How Foodtech is transforming our eating habits
By Early Metrics Team - 05 September 2022
Although meat consumption is on the rise globally (+2.3% per year according to the FAO), some continents, such as Europe, are seeing their consumption decrease. Indeed, consumption habits are changing in many regions of the world, with growing numbers of vegetarian and vegan consumers. While it isn’t always the case, cutting out meat consumption is often a choice made with environmental issues in mind. Today, we have a better understanding than ever of what role meat production plays in climate change. It reportedly accounts for 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions from food production. Furthermore, consumers are also increasingly aware of how wasteful our food consumption habits are. Indeed, it’s well-known today that 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally each year. The food technology (Foodtech) sector has seen the birth of countless startups aiming to tackle how we produce, acquire and consume food today. This growing sector addresses several current issues: sustainability, health and accessibility.
From manufacturing to delivery, including waste recovery and new ways of consuming, in this article we’ll look at some of the Foodtech trends that are transforming our daily lives.
Startups tackling raw materials
Meat production uses 70% of all agricultural land. According to the latest IPCC report, it contributes to about one fifth of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Intensive dairy production is responsible for the progressive loss of biodiversity. It involves a dependency on monocultural pastures and uses a significant amount of fertiliser. Intensive livestock farming is therefore incompatible with future consumption patterns that must reduce human impact on the environment. Startups, aware of this issue, are looking for alternatives to meat and dairy with equivalent nutritional value.
Mosa Meat and Meatable, two Dutch startups, have decided to rely on a recent technology to bypass livestock farming: the use of beef cells to make steak in a lab. The process involves taking cells from cattle, which are then grown naturally until they become minced steak. Through this process, 0.5g of beef cells can produce 80,000 steaks. This means that it takes only a few weeks to produce a steak that is ready to eat, as opposed to several years to raise cattle to maturity.
Other foodtech startups focus on developing plant-based alternatives to meat. La Vie has developed a recipe for 100% plant-based bacon and lardon made from soya proteins. This vegan bacon contains 60% less fat and 33% fewer calories than its meat counterpart. It also contains the same amount of protein. HappyVore, another French startup, also offers a number of vegan products such as pea-based sausages and wheat nuggets. These alternatives consume 11 times less CO2 and are therefore part of sustainable consumption.
However, it’s worth noting that the production and consumption of soya is not without consequences, especially if it comes from Brazil. Indeed, soybean production has become a huge business in Brazil and a very lucrative one. However, it is responsible for part of the Amazon rainforest’s deforestation and habitat loss, and often uses GMOs. This serves as an important reminder that consumers must still look into the impact of their meat alternatives, as the absence of meat in itself does not necessarily mean a product is truly sustainable.
According to Barclays, the market for meat alternatives will account for 10% of the global meat market by 2030. Large groups have also taken notice of this trend. Tyson and Smithfield, for example, have launched plant-based alternatives and are competing with Foodtech startups. As such, it seems clear that meat alternative products will likely continue to rise in popularity.
Startups changing our buying habits
As previously mentioned, over a billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year. In France alone, 10 million tonnes of food products are wasted or lost each year. This is the equivalent of 150 kilos per person. This statistic is particularly problematic when you consider that 7% of the European population does not have enough food to eat according to Eurostat.
Aware of this social issue, Jean Moreau and Baptiste Corval, founders of Phénix, tackled food waste in 2014. They developed an app that gives a second life to unsold food. The app connects retailers who have food that has not found a buyer with consumers who want to collect it at a reduced price. Thus, in 2022, more than 150 million meals were saved and fed the tens of thousands of daily users of the app. The fight against food waste is indeed a win-win situation and is in the spirit of the times.
The world of entrepreneurship has also addressed another problem: the lack of time to buy groceries on the way home from work. Who hasn’t had to order a meal at the last minute or desperately look for a supermarket that is still open in the evening? Totem, a startup founded in 2016, has decided to bring the supermarket to the office. No more time constraints, Totem has developed a sales area accessible 24 hours a day. Payments are made through a mobile app. Totem offers these services for an affordable price, without time constraints and covers all needs, from breakfast to dinner.
Startups reshaping the way we consume
In Europe, 60% of adults are overweight or obese. Far from being a minor issue, this public health problem was highlighted during the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed, obesity was one of the aggravating factors of the disease: 40% of those who died from Covid-19 were obese.
Many foodtech startups aim to tackle health-related concerns with easy-to-use solutions. Clear.bio has developed a sensor that tracks consumers’ eating habits. The purpose of the sensor is to monitor the influence of each meal on blood glucose levels and to collect data. This data then provides a food score for each meal. The application will then recommend a personalised diet, developed by experts, based on individual habits and blood sugar levels. The solution is particularly relevant for monitoring diabetics. According to the International Diabetes Federation, 60 million people have diabetes in Europe. This number grows close to 500 million worldwide. The food tracking market is therefore one with strong potential.
Our hormones can also influence our eating habits. As such, the British startup MoodyMonth has developed an app that monitors hormonal fluctuations through the mood and symptoms entered by the user. An analysis of this information then helps provide personalised predictions. The app also offers consumers daily nutritional and dietary recommendations to improve their mood and wellbeing.
Other applications, such as Yuka, provide consumers with data on the nutritional values of a product. This helps users independently verify whether the food they’re purchasing has harmful additives, too much salt, too much sugar or other problematic ingredients they should be aware of.
Overall, these foodtech solutions aim to help inform and guide consumers towards a more healthy lifestyle.
Startups renewing our perception of food
Food waste is not only the consumer’s responsibility. According to ADEME, 67% of food waste occurs before it reaches our plates. For example, when food does not meet aesthetic standards, it often ends up discarded. Today, many foodtech startups aim to collect these food items to create new products and thus prevent waste.
The startup Wtrmln Wtr uses watermelons that are not “attractive” enough for consumers and turns them into juice. In the same vein, Barnana has decided to recycle bananas deemed unsightly, in order to make chips. To date, the startup has saved more than 20 million tonnes of bananas. On the other hand, there are also startups like Oddbox and HorsNormes, which work with local farmers to sell misshapen, damaged or surplus produce directly to consumers.
Foodtech startups are tackling every aspect of the food supply chain. They are completely revamping the way we eat and think about food. These companies are playing an important role when it comes to helping the food sector become more sustainable, providing consumers with the tools to better manage their nutritional health, and bringing more convenience to how we purchase food on a daily basis. It comes as no surprise that the global foodtech sector should be worth $342bn by 2027.