5 Ways Food Startups Are Changing the Industry for Good
No matter where you travel, food is a commonality amongst us all. We’re at a critical moment, however, where the needs surrounding food across the globe are drastically different from one country to the next. Some regions face food shortages and continue to struggle with the problem of access to food, while others deal with an immense surplus. In fact, nearly a third of all globally produced food is wasted.
We need large-scale solutions to address these complex and global problems. We need all stakeholders – farmers, manufacturers, financiers, governments and others – to continue to work together on this front.
At the same time, we’re seeing the proliferation and success on a smaller scale with food and agriculture startups. These companies are finding solutions to everyday problems and creating unique, out-of-the-box products. So, what can we learn from these companies today, as we think about how to address problems on a global scale?
Here are five ways food startups are making a positive impact on industry-wide problems:
How much we waste
Approximately a third of all food produced globally is wasted. This is alarming, given the fact that this amount of food could feed hundreds of millions of people suffering from hunger.
Making more with what we have isn’t a new concept, but it’s certainly one that needs to be driven into practice. That’s where groups like Foodfully, a mobile app platform, come in. People can use Foodfully to track their grocery purchases and receive notice when unused food items are at risk of spoilage. Creating awareness between consumers and their purchased food can help change habits that lend to waste.
What we consider “food”
Startups are addressing both what’s considered waste and what’s considered food. This isn’t an easy task, but one we know could open up doors to both accessibility and food waste issues.
Imperfect Produce, for example, is hoping to change the perception of what food is by giving consumers a venue to purchase and embrace the “ugly” fruits and vegetables often overlooked (and gone to waste) on grocery stands. Netherlands-based Seamore is also changing the way customers think about the popular foods we consume, like spaghetti, through use of alternative ingredients – in this case, seaweed.
The choices we make
Access is essential – and in particular, access to the “right” foods. We’re seeing more organic, nutritious food on the market today, brought to us by corporations large and small. But some startups are even aiming to transform the snack food market – often painted with the “unhealthy” broad brush – with healthier options.
Patrick’s Fine Sodas and True Made Foods, for example, are changing the way we think about sodas and sauces by utilizing alternative, more natural ingredients. By innovating for nutrition, without the compromise of taste, it makes it easier for consumers to make more informed, healthier choices.
Getting in touch with our roots
So, where does our food come from? The desire to know how our food gets to our table is here, and startups like Back to the Roots are bringing the farm right to your kitchen counter with at-home grow kits for mushrooms and herbs.
The way we experience food is being impacted by our understanding of how food is grown, who grows our food, and the journey it takes before it ends up on our plates. To that end, startups that focus on locally sourced ingredients, and truly feeding the communities in which they work, are getting more and more consumer attention. The potential benefits of eating local are vast – from a positive economic impact on local communities to lowering your carbon footprint.
Food on demand
We can’t ignore the proliferation of new food delivery services. Groups like Blue Apron are ensuring that any type of food can be brought to your doorstep, whenever you so choose. These services have an obvious convenience – but may be game changers for those unable to shop – or without a nearby grocery.
The bottom line
In thinking about these examples and all the innovative, exciting food and ag startups I’ve met over just this past year, it’s become clear that many of them have one goal in common: changing behaviors. By changing the way we eat, think about and even receive food – there are great possibilities for startups to drive meaningful impacts.
So, what do these food startups mean for the food industry at large? It may not mean that there’s a solution today for the global food crises that we face, but they’re proving to address issues in their own networks that we can certainly learn from.
At Rabobank, we’re supporting these startups because we believe in their potential for inducing change. And we’re thrilled to hear from the next round of innovators at FoodBytes! Boulder on Oct. 26 – a platform for startups to share their innovations, talk with peers and other influencers. We want to keep learning from this group and we encourage everyone to take note – because food is the factor that affects us all.
Manuel Gonzalez is North America Head of Start-Up Innovation for Rabobank North America Wholesale.