A mix of herbs and crumbs laid out on a rough stone surface.

Designer food for life at home

Since when does a design collection from a home furnishing company feature food? Since now. And the people behind the move think it just makes sense.

“Food is important in people’s lives,” says Martin Nordin, the creative leader for IKEA Food. “So, it’s connected to the vision of IKEA in a way.” To create a better everyday life for as many people as possible—that’s the IKEA vision, and it can’t ignore what people are putting in their stomachs.

Putting food products in a home furnishing design collection has never been done before. So, when the news began to spread within IKEA, reactions were a mix of confusion and excitement.

“It is a bit surprising,” says Daniel Zell who’s part of the IKEA Food team. “But I think that just makes it interesting,” he chuckles.

Martin agrees. As a creative leader, his mind turns the idea of food over every which way. “We always talk about home furnishing but there’s a lot of stuff we do [at IKEA] that isn’t actually about furnishing. It’s about life around the home or in part of the home,” Martin says.

Putting food products in a home furnishing design collection has never been done before.

“Could food be a part of life at home? Eating and dining and the cooking? Or as a part of the kitchen interior?” For Martin, the questions keep coming. But there is an answer. “Why food in a design collection now? It feels right,” he says.

An accomplished chef takes on a new challenge—IKEA food gets adventurous

“We’re showing a bit more edge,” says David Johansson, a chef and IKEA food designer.

David created the food products you’ll find in IKEA PS 2017. He’s been a chef since before he could get his driver’s license, and lists Michelin star restaurants in France, top eateries in Stockholm and even New York cafes on his resume.

“I think it’s very important that we’re linked to an adventurous design collection,” says David. “We don’t want to play it safe. We want to push boundaries.”

The IKEA PS collection is a good choice for someone seeking out adventurous and boundary-pushing design. It’s released every few years to stand as IKEA’s design statement. It aims to be influential, bold and modern—perfect for the design collection debut of IKEA food.

A piece of seared fish next to a mix of herbs and crumbs, laid out on a rough stone surface.

Great ideas start in the kitchen

It’s hard to know where to start when doing something that’s never been done before, but when it comes to food, a good guess is to begin in the kitchen. That’s how David found himself in a cooking studio with furniture designers and product developers. The topic of discussion: how to translate the principles of the new IKEA PS collection into something good to eat.

“We tried to do something that will work in a small, urban kitchen where a young person lives,” David explains. “They don’t have time. It has to be quick otherwise they will not use it. And to make it accessible for them we wanted to make it very easy and convenient.”

The food has to be sustainable and healthy too. For inspiration, David turned to the principles of Nordic cuisine, which focuses on organic, local and ethical ingredients. The result is what David and his team call “instant Nordic cuisine”.

Instant Nordic cuisine calls for innovation on the go

You usually have to soak whole grains—like the oats, wheat and barley in the IKEA PS grain mix—for hours before cooking. Not very convenient. So, how can you prepare them in a way that they’ll cook quickly?

David and the supplier worked out a specialized technique to hydrate, cook, and then dehydrate the grains before packaging. The result is whole grains you boil for 60 seconds and then let sit a few moments before eating. That’s it.

“It’s a fun journey, when we try not to play it safe. When we try to be innovative and try to do new things,” says David. “The supplier learned a lot and we learned even more.”

David credits the suppliers for much of the creation process. “A lot of the products were born out at the suppliers,” he says.

In fact, the signature flavour in one of the IKEA PS spice mixes—the savoy cabbage—would never have been included if it wasn’t for the supplier’s flavour lab.

Quality food for a quality collection

David stumbled upon the spice while scouring the supplier’s vast collection of flavours and thought, “I’ve never seen this before! I have to include it somehow!”

 “This is our time to actually bring the food products up to the same level that the furniture has been known for, for a long time,” says David. “We will give you the same quality experience with food, when you enter the restaurant or with the products you can buy and bring home.”