Craving a taste of the future? Demand for nutritious ingredients, product transparency, and environmentally-conscious sourcing have a powerful impact on product development and are currently dominating the food industry. These claims create a tightrope walk for companies in the industry and leave many uncertain in which changes to invest in. StartUs Insights, our unit dedicated to Innovation Intelligence & Startup Scouting, has made it its mission to identify key future players and their fields in various industries. For this breakdown of startup driven innovation, we’ve conducted a thorough examination of 900+ startups disrupting the food industry. As the global food retail market is estimated to reach a staggering value of 7,210 billion Euro by 2020, new perspectives and emerging solutions along with startups are the driving forces of the upcoming future. Because cutting-edge startups are our focus we provide one as an example for each innovation area.

Artificial Proteins

The increasing global demand for protein comes at a high price: meat. Taking into account that it takes nearly seven tons of water to produce around 450 grams of beef, lab-grown meats turn out to be the bright alternative. Not considered to be affordable in 2013, the price for the production of roughly 140 grams of artificial meat has dropped from 274.366 Euro to 9,59 Euro in 2017. Consumers progressively choose food options that meet their moral principles thus encouraging companies that already develop cultured meat, milk, eggs, and fish among others. And innovation does not stop here. Companies also increasingly specialize in the production of algae, insect-based food, and crops consequently opening a new market of animal-based substitute products which will become the “new normal” in the near future.

One example for a startup taking advantage of these tendencies is Impossible Foods. The company creates the plant-based Impossible Burger, described by some as “the game changer in the food industry”. The burger is made with soy leghemoglobin, a protein that carries heme, mimicking the taste of actual meat.

Artificial Proteins

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

3D Food Printing

3D food printers use different types of powdered or liquid food material to bring extra nutritional value to our plates and additional income to companies. 3D food printers allow for personalized, precise, and reproducible nutrition containing the correct percentage of nutrients required for a particular gender, lifestyle, or medical condition. One specialized form of the 3D food printer, currently in an experimental phase, is the bioprinter. This version prints living cells (not all of which are used to make food) and has the potential to illuminate hunger in areas of the world that need access to fresh foods.

Natural Machines, the startup behind the 3D food printer Foodini, promotes cooking with fresh ingredients. This concept separates the 3D food printer from others. The machine uses open capsules that users load up with foodstuffs of their choice to create savory or sweet cuisine. Thus Foodini manages the difficult and time-consuming parts of food preparation.

3D Food Printing

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Food Robotics

With an estimated worth of 2.1 billion Euro by 2022, robotics have not failed to hit the food industry. Already applied today, food robotics improve quality, increase output and reduce expenses, especially in food and liquid processing. Though safety regulations distinguish food robotics from other automation, more companies employ robotics to advance product consistency and overall efficiency. This will mean better tasting and healthier food for the consumer while businesses will be enabled to apply resources in high-quality and sustainable ingredients.

Momentum Machines develops a fully autonomous burger-bot that can slice toppings, grill a patty, assemble and bag a burger without any human interaction. The burgers are fresh-ground, grilled to order and accented by a personalizable variety of produce, seasonings, and sauces. The startup has announced a first retail location last year, set to sell improved quality fast food at lower prices.

Food Robotics

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Personalized Nutrition

The need and demand for therapeutic and lifestyle diets, nutritional value, as well as food preferences, vary widely between consumers. As a result, the formation of personalized nutrition, or personalized meals, has already made its mark on the food industry. However, technology puts a clever twist to it as it allows to analyze nutritional information, suggests meals, and gives advice on what foodstuff to purchase or order. Personalized nutrition is the next big growth opportunity for companies in the industry as consumers increasingly turn to individually-tailored diets.

London-based Nutrifix caters to this demand through recommending meals to cook, buy, or have delivered, tailored to consumers’ nutritional needs. The app takes age, height, weight and health goals into consideration to calculate a personal recommended daily allowance and guides users toward their body’s needs.

Personalized Nutrition

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Food Waste

Around 88 million tonnes of food is wasted annually in the EU alone, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion Euros. The idea of selling this food at a lower price or simply giving it to people in need is not new, however, it does gain more momentum presently. While every stakeholder, from farmers to vendors and ultimately consumers, play a role in strengthening the sustainability of the food system, social impact companies and startups generate viable business models to solve this problem.

Too Good To Go, a UK-based anti-food waste social startup, acts as a link between eateries with excess food and customers who can place orders via an app to collect it at a discounted price. The takeaway service is dedicated to cutting the amount of edible food thrown away by restaurants and is currently active in the UK, Denmark, France, and Norway.

Food Waste

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Internet of Things (IoT)

Some benefits of the application of IoT technologies in the food industry include reduced maintenance costs, higher productivity, the transparent tracking of the supply chain as well as predictive maintenance. One application area for IoT in the food industry approaching at a fast pace is the smart kitchen. To fully achieve this milestone, devices, and equipment with built-in sensors are grouped into one network of data that continuously exchanges information.

Innit is only one example for a startup active in this area. The company introduces a universal platform for all kitchen devices that is capable of analyzing the number of items in a refrigerator, monitoring their expiration-date, suggesting recipes and even preparing meals. Additionally, the inbuilt recognition system supports consumers in keeping an eye on their fridge via smartphone or tablet.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Food Safety

Following multiple high profile incidents (e.g. the horse meat scandal in 2013) consumers are more knowledgeable and engaged, demanding higher standards. The monitoring of food from field to fork using IoT technologies is one answer to this problem. However, balancing food safety standards while keeping up with a growing demand is challenging too. As the ongoing growth in the organic and natural food markets eliminated artificial preservatives, colors and dyes from food products – automation can support companies in maintaining these safety standards.

TellSpec develops a comprehensive solution for cloud-based spectroscopy. The patented AI-based real-time cloud analysis engine helps monitor events of food fraud as well as of food contamination locally and in specific regions. Thereby the startup helps consumers and authorities to make choices to prevent the onset of health issues related to food.

Food Safety

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Delivery

In an earlier breakdown, we have established that the logistics industry already profits from innovations in delivery through application areas like last-mile delivery and linehaul transportation. In the food industry, however, delivery companies start to put a focus on artificial intelligence (AI) solutions paired with automation strategies such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs), which are recognized as the ground equivalent to drones. As an example, Just Eat partnered with Starship Technologies last year to test slow moving pavement droids that can travel up to 4 mph for roughly 10 miles to deliver food, and use a GPS signal and cameras to navigate and avoid obstacles. Furthermore, these strategies streamline processes and harness data to make user experience (UX) a priority.

Dispatch is creating a platform for local delivery powered by a fleet of autonomous vehicles designed for sidewalks and pedestrian spaces. The founders plan on mitigating the cost of delivery due to savings in labor costs by bringing packages right to a customer’s door and making their service available to the masses.

Delivery

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

The innovation areas we outline in this breakdown are flagship innovations that set the tone for the overall market and provide companies in the food industry with the right ingredients to stay on top. Other impactful innovation areas we identified include dehydrated and low-processed food, augmented transparency and biological techniques to decrease the number of greenhouse gases emitted from food production. As the food industry continues to thrive more competitors enter the market – companies that partner with emerging startups to innovate will experience a clear-cut competitive advantage. In providing actionable intelligence on startup driven innovation, StartUs Insights facilitates this process.


StartUs Insights provides actionable intelligence on startup driven innovation.
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Author Borys Kovtun|Design Luca Nagy|Executive Editor Susi Wallner|Copy Editor David Prasser, Iryna Bursuk|Web Development Reza Rastgoo