Today's consumers market view their food choices with a more critical eye than ever before, and this pressure is placing higher expectations on food manufacturers, not only in terms of how consumers' food is made but what it's made from, where it's sourced and how it's delivered.
To discuss these topics and more, investors, scientists and food makers recently gathered at the Future of Food Tech summit in New York City to talk about what's behind the trends in food innovation and investment. Of the topics discussed at the summit, these five key take-aways stood out the most.
Personalization is key. From meal delivery services that customize meals for dietary needs to companies that create products tailored to an individual's health, there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to food. In fact, today's consumers are starting a movement toward personalization, which in turn is changing the way people shop. "The food industry is getting closer to the consumer," says Raven Kropf, director of emerging customers with Cargill's protein business.
Ethical production matters. Consumers continue to seek products that align with their values and are responsibly produced. The same goes for investors looking to participate in the food industry. In fact, many investors today are choosing projects based on ideology and a drive toward ethical food consumption.
There's growing interest in alternative proteins. A burger made entirely from lab-cultured meat and sushi made from eggplant are just two of the innovations showcased at the summit. "There's a lot of excitement around alternative sources of protein, but consumer acceptance is key," said Dominique Harris, business development adviser for Cargill's protein business. "We want to provide what consumers want, and in protein that means offering a variety of options. It doesn't have to be either/or."
Consumers want to know where their food comes from. Imagine being able to trace any food product back to the field or the animal from which it came. That's the potential promise of blockchain technology, which could essentially create a digitalized traceability system for food. From supply chain management to food safety, the potential for this technology is nearly limitless.
Food startups are on the rise. As more entrepreneurs get into the food business, they're looking for investors of all kinds. Likewise, traditional consumer packaged goods companies and ingredient suppliers are keeping their eyes on the newcomers for opportunities to connect. "I would encourage startups to seek out strategic partners in the food industry," said Chris Mallett, corporate vice president of research and development at Cargill.