Gastronomy, as a bet for addressing seasonality, has been on the table for years. | R.E.

Firmenich is a company based in Geneva. One hundred and twenty-five years old, Firmenich is a global player in the business of fragrance and flavour. A partner company is Microsoft, as a line of development at Firmenich is the use of artificial intelligence to create flavours - food flavours.

A chef who has received eighteen Michelin stars in his time, Nicolas Maire, works for Firmenich. So does an artificial intelligence robot called Sam. AI, says the chef, is a powerful and beautiful tool, and Sam never throws a kitchen tantrum. He comes up with flavours without any bias.

The essence of Sam and what Firmenich are cooking up is plant-based meat substitutes. The global market for this is already huge. By 2030, the estimate is that it will be worth 200 billion US dollars. High-tech, what can seem like fantasy high-tech with a flavour-discerning robot, is helping to drive a gastronomy of the future, one characterised by a trend towards veganism, and sustainability. Meat production, we know, has its carbon footprint.

Eight years from now, in time for the Agenda 2030 deadline for sustainable development goals, who knows, maybe Sam will have transformed our eating habits and the gastronomy industry. Responsible consumption and production is goal twelve. This covers, among other things, the reduction of global food waste, challenges being disruption to food supply chain management and the fact that less local food is being consumed.

You would still need to source the plants for substitutes, but put all the issues into the pot (so to speak) and there’s much to be said for a robot directing consumption in years to come.

This said, we aren’t all about to become reliant on plants for our diets. In Spain, for example, the importance of meat production has recently been highlighted by the row involving the consumer affairs minister, Alberto Garzón. Apart from his attack on factory farming, the minister has been inviting Spaniards to eat less meat. The livestock industry has been in a rage, as have other politicians.

So no, meat eating isn’t about to go out of fashion, which will come as a relief to, for instance, Mallorca’s lamb producers. But fashion and sustainability goals look likely to give added impetus to local production and local consumption. Businesses which have understood the competitive advantages to be gained from “local” have not required planned Balearic government tourism legislation in this direction. They have been following it for some years. Garden Hotels, as an example, has a tie-up for the supply of Majorcan lamb.

The Spanish government has announced that 65 million euros of EU Next Generation funds are to be spent on a National Plan for Gastronomic Tourism. What does this entail? As yet, there are few details, but within the framework of what the secretary of state for tourism, Fernando Valdés, has said about a programme known as Spain Tourism Experiences, it will be important going forward that Spain becomes a “gastronomic destination leader”, especially with regard to tackling tourism seasonality.

Gastronomy, as a bet for addressing seasonality, has been on the table for years. Majorca and the Balearics have taken gastronomy to international fairs. Michelin-star chefs have gone along to provide samples of outstanding cuisine. But have these efforts ever represented a breakthrough? What percentage of tourists who come to Mallorca, or to Spain for that matter, is motivated principally by gastronomy?

A report by the Ostelea School of Tourism & Hospitality in Barcelona from six years ago was entitled ‘Gastronomic Tourism in Spain’. This stated that, in 2014, when there were 65 million foreign tourists in Spain, 8.3 million could be defined as gastronomic tourists. The highest number were from the UK - 1.86 million - but the highest percentages were supplied by the US and France, with 19.6% and 15.8% of all tourists, respectively.

When it came to the regions, 26% of all these gastronomic tourists went to Andalusia. The region with the lowest percentage, two per cent, was the Balearics. The 220,000-plus that this represented was a good deal higher in absolute terms than many regions, but as the Balearics had the third highest total number of tourists in 2014, then this wasn’t surprising. Just ahead of the Balearics was the Canaries, where the number of gastronomic tourists was 800,000, seven per cent of the total; Andalusia, meanwhile, had almost three million fewer tourists than the Balearics in 2014.

Things may have moved on since then, but the study indicated how much catching-up was needed in the Balearics. Whatever the national plan involves, the Balearics must hope to be a beneficiary in what - one suspects, because all EU funding is intended in this way - will be premium placed on local product for sustainability reasons. And as this funding is also about technological innovation, there may be - by 2030 - a string of restaurants called By Sam, The Robot Flavourist.