By Xinnan Li, Associate Analyst – Consumer Foods, Rabobank

Last year was a remarkable year for FoodBytes! with three successful events in Brooklyn, San Francisco and Boulder, as well as the kickoff of our international journey with FoodBytes! Sydney which took place in November. With more than 750 applications to pitch and over 1,000 attendees, FoodBytes! has grown into a vibrant community of innovators. Entrepreneurs, investors and executives from around the world gather to support the innovators and innovations that are pioneering a more sustainable future for the food and ag industry.

Across the four 2016 events, we saw startups focused on reducing food waste, enabling healthy choices, and improving social impact. We saw incredible innovations from mission-oriented companies including:

  • Imperfect Produce, “ugly” produce subscription boxes that cost 30-50% less than retail
  • ReGrained, making nutritional bars with upcycled spent grain from craft beer brewing
  • Mad Agriculture, animal feed and fertilizer made from insects that are fed on food waste
  • New Wave Foods, plant-based seafood alternatives that reduce environmental impact without sacrificing taste

FoodBytes! pitch companies and applicants are also leveraging Big Data across the food chain to reduce inputs, maximize yields and reduce waste. Companies include:

  • Smart Robotic Viticulture, special monitors for grape growth and harvest
  • Hazel Analytics, one-stop data management center for food safety information for the hospitality industry
  • FreshSurety, low-cost sensors that reports real-time shelf life to reduce food spoilage
  • Foodfully, app that consumers’ grocery inventories in consumers’ homes to reduce household food waste

In the next few years, we are expecting the use of smart technology to continue to mature in existing agriculture and food logistics fields. We also anticipate the proliferation of the quantified-self movement and personalized nutrition. With health as a long-term trend in food, consumers are catching on to activity-tracking wearables and are increasingly curious about measuring food intake and effects on our bodies. Companies like 23andMe and Habit are trying to decode the link between genes and size of jeans, yet the promises may not hold true in the immediate future.

Researchers and analysts know the health trend is sticking around and we expect it to continue to evolve in 2017. Driven by rising flexitarians and the FDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, the world of plant-based alternatives will flourish across multiple food and beverage categories. Product developers will continue to explore possibilities in vegetables and roots, different processing techniques, and global cuisines for inspiration. Food and ingredients high in protein and micronutrients will be of particular interest to consumers, offering alternative diet options that are healthy for both body and planet.

In addition to ingredient innovations, we expect to see companies improve supply chain transparency, reduce food waste, and create innovative business models to address this issue. Whether it is traceability, direct access to local or imported products, or connection between food producers and consumers, the industry is looking for entrepreneurs to revolutionize the food supply chain.

Meanwhile, natural and organics are here to stay! Ingredients and processing techniques perceived as non-natural will be replaced by those that are “consumer friendly”. Products rich in functionalities will be on the radar, as the hunt for the next superfood is always ongoing. We are very excited to see how these trends grow in 2017 and cannot wait to see the game-changing companies tackling them in innovative ways at FoodBytes! global events.

Want to join the excitement at FoodBytes! San Francisco on March 16? Snag your ticket now and use the code “FOODBYTES” to save 20%!

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