Summer is finally here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m writing this on what is supposed to be the hottest day of the year in these parts and it is awesome. Since I’m in such a happy mood (as much as one can be during these end times), I want this week’s newsletter to reflect that. I want it to be fun.
So we’re going to talk about snacks.
Specifically, plant-based snacks, because I was lucky enough to have been sent a boatload of them recently to try out.
Here’s the thing. Plant-based snacks have gotten really good. Remember when healthy snacks used to equal, well, the equivalent of a funeral dirge? They were something you had to choke down because your mom wouldn’t buy actual Oreos. Yeah, those days are gone.
You guys! There are so. many. good. snacks out there, and they are coming from new and innovative brands. I wrote a post about them over the weekend, which I’m re-purposing here because I want you to know about them (and I want to get outside and enjoy this day, so it’s time to cut-and-paste my earlier work)!
- 12 Tides seaweed snacks. Delicious puffs of organic kelp that are light, airy and satisfying. Plus the packaging it totally compostable.
- Loca plant based nacho sauce. This potato-based cheese spread is akin to the “cheese” you find in a convenience store. I’m not going to lie — it smells to high heaven, but tastes devilishly good!
- Renewal Mill chocolate chip cookies. Made from upcycled okara flour, these cookies are soft and chewy and a perfect sweet treat in the afternoon.
- Kween Granola Butter. A spreadable granola with a lovely cinnamon tinge to it. My only complaint is the texture is a little gritty, but it is a nice sweet counterbalance to the saltiness of a Wheat Thin.
- Jack and Tom jerky. I’m not usually a fan of jackfruit, but prepared and dried in this fashion, this is a great vegan alternative to meat jerky, and the spiciness is powerful, yet playful.
- Pig Out Hella Hot plant-based pork rinds. Full of spicy flavor, zero actual pig skin.
While these treats tend to be a little pricier, I would much rather spend the money to support these burgeoning companies than buy another mega-brand of snack. Hopefully if more people do the same, these fledglings can scale up and bring their prices down.
Do you have a favorite alt snack? Drop me a line and let me know about it!
This is the web version of our weekly newsletter. Subscribe to it and get all the best food tech news delivered directly to your inbox!
It’s the little things
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. My colleague, Jenn Marston, wrote about a new lunch container being used to help combat the spread of COVID on trains and in railway stations in Japan.
Awajiya has invented a bento box that comes with a built-in shield:
When folded according to the instructions, Awajiya’s lunchbox creates a three-sided shield-like structure around the box that can keep any airborne droplets from nearby people out of the food. It also guards against the eater’s own germs from spreading to others. Awajiya says the box is the same size as a regular bento box, making it easy to use on trains.
As Jenn points out, this is definitely not the most high-tech solution in the world, but it’s another arrow in the quiver in the fight against COVID. Combine this shielded bento box with masks and social distancing and hand washing and… it all adds up to if not eradicating the virus, then at least severely limiting it.
FreshDirect Finds Fabric’s Robots
When the pandemic hit NYC with full force in April, online grocer FreshDirect was slammed with new customers. So much so that it was reportedly excruciating to even get a delivery slot. Having to turn away shoppers during a time of record spending for grocery e-commerce is obviously bad for business.
So against that backdrop, it makes sense that FreshDirect is looking to automate some of its e-commerce fulfillment. The company announced a partnership with Fabric today to build out a robotic fulfillment center just outside of the D.C. Metro Area.
Fabric’s robots can assemble an online order in minutes, so customers in the D.C. area will be able to get two-hour delivery of their groceries when that facility opens up later this year. I spoke with Steve Hornyak, CCO of Fabric, by phone yesterday and he said that all the grocery retailers he’s speaking with are accelerating automation plans. Pre-pandemic, grocers wanted to wait on robotic fulfillment until 2021 or 2022. Those once-distant plans are being put into action now.
In other words, the robots are coming, and they are putting together your groceries.
The Spoon Plus Guide to Ghost Kitchens
Judging by our analytics, Spoon readers love ghost kitchens. You all can’t seem to click on those stories often enough. If you are one of those avid readers, I highly recommend you check out our latest Spoon Plus report, The Spoon Plus Guide to Ghost Kitchens, by Jenn Marston.
Euromonitor predicts that the ghost kitchen market is going to be worth $1 trillion (yes, trillion) by 2030. Jenn’s report lays out all the reasons why that prediction is probably accurate. As Jenn writes:
Much of the ghost kitchens’ rising popularity can be attributed to the rapid rise of the food delivery segment, which has been happening for some time now. Even more recent, though, are the economic fallout and changing consumer behaviors brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Put together, all these elements have accelerated the adoption of ghost kitchens much faster than what the industry expected even eight months ago.
Really, the entire report is worth your time. Yes, it’s only available to Spoon Plus members, but that’s easy (and inexpensive) to fix, especially if you want a ghost of a chance in succeeding in the future of the restaurant biz.