Produced by the Future Market and Seeds & Chips, the area featured innovative startups shaping the future of food and agriculture, from hemp elixirs to upcycled cookies to cultured eggs.
Strolling through the booths at the exhibit, I saw several overarching food trends:
Upcycled food… mostly cookies
To fight food waste, companies are repurposing food that would normally get thrown out, “upcycling” the items into brand-new products. On the exhibit floor I saw two companies upcycling surplus food: Soulmuch and Renewal.
Founded one year ago, Soulmuch is a San Diego-based startup that turns food destined for the trash into something everyone loves: cookies. Made from brown rice and quinoa from chain restaurants (like P.F. Chang’s) and juice pulp, the cookies come in flavors like chocolate chip, espresso, and carrot. The cookies, which cost a not-insignificant $4 each, are sold in farmers markets and retail spots near San Diego. Company CEO and founder, Reynne Mustafa, told me that they’re currently closing their seed round and are looking to raise a Series A in about a year.
Across from Soulmuch was another upcycling company, also offering cookies (bless!). However, instead of rice or juice pulp, Renewal Mill‘s cookies contain okara: flour made from soybean pulp leftover from soymilk production. The Oakland-based company works with Hodo Foods, an organic tofu producer, to source their soybean pulp, which they dry and blitz to make a gluten-free, high-fiber flour. Renewal Mill sells the flour wholesale to CPG companies and direct to consumer through Imperfect Produce (in some regions).
An 8-ounce bag of okara flour retails for $4.50, but a spokesperson told me that its wholesale price is competitive with whole wheat flour — and a lot cheaper than other gluten-free flours on the market.
CBD edibles (and drinkables)
Cannabidiol (CBD) food and drink is so hot right now, and we saw a couple of companies at the Fancy Food Show making use of the trendy ingredient. However, unlike most edibles companies, which use isolated CBD or hemp extract, Lumen juices the entire hemp plant — flowers, seeds, and all — and add it to their juice shots. According to Lumen co-founder Kris Taylor, juicing the entire plant results in water soluble and full spectrum CBD, and also has added health benefits.
Lumen recently completed its crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo and will be launching online and in retail at Erewhon and Lazy Acres (both in L.A.) sometime soon.
Meat and dairy alternatives
Alternatives to animal products (meat, dairy, etc) are growing in popularity, so it’s no surprise there were quite a few of these companies at “What’s Next in Food” exhibit:
- Abbot’s Butcher: Maker of non-GMO plant-based meats, like ground “chicken” and “chorizo.” The texture is a little chewy, but it makes for a good filler in dishes like grain salads and taco bowls.
- Fora: Created dairy-free “butter” using aquafaba, the water in which chickpeas have been cooked. I sampled some smeared on a baguette and have to say — I legitimately could not believe it wasn’t butter.
- Clara Foods: Cellular agriculture company making a cultured egg white (like cultured meat, but for eggs). The startup has yet to bring a product to market.
- Tiny Farms: B2B company making cricket powder to be used for animal feed, pet food, and cookies/snacks for human consumption. I tried one of their lime-flavored whole roasted crickets and it was delicious.
Full stack agtech
There were a number agtech startups in the “What’s Next in Food” area, but the one that most intrigued me was called Farm from a Box. The name is pretty self-explanatory: the company builds boxes out of shipping containers which contain everything needed to maintain an off-grid two-acre planting farm. The boxes have internal cold storage, irrigation tools, basic tools, and solar panels for renewal energy, and can generate 50-55 tons of produce per year. They cost between $60-65K plus an ongoing subscription service and can be tweaked to fit a particular environment’s needs. “Like a lego system,” explained Farm from a Box’s founding partner Brandi DeCarli.
So far there are five of these farming boxes out in the world: one in Tanzania and four in the U.S. The staff don’t just drop a box and leave — they stay for a while to train local farmers, and afterwards provide ongoing support. So far, Farm from a Box has raised $650K from a combination of equity crowdraising and angel investors.
Were you at the Fancy Food Show? What food (or drink) trends caught your eye on the show floor?