It may seem like a few food tech companies get all the media—and investor—love. (We’re looking at you Beyond Meat and your IPO headlines this week!) But startups are building and championing new technologies across the entire food value chain, delivering innovations that promise transparency, efficiency, and sustainability beyond headline-grabbing themes like vegan “meat” and robotics.
“Ten years ago, the space was pretty boring,” Maarten Goossens, founder of food and agriculture-focused venture capital firm Anterra Capital tells AFN. Now, there is much more to get excited about in the space. Goossens says, “alternative proteins are definitely an area where change is happening” but adds that there are now plenty of opportunities besides.
“One of the most intriguing areas is logistics technology,” he explains. “Amazon has set the precedent with same day delivery for any type of consumer good. That same expectation is now trickling through to the business-to-business world across pretty much every other domain.”
For the F&A Next conference at Wageningen University next month, Anterra has selected seven food tech companies to pitch their novel technologies including logistics, as well as gut microbiome testing, flavor analysis, novel milk proteins, and plant-based health products.
Here’s a peek at the seven startups defining the future of food tech in Europe and beyond.
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Atlas Biomed in London, UK makes home DNA and gut microbiome testing kits with the aim of helping people understand and manage health issues and make informed lifestyle choices.
“The big challenge is the many potential health threats that can exist concurrently,” Olga Orelchikova from Atlas’ marketing group told AgFunderNews. “Chronic disorders accumulate with age. As a result, it is vital that prevention measures are introduced as early as possible.” She added that helping individuals better manage their health can save on long-term healthcare costs and inform preventative options offered by healthcare providers.
Atlas differentiates itself from other home DNA and microbiome testing providers like 23andme and uBiome with a digital health app that offers recommendations to users.
B2B Food Group
B2B Food Group in Germany is known for its online catering service, called Caterwings. Caterwings partners with caterers and restaurants in its service cities like Berlin and Hamburg. Customers then use its online platform to order with those companies. The company has “made it our mission to digitize the catering market, making it as easy as possible to select, order and pay for catering online to our customers,” its website states. Caterwings’ service allows customers to place orders for one-off orders or to sign up for repeat services.
Switzerland-based FlavorWiki is working to understand flavor by crowdsourcing consumer input. Daniel Protz, who started the company, said that not much is understood about the way people experience flavor and what resonates with them. “How do I know that the reason someone is buying a particular chocolate bar is that they like bitter orange combined with sweet nuts?”
FlavorWiki has developed software that surveys consumers and analyze feedback on the foods they eat then generates a flavor profile for that food. Protz told AgFunderNews that FlavorWiki’s analytics are more accurate than sensory science specialists—lab-based flavor testers—because it sources input in volume.
FlavorWiki’s initial interest was helping consumer goods companies deliver customized recommendations to customers. But Protz said that the biggest demand for their software so far has been among food companies who otherwise rely on a small number of human specialists to develop and inform their flavor profiles. That type of “sensory science is very unscalable,” Protz said. “[With FlavorWiki], food companies can aggregate information, run statistical models and get market mapping output much faster and less expensively.”
UK-based cellular meat company HigherSteaks is among a growing number of startups trying to produce “meat” products in a lab. Lab-grown meat is still in the early days of development and is currently a costly endeavor. But HigherSteaks, like others in its field, believes that its products will ultimately be more environmentally friendly, humane and healthier than farm-reared meats. “A single blood sample could allow indefinite production of many meat products,” its website states.
HigherSteaks launched in 2017 and was selected this year for the Pearse Lyons Accelerator for agtech startups.
French startup Lactips is making water soluble and biodegradable materials out of milk protein for industrial and agricultural use. The company works in partnership with the dairy industry to source “milk that is unfit for human consumption, in order to use it for our non-edible applications,” Lactips’ website states. It then creates thermoplastic pellets that can be used in everything from dissolvable laundry detergent packaging, bio-agricultural treatments for crops, and green (and even edible) food packaging.
The startup markets itself as a green company on a mission to reduce plastic use, food waste and reduce environmentally-harmful chemicals. It raised a €3.7 million funding round last year, with participation from BASF Venture Capital, Crédit Agricole Loire Haute-Loire, BNP Paribas Développement, and venture capital firm Demeter, which focuses on green investments.
Locus, based in Bangalore, India, is a logistics automation platform for food and consumer goods companies. The team has developed an app that optimizes delivery routes, tracks deliveries and helps delivery fleets manage vehicle utilization. The basis for Locus’ software was a safety app founder Nishith Rastogi had developed to monitor whether drivers from services like Uber deviated from passengers’ routes. Rastogi discovered that that app, called Ride Safe, was being adopted by food companies also concerned about timely delivery and route deviation.
Locus is meant for consumer goods, home services, an e-commerce companies, Its client roster includes Unilever, Bluedart, TATA Group, Myntra and Lenskart. The company raised a $4 million funding round last year and has launched in 75 cities.
UK-based life sciences company Phynova makes plant-derived health products to address a range of issues from skincare to joint health to diabetes management. Its Reducose product, for example, is a food additive derived from mulberry leaves that helps the body better process high-sugar foods.
The team began working on the product 10 years ago from its lab in China, Phynova’s CEO Robert Miller told AgFunderNews. “We could clearly see that diabetes was already a health crisis developing in China and the rest of the world.”
Reducose targets food and beverage companies that want to market products as lower on the glycaemic index without using alternative sweeteners. It has achieved regulatory clearance in China, the US, Europe and India where some of its products can already be found. Phynova is now focusing on further commercialization.
*This post was sponsored by F&A Next, an AgFunder Network Partner. Find out more here.*