THE FUTURE OF FOOD: INNOVATION AHEAD

The pace of transformation in communication, transportation and financial services, health & medicine is following an exponential curve. Food is set to follow a similar path. As we move into the age of plenty it is fundamental that we look at how we make and consume food to ensure future generations don’t make the same mistakes that gave rise to the chronic diseases of the 21st century.

The way we eat is largely built upon post World War 2 food processing and farming practices. The same practices that have led to the wide adoption of Corn/Fructose Syrup and Sugars as key ingredients in our diets.

The good news — very good news — is that things are set to change. There is no question that they will. The question is only how fast.

Our linear thinking doesn’t quite grasp exponential growth. Up until now much of what we have been promised for the past 5–10 years had not materialized so applying linear thinking lead us to conclude it will take much longer to see some material change. However the pace at which Food tech is growing gives us a strong signal that we’ll soon leave the valley of disappointment to the wonders of the tipping point.

Developing Across The Food 2.0 Stack

A quick search on Mattermark shows 4,000+ results around the world from companies that are working on what I call the Food 2.0 Stack.

The Food 2.0 Stack

What is more subtle — and rather exciting — is that we have moved out of the traditional ‘’internet’’ food businesses (e-commerce and delivery) to include the other pieces of the stack.

Many of these have raised a considerable amount of financing and are on their way to making large profits. They are clearly fulfilling an unmet need.

A consolidated industry set for disruption

Food — with Energy, Financial Services, Pharma — is the biggest and most consolidated industry in the world.

In 2012 Huffington Post claimed that 10 brands controlled 90% of the food the world eats. While rather shocking this figure is for me an indication of the opportunity to disrupt the food supply chain. This industry is awaiting to get shaken up.

Food 2.0 Renaissance

Innovation and competition are the driving forces behind positive change — take as example the digital war between Google and Apple in the control of Mobile and apps that has given us better iPhones and Android phones. As consumers we can only rejoice at the Food Renaissance that lies ahead.

Over the the last year Food Tech Entrepreneurs are building a roster of Services and Products that changing the way we perceive and consume food, giving us a glimpse into what it is to come.

I predict that within the next 5 years the Food 2.0 landscape will show significant differences from the picture above. In 10 years things would have gone wild. If we are smart It’ll be a true victory for consumers and their health.

3 COMPANIES ARE A GOOD MARKER OF WHAT LIES AHEAD

Hampton Creek

Hampton Creek is a company dedicated to making it easy for good people to do the right thing. Whether you’re a hip college student or a single mom raising two kids, everyone should be able to eat delicious food that’s healthier, sustainable, and affordable.

Hampton Creek Foods has raised a total of $ 120 M to date and after taking the US by storm has already started eyeing the large Asian market. The premise of the founders is that we shouldn’t be compromising between taste and health, because in 2014 why should we?

Their first product — Just Mayo — is an eggless mayo made out of (vegetable) pea protein. While this fact says nothing about how healthy the food is, I am sure pretty much everyone around the globe will be rejoicing about having more tasty options to the egg-based products.

Soylent

Soylent is the child of 25 computer engineer — Rob Rhinehart — who decided to apply the same information / data driven approach he uses to build software products to food — stripping out the container (the foods we eat) and focusing on the nutrients. What we are left with is a poweder-base meal that mixed with water can be easily used to recharge our humanly batteries. You can buy 21 Meals (7 bags) for 70 $ with the monthly subscription. At 3.3 $ per meal, this is an extremely cheap way to refuel.

‘The powder you now behold is more than meets the eye’ the pamphlet professes, ‘this mix of mass, energy, and information is the staple food of the future. Refined, robust and efficient, Soylent is food that works.’

Focusing on the nutrients comes with its pros and cons.

