How Plant-Based Innovation Is Turning Around A Food Industry In Crisis

Nadia and Athena are CEO and CMO at YFood, organisers of London Food Tech Week (20 – 24 May 2019) the world's largest week-long showcase and collaboration of the companies and trends transforming the food ecosystem using technology
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Innovation is needed to fix the food industry (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

The Food Industry is in crisis. It has been slow to adopt technology, rested on its laurels and is now trying to catch up. Our society is dealing with unprecedented diet-related health problems, climate crisis, unsustainable agriculture methods and a growing population. History shows us that in times of crisis comes innovation and creativity, that's no different for the renaissance that the food industry can embark on if it makes the right decisions now.

We're seeing small organizations disrupt the industry and reap the benefits because they create new systems with boundless passion in comparison to larger industry players with antiquated infrastructure systems making it harder to move fast and keep shareholders happy.

Food innovation

At YFood, we create a way to help companies fast track their innovation by helping larger organizations understand where the market is going, introducing them to startups to partner with (and invest in) to help them solve challenges quicker. Startups and passionate small companies cannot scale their impact without working with larger organizations as the food industry is complicated and has lots of cross over.  There's a lot of benefit to be had when big and small come together.

The plant-based world is no different. The global food, climate and compassion problems has shone a light on the movement causing innovation to come at a rapid pace.

We're seeing both the larger companies start to meaningfully get involved and incredible disruption from smaller companies, across media, new products, retail and hospitality - there’s already a plant-based renaissance that’s building and signs are showing it's only going to proliferate.

In order to grow and scale this movement, three things are necessary. Great products and innovative solutions to the challenges we’re seeing in animal agriculture. Investment and support of these disruptive businesses. And the larger industry players working with these small companies to bring their product to market in a commercially viable way.

Disrupting the market & leading innovation

The product development and innovation in the plant based world is developing at a rapid pace. We're seeing bio-tissue engineer, NovaMeat create 3d printed systems to make a meat replica that has the texture and taste of meat which when put into large scale rollout will be a game changer.  

Early stage developments to make it easier for people to eat plant-based at home come in the form of an all-in-one tempeh maker from Better Foods. We're even seeing all of your daily vitamins & nutrients 3D printed into a plant-based gummy stack from company Nouris3d.

YFood CEO and CMO
Nadia El Hadery, Founder & CEO and Athena Simpson, Partner & CMO at YFood

Following the money

At YFood, we track and spot early stage trends, but when you want to see a trend that is likely to have growth, it’s wise to look at where investment is headed. The investment community think strategically about where the world is heading and invest in businesses that they feel are moving in the right direction. This is hugely evident in the recent IPO of Beyond Meat and the millions of high profile investment they received before that.

More excitingly we're seeing purpose-led funds like The Craftory who just lead a $30 Million round into NotCo, a company that uses artificial intelligence platform which analyses molecular structures to create unique food combinations derived only from plant-based ingredients helping them create substitutes for milk, mayonnaise and many other animal based ingredients. VBites who created investment arm, VBites Ventures which not only invest in promising plant-based businesses but also give them a manufacturing home, expertise in scaling up and relationships to help get the products on shelves.

More excitingly, and perhaps influential is the movement of the investment community to put pressure on their investments to reduce their reliance on animal products for their profits. Leading this movement is Jeremy Collier Foundation who aim to inform investors of the risk of having factory farming in their portfolio. They've also created a powerful investment arm called CPT Capital which invests in promising companies in plant-based protein such as Beyond Meat to recombinant proteins, with investments into exciting BioTech companies such as 3FBio who are creating proteins that taste great and remove reliance on animal agriculture.

When industry takes notice impact can be scaled

There's a lot more product innovation and investment to happen, but the signs of what's to come are incredible. Large players are starting to get involved in the plant-based movement and seeing the benefits of doing so.

We're seeing smaller companies collaborating with larger businesses to grow their reach. From Finnish pulled oats company Green & Gold who've just launched a trial with Taco Bell to Beyond Meat rolling out to Burger King locations throughout the US. And we're only seeing more industry players looking to partner with disruptive small companies.

Large businesses that are paying attention are getting involved in bringing the movement to the masses. With the likes of Tesco launching a great line of plant-based ready meals to Sainsbury's aggressively bringing in new plant-based products we're seeing the retailers get on board. Hospitality is no different, with Pret a Manger turning a pop-up experiment with Veggie Pret into a profitable location that spurred them to open even more to Wagamama partnering with vegan influencers to create and test its new menu items, it's never been a better time to order plant based in the UK.

Public awareness

What’s driving all of this? Better awareness by the public because of media outlets like Plant Based News and the rise of influencers like BOSH! who educate the public on the plant-based movement and make cooking delicious plant-based food accessible.

There's also much greater accessibility to information and transparency because of technology. With this growing movement and awareness, the public will continue to put pressure on the industry as they have the power to vote with their fork. A vote which is incredibly potent and powerful, as with any business, you need to give your customer what you want.

At YFood, we're excited to be part of moving this industry forward. London Food Tech Week gives us a platform to be able to bring investors, startups and brands together to learn about the trends, make partnerships and get investment. Most of the companies mentioned in this blog will be taking part in the events across the week.

Festival and booking information can be found here

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Nadia El Hadery, Founder & CEO and Athena Simpson, Partner & CMO at YFood are obsessed with driving positive innovation in the food industry and believe they can achieve this through spotting talented startups and innovations, helping bring smart money to the industry and creating positive and meaningful relationships between big and little to create positive impact in a commercially viable way.

(c) 2019 Plant Based News LTD. All Rights Reserved. Content must not be copied without permission.

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