatball concepts not long ago that have since gone from art project to fully cooked concept here–because that’s what Space10 does: It prototypes the future for Ikea.
In other words, maybe some day soon you’ll be grabbing a spirulina dog with hydroponic microgreens as you head home with a car full of furniture boxes.