As consumers demand more transparency in their food supply, we grow less tolerant of hidden allergens at restaurants and schools serving up traces of wheat and peanuts. Nima’s flagship product was specifically designed to detect gluten in foods, but part of investor excitement is its potential to pick up any allergens in any piece of food placed in the handheld device’s chamber. A big part of the attraction here is the power it puts back into the hands of the average consumer. Labels — even smart ones — are simply not enough when it comes to telling us what’s in our food. It seems plausible that places like restaurants and schools might eventually keep devices like this on hand for anyone wanting to double-check the elements in the meal they’re about to eat.
While Innit’s plan to create a culinary GPS is an ambitious one, a succession of partnership announcements with brands such as LG, BSH, Philips and most recently Electrolux, indicate that their strategy is starting to work. The company has been building a personalized recipe orchestration engine that uses inputs from consumers to create a shopping and meal plan, then maps the recipes directly onto a variety appliance models from Innit’s partners to finish the journey to the plate. The company teamed up with Google to add voice-guided cooking to their app, and its recent deal with Chef’d brings meal kit shopping into the mix. While the company has a long way to go to achieve its vision, we think Innit has made significant progress in the last six months towards creating a truly innovative food and cooking guidance system.
With its quick, shot-from-overhead, quirky videos of disembodied hands making everything from fried chicken to cake balls, Buzzfeed Tasty has created the template for the modern cooking video. With over 65 billion views last year — the bulk of them on Facebook — Tasty has become the most watched video creator of Internet cooking content by an order of magnitude. Last year, the company entered the guided cooking space with an induction cooktop and pan called the One Top, and just last month the company partnered up with Walmart to sell a line of Tasty branded cookware. While it’s unclear if Tasty’s massive video views will convert to cookware sales, we’ll be watching closely to see if they do.
Forty three million Americans are on food stamps. That’s ridiculous. In addition to the all the stresses and stigmas that go along with that food insecurity, low-income families often live in food deserts with limited shopping choices and can’t use their benefits card to order fresh, healthy food online. All_ebt uses Facebook Messenger and a virtual Visa card to help families on food stamps do just that, opening up new outlets to receive all the same types of food higher income people have access to (carefully following all of the restrictions that come with food stamps). All_ebt even opens up pop-up stores to help teach people how to use their service; they have one in East L.A. and another opening in Charlotte, NC this summer.
INTELLECTUAL VENTURES/MODERNIST CUISINE
Intellectual Ventures is the modern day Willy Wonka Factory, where it seems no idea is too crazy. While Nathan Myhrvold and his group of inventors don’t just stick to food in their attempts to create the future, the company has accumulated dozens of patents along the way that may someday serve as a foundation for a world of personalized food manufacturing or household 3D food printing. And while Modernist Cuisine is technically a different company operating under the same roof, IV inventors like Pablos Holman often tap into to the expertise of the same team that helped take the precision cooking and molecular gastronomy movements next-level when figuring out what science fiction food concept to bring to life.