#EmergingTechnology: Foodtech

In my opinion, The Food Industry is home to the most reliable and loyal client base in the world. The market boasts almost eight (8) billion clients whom each have unique taste & cuisine preferences influenced by their origins, upbringing and even seasonal trends. The strength for this market relies on a simple note “Everyone’s got to eat”.

From the beginning of age, people were accustomed to hunt and grow their own food and consume it in it’s natural state. However, times have evolved and technology has disrupted the traditional models of food production and consumption. People now have easy access to a variety of cuisines and recipes, which have been uploaded on food blogs, youtube channels and even reviewed on the Internet.

Due to tech, people now have a choice to a much more healthier lifestyle with choosing to become vegans or vegetarians opting to consume meat or dairy products. Also, one can choose to go for a fast food menu that is generally termed as “junk”, that normally consists of non vegan burgers & pizzas, with refreshments such as icecreams and soda.

Technology has also simplified the way people have access to food, which was not the case in past years.  Now people can stay in, and order their groceries and food via their mobile apps, phones or even laptops and have it all delivered at their doorstep.

Taking all the above factors into consideration, the foodtech ecosystem include but is not limited to Bio-engineered foods, Grocery Ordering, Meal Ordering, Industry & Consumer tech and even the Discovery and Review Tech.

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Chart Based on Pitchbook Emerging Tech Report: Foodtech 3Q 2019

BIO-ENGINEERED FOODS

This term is referred to foods that are a product of manipulated genetic makeup of plants or animals. Biotechnology, DNA Technology and Genetic Engineering is used to alter genetic material by transfering it from one organism to another. Genetic Engineering has developed plants and crops such as Herbecide-tolerant and Insect-Resistant Crops, Value Added Crops and Industrial & Pharmaceutical Crops. The technology has also altered animals products such as Meat and Dairy Products.

Bio-Engineered Foods Include Plant-Based Meat & Dairy Products,Meal Replacement and Cellular Agriculture. Cellular Agriculture allows for making animal products without the animal themselves. It involves using Recombinant DNA Technology to share the information about the production of these products with other processes and replicating the process. Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering, Molecular a& Synthetic Biology offer advanced and innovative methods to produce alternative proteins, fats and tissues.

The Food Replacement Market Map showing Firms in this Industry, Image Source:CB Insights

Plant Based Meat & Dairy Products have been catapulted by the increased number of people who have chosen to go vegan and vegetarians, and as a result have pushed the lifestyle to be mainstream. Consumers have found themselves making healthier food options. The Media has advocated for this lifestyle, airing celebrities and Influencers plant based diet. Celebrities like Beyonce, Tom Brady have all made headlines for crediting their plant based diets as a success to their craft especially when it is performance time. Firms like Impossible Foods, Simris and Beyond Meat (whose IPO did incredibly well last year) operate in this space.

Meal Replacement is simply defined as a substitute of solid food meal, with required calories and nutrients. It includes Vitamins, Suppliments, Protein Shakes and Nutrition Bars which people replace meals in a day for. One can opt to only consume breakfast and meal replacements for lunch & dinner. It tricks the body into thinking it is full and in turn helps people maintain or loose wight. Examples of Meal Replacements include Herbal LIFE, Slim Tea, 310 Meal Replacement, huel and so many more.

INDUSTRIAL AND CONSUMER FOODTECH

The Firms under this Industry, Image Source: The Spoon

Industrial and Consumer Foodtech includes Delivery Robotics, Kitchen Robotics and tech that helps to eliminate food waste. The tech improves the food production processes including food safety, preservation and food packaging. This technology also ensures that proper business models are in place to ensure food does not go to waste, and the origin of the food can be traced back to the creator. The firms in this space focus on quality control, preservation and upcycling.

The Food Robotics Market Map 2019 showing firms in this space, Image Source: The Spoon

This tech is also focused on the supply chain and procurement with tools such as Delivery Robotics to ensure food is delvered for re-stocking purposes. Kitchen Robotics allows for the monitoring of the foods, automating food production and processing.

MEAL ORDERING FOODTECH

World Map showing ten (10) of Meal Ordering & Delivery Tech Firms and the respective number of restaurants it delivers from, Image Source: ThinkNum Media

This tech has made it easy for consumers to order their meals online from their favorite restaurant or fast food chain, and have it delivered by their doorstep. This foodtech is employed in firms that connect chefs to corporate catering clients to serve lunch or dinner for the guests. The tech is also employed by firms that make curated snack boxes that stores the food delivered. Also the foodtech can be the one used for placing meal orders and making the delivery possible. Tech firms that have excelled in this space include Doordash, Ubereats, Deliveroo, Grubhub, Postmates, Cater2Me, Acewill, Foodee and even Sifted.

GROCERY ORDERING FOODTECH

The Grocery Store Tech Market Map showing firms in this space, Image Source: CB Insights

This technology encompasses Voice Over Ordering Technology applied via AI virtual assistants like Alexa while shopping on websites like Amazon. Robot Deliveries are also part of the plan of the future to simplify the delivery process and make it a better faster compared to how it is now. Also barcodes and POS Systems simplifies checkout have revolutionarized the grocery shopping experience.

The Grocery Foodtech includes technology used to monitor shelves on real time, tech to sell grovceries online, chatbots for interacting with consumers, Augmented & Virtual Reality to create a visual experience for customers shopping, in-store pick-ups, tech that manage food waste, tech to print smart receipts, tech for interactive displays and even tech to offer customers rewards and points after shopping which gives them eligibility for gifts and price discounts.

Firms operating with this tech include Instacart, Whole Foods, Walmart, Amazon,ibotta, snapcart, fellow ROBOTS, flexRECEIPTS, FoodMaven, Bossa Nova Robotics and so many more.

DISCOVERY & REVIEW FOODTECH

This technology mainly allows people to find new hot places to eat whether it is a restaurant or a plain fast food joint. The Review Technology allows people to see the feedback of people who have previously eaten at a place or consumed a certain meal.

Many Restaurant Websites and Social Media Platforms are filled with reviews of the food, the chef and customer service based on the experience the customer had. Foodtech Firms such as Doordash, Hellofood in Africa and Zomato in UAE make possible to locate restaurants near you and see the reviews as well.

Foodtech firms that own recipes apps such as BigOven, Yummly, Allrecipes Dinner Spinner builds cooking communities comprised of their subscribers. These subscribers also have access to free recipes that are available online.

Also the Internet allows for blogs and Youtube Channels that exist as a platform for people to write and post about their recipes and even upload cooking videos illustrating the process. Social Media Platforms  such as Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram allow people to post live cooking sessions while interacting with their followers in real time.

The Foodtech Industry is a broad space with different aspects and subjects still not tackled. Lately the Industry has enjoyed the news following the Plant Based Meat and dairy segment having a succesful 2019. This segment still shows much potential, as most people are actively making a shift to healthier food options. Now that technology has made it possible, more people are going vegan, with these tech firms manufacturing more alternative proteins and dairy that are as tasty as the real meat & dairy and even more, they are healthier.

As plant based meals are becoming more mainstream, foods like tofu,  kale, broccoli, legumes, whole grains, meat and dairy substitutes are all getting a boost, and so are the companies that prepares and processes them. With this success, more and more investors are pooring funds into this industry, as there is a guarantee for steady consumption. This is because, at the end of the day, “Everyone’s got to eat”