Pros

  1. Higher nutritional value than the average american meal
  2. Forces to deeply think about nutrients we take in every day and track effects on mood, energy levels and stamina

At $ 3.3 I’d rather have liquid food than swallow french fries

Cons

Nutritional and health cons are to be assessed via proper tests (research is on the way) over a longer period of time so won’t focus on that but more prosaically we can count at least 3 cons that relate to the fact that this is liquid food:

  1. Liquid is not solid: Our body is not used to ingesting liquid food — what about the fibers ? what are the implications on digestive system over the long term ?
  2. Taste: Food is a container but we have developed a quite sophisticated sense of taste that we won’t easily give up
  3. Social Purpose of Food: A meal with your partner, friends, team or family is probably one of the most valuable social rituals we have developed as a species

Plated

Born in 2012 and with $ 21.4 M in the bank to date, Plated is representative of a roster of Online-to-Offline companies that serve the Time Poor / Cash Rich urban dwellerswho want to experience the process of cooking a meal using fresh ingredients but with chef-designed recipes without the hassle to have to source or chop the ingredients and figure out how to cook them.

Given the target group Plated goes a long way to ensure customers on the quality of their ingredients:

NO ANTIBIOTICS OR ADDED HORMONES*

We care about the quality of our ingredients, which is why we exclusively source meatwithout added hormones* or antibiotics, with an emphasis on working with local, family-owned farms.

DOMESTIC AND SUSTAINABLY SOURCED

The ocean is not an inexhaustible resource. That’s why our fish is 100% sustainable and domestic. We almost exclusively source wild-caught, unless farm-raised is more environmentally conscious.

FRESH, SEASONAL, AND HAND-PACKED

From kale to baby bok choy, we’re choosy about what goes into your box. Our recipes center around local, seasonal produce, and only fresh and hand-packed will do.

Currently available in cities like NY and San Francisco — but with competition popping up across the US and Europe — and available with subscriptions it is easy to predict how this model will become mainstream given the mix of convenience (time saving) and added value (chef quality at home).

A perfect example of how material this is is the investment from Unilever Ventures intoGousto — a plated equivalent in the UK.

What are the technologies that will change the game ?

As someone who is excited about the industry and the developments ahead I have been looking at 3 technologies that excite me particularly:

Vertical Farming:

It takes a space of the size of South America to produce the food we consume around the world. 50% of the entire world population lives in cities. Given that we are probably going to add another 2–3 Billion people by the turn of the century there is clearly not enough land to farm enough food to feed the growing population. Vertical farming changes the paradigm by enabling us to grow plants in cities in what would otherwise be ‘dead’ spaces. Imagine a world where every town has their own local food source, grown in the safest way possible, where no drop of water or particle of light is wasted, and where a simple elevator ride can transport you to nature’s grocery store — that’s vertical farming.

3D Food Printing

3D printing food means using raw ingredients to make pizza, veggie- hamburgers from your home in all shapes and forms. If you can do that without the added preservatives we get into food we buy at the grocer that’s a pretty decent option to have. One of the companies that developed this technlogy is the Barcelona based Natural Machinesmaker of the Foodini food 3d printer.

In essence, this is a mini food manufacturing plant shrunk down to the size of an oven,” Kucsma said, pointing out that at least in the initial stage the printer will be targeted mostly at professional kitchen users, with a consumer version to follow, at a projected retail price of around $1,000.

While we this is still very early days it is undeniable how appealing this tech is for the sophisticated urban chef inside of us.

Bio Packaging

Food waste is a significant problem around the world. The Environ-mental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 34 million tons of food was thrown away in 2010 in the US, representing close to 14% of the municipal solid waste generated in the United States.4 (Ironically, using more packaging to reduce food waste creates another waste problem: In 2010 household packaging constituted almost one-third of the municipal solid waste generated.

New technologies in packaging are set to change this by using biodegradable or even edible food-skins that contain food. One such example has been developed by a company called WikiFood.

The WikiFood technology protects the wrapped food or beverage without exposing it to unnatural materials or chemicals while also delivering benefits of health, convenience and a food experience like nothing else.

Imagine for a second the skin of a grape or a coconut. WikiPearl skins are inspired by the way nature packages fruits and vegetables. These skins are delicious protective coatings against water loss and contaminant entry, and potential carriers of effective and functional nutrition.

Have you observed any new technologies in Food Tech, know entrepreneurs working on something really cool or have thoughts to share on the topic: Please leave them in the comments /write a response or hit me up on email