The Birth of the New Icelandic Product - The Reykjavik Grapevine

The Birth of the New Icelandic Product

The Birth of the New Icelandic Product

Published September 12, 2008

Designers make their mark on food

Photos by
Viktor Svan

Designers make their mark on food

Second year product design students from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts have joined hands with farmers around the country for the ‘Farmers and Designers United’ initiative. Last year, the Academy received a grant to develop the entrepreneurial seven-week course that teaches Food Design to Icelandic farmers. From four student-led products, two have been selected for official launching.

Iceland relies heavily on imported goods, but there is a great deal of opportunity to develop its own products. Course teacher and member of Design Company ‘Borðið,’ Guðfinna Mjöll Magnúsdóttir, teaches how much value you can give to a raw material if you develop it. “Iceland finds producing new products difficult, but we are taking our design knowledge and applying it to the food industry.” From the food itself to packaging and name branding, the course leaders work with raw food producers, like sheep and potato farmers, to take their products to the next level.

A New Type of Fashion
Like many innovations, food design is a concept that has taken off in the last few years both in Europe and the US. It is a welcome addition to the vastly growing eco-centric culture. The organic trend has been a boost for farmers worldwide and fresh ‘organic’ produce is imported into Iceland every day. Icelandic raw produce is of the highest and freshest quality but despite what the banana farm people may tell you, Iceland struggles to find new home-grown produce.

“There has been to much insecurity in Icelandic food production. A lot of producers have been trying to imitate classical food products with strong identity instead of creating one for their own. Therefore Icelandic food products can´t often stand the comparison, it’s never as the French cheeses or the Parma ham. Farmers and Designers United aspires to challenge this head on, giving the produce its own character and market brand, creating a unique food product with a strong Icelandic identity”

Twenty Ways to Revolutionise Your Rhubarb

One of the products developed under the Farmers and Designers United initiative is a delicious Rhubarb Caramel with its own brand name “Rabarbia.” The brand name is intended as a stamp of quality, allowing the farmer to develop more and more products under their own name. This not only makes their produce more diverse, but also allows them the freedom to create and sell whatever they want.

On another scale, a haggis-like torte produced at the highest farm in Iceland has been developed to premiere exclusively in a restaurant located close to where the produce is made. The dish is not a copied version of haggis, nor should it be; it is a speciality of that Icelandic region and should always be celebrated as such. The design for the dish, after its initial concept and recipe, evolves further to include aspects of presentation, including table cloth design and accompanying the dish with the right potatoes, wine and cutlery- like hiring your own ‘food stylist’ to ensure the environment fits the meal.

These designers have created completely new opportunities for Icelandic food and given the power back to the local farmer, who can now market their products to the masses or in ‘limited edition’. Icelandic food design is not only a boost for them, but for tourism and Iceland as a whole.

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