It was less than 100 years ago that the food industry figured out how to mass produce things like baby carrots and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.
Nowadays the buzz is around robots that make pizza and cashierless food stores, but that drive to reinvent food has fundamentally remained the same. They may have more technologically sophisticated tools now, but engineers, scientists, food producers and upstarts alike still look for the same thing Krispy Kreme did in the 1950s: how to cost-effectively create consistently good (tasting) food at scale.
Brita Rosenheim, a Partner at Better Food Ventures, captured the current spirit of innovation in food tech this week with an enormous market map she published at The Spoon. Her map lays out the dozens of early-stage startups, mature companies, corporations, B2B technologies, and consumer-facing tools changing the way we eat in the home, at restaurants, in the grocery store, and across many other areas of the supply chain.
Brita included a number of important takeaways from the map around things like the role of personalized eating, whether we need connected content in the kitchen, and where investors are currently funneling their cash. But if there’s one major takeaway from her map, it’s that the food tech landscape is . . . absolutely enormous. And getting bigger every month.
Now we’re at a point where we’re starting to see the landscape shift to be less about tech for tech’s sake and more companies coming to market with solutions that address some of the world’s biggest food challenges. Brita’s belief that “technology will prove to be the single biggest catalyst to solving critical problems across the global food ecosystem” and her inclusion of categories on the map like Food Waste, Sustainability Tracking, and Nutrition suggest we’re slowly but surely trekking towards a more productive future for food tech.
Flavors of the Future
One thing food companies did not have in the 1950s was an AI-powered crystal ball to tell them exactly what consumers were interested in buying.
We don’t have the actual crystal ball yet, but Spoonshot came pretty darn close this week by announcing its AI-powered flavor recommendation platform, which combines data science and machine learning to understand what flavors are currently popular with consumers all over the world (though the company is currently focused on North America) and which ones will be popular in future. The goal? Get this information to CPGs so they can use it for new products and stay ahead of the competition in terms of what consumers want.
Spoonshot is actually one of a few companies now riding the flavor-prediction wave, among them Analytical Flavor Systems and Tastewise. We’re bound to see many more players come to market over the next couple of years, as CPGs look to skip the cost of hit-or-miss product development.
Startup Accelerators to Watch in October
Startups, of course, are a vital part of the food tech landscape, and as Brita’s map above shows, there’s a seemingly endless number of them these days. Part of the reason for that is the huge number of food tech accelerator and incubator programs out there that mentor early-stage companies (and line their pockets) as they develop prototypes, products, and solutions for the food industry.
Like lots of areas of food tech, many of these programs now look for companies grappling with major issues in the food system: reducing waste, finding cleaner meat, and tracing food safety, to name a few. And while the end of the year is a little quieter, there are a handful of these programs taking applications in the month of October. Check them out here.
Last Chance to Snag SKS Tickets
We’re less than one week out from The Spoon’s SKS North America show in Seattle. If you want to attend on October 7–8, now’s your last chance to grab a ticket. And if you want to talk about the evolution of Krsipy Kreme and other restaurant-tech-related topics, hit me up. I’ll be running around the show with the rest of The Spoon crew next week.