More value ahead: 2019 learnings shape a promising 2020
Much like the startups in our ecosystem, our platform is full of fast-paced change and a near-constant motivation to evolve. Why? To better serve our community: the startups pitching on our stage, the corporates looking to solve industry challenges, and the investors funding these sustainable solutions. 2019 proved to be a year of big strategic thinking here at FoodBytes! HQ. We took a holistic look at our platform strengths and weaknesses and are entering this new decade with exciting changes and announcements in the works (stay tuned for those later in Q1). In the meantime, let’s revisit the trends that shaped the industry in 2019 and which trends we’re tracking in 2020. The future of food and ag continues to look greener every day.
Innovation trends in 2019
What we’re seeing in North America
Farmer-focused digital platforms
Farmers are facing increasing pressure on margins for a variety of crops, and many have turned to technology to assist in optimizing resource management, from production to sales. One of the winners of FoodBytes! San Francisco this year, Bushel, has developed a software platform and app that allows grain elevators and cooperatives to digitally connect with their growers, and deliver near real-time information that informs better business decisions.
Closing the waste loop
While consumer food waste is undoubtedly a pain point in the food system, food processing often creates large amounts of unusable by-products – a major challenge to food companies further up the supply chain. With Greek yogurt production generating 2 million metric tons of acid whey in 2015 alone, Capro-X won the People’s Choice Award in Chicago for its WheyAway technology. The company ferments and distills whey on-site for natural bio-oils that can be reused in food and beauty products as a replacement for unsustainable palm oil derivatives.
According to a MarketWatch report, 200 times as many food and beverage products were launched with superfood labels in 2017 as compared to 2011. Shaka Tea is supporting the ecosystem and economy of the Hawaiian Islands with its line of herbal iced teas brewed with mamaki, a locally-grown antioxidant.
What we’re seeing in Europe
As consumers continue to seek alternatives to meat, we see many early stage companies making options more accessible, creating more efficient ingredients, and developing more convincing products. Redefine Meat, this year’s People’s Choice Award winner of FoodBytes! London, has developed plant-based ingredients in cartridges, enabling them to mimic the texture of real meat through 3D printing.
Indoor farming solutions
Indoor farming has been garnering tremendous attention because of the benefits of growing indoors in a controlled environment. With seemingly higher-quality produce that is grown efficiently, locally and with a potentially lower environmental footprint, indoor farming practices appear to be a promising answer to the rising need for sustainable farming methods. We’ve seen a broad range of innovations in energy, lighting, environmental control, irrigation, monitoring and automation to maintain an optimal growing environment. One example is Lleaf, the Highly Commended Award winner of this year’s FoodBytes! London, which has developed a greenhouse film technology that boosts natural sunlight to increase crop yield production and assist the growth of non-native crops.
Innovations tracking food edibility
Food waste is a significant issue across the supply chain. The European Union has adopted the first ever EU-wide food waste reduction target, with the ambition to reach a 50% food waste reduction by 2030. Unsurprisingly, we see many emerging food tech innovations stepping up to pave the way towards stronger food waste prevention. We’re seeing intelligent storage solutions and food safety detection which help consumers track food’s edibility with confidence. FoodBytes! London finalists, StixFresh, has developed a simple sticker that can help keep fruits fresh for up to two weeks longer. The sticker contains an all-natural compound that creates a protective layer around the fruit, extending its shelf life.
Which innovation trends do we expect to see in 2020?
Increasing food transparency through novel packaging
The Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods will be implemented in 2020 in the United States. This labelling reflects new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart diseases. Meanwhile in several European countries, the Nutri-Score has been introduced from 2017 onward. Nutri-score is a front-of-pack label that aims to help consumers to make healthier food choices. Both new systems reflect a deep consumer demand for transparency in food products, and brands are discovering that packaging can be a useful tool to deliver this information, from ingredient labels to built-in freshness sensors. We’re excited to see what creative solutions we’ll see around this in 2020.
Sugar alternatives reaching mass market
According to research of CB Insights, 47% of consumers say they are working to minimize sugar intake, and companies are now unlocking the potential for ‘guilt-free’ indulgence by lowering the amount of sugar in their products. FoodBytes! alum DouxMatok raised $22M this year for its Series B to commercialize its sugar reduction technology. This is reflective of a larger trend of sugar alternative startups maturing towards mass market.
Embracing regenerative ag
Farmers, producers, policymakers, and retailers are taking a closer look at how to use land and animal management practices to improve soil health and sequester carbon. To create long-lasting environmental benefits, farming and grazing practices are harnessing regenerative agriculture practices like cover crops, climate-resistant crops and regenerative practices with livestock. FoodBytes! alum Yolele Foods‘ focus on West African grains like Fonio, a climate-resistant crop.
Which food and ag trends are you betting on in 2020? Drop us a comment or send us a note at Foodbytes@rabobank.com.