Food-ag value chain requirements have shifted and evolved over recent years with even more emphasis being placed on sustainability and traceability. From farm to fork, consumer trends show a high demand for innovative alternative food options that are both nutritious and delicious, produce less waste and are affordable. Consumers are looking for holistic diets with sustainable choices that manage health through nutrition without sacrificing taste or jeopardizing the environment.
I had the opportunity to attend the recent Future Food-Tech Summit in London alongside several K&R colleagues. More than 800 food-brand executives, entrepreneurs, and investors gathered to discuss the sector’s most prevalent topics such as sustainability innovation and scalability needs.
In order to feed the growing global population, more sustainable approaches to food and food systems must be developed to coexist with established methods, as well as to upscale and reduce waste streams.
Two specific technologies discussed at Future Food-Tech were fermentation and alternative protein production – which both provide complimentary alternatives to traditional meat and dairy production. This is especially beneficial in areas not suited to those production methods and provides an opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint.
Custom food and beverages for nutrition and health versus quantity and volume is also a key component to consider when thinking about alternative food options. Consumer trends, impacted by factors such as eating habits and culture, continue to challenge companies on that front. This is especially true with dairy and meat alternatives. Significant strides have been made to ensure taste and texture are pleasing while still being nutritious.
Despite having cutting edge technologies and an eager, more discerning consumer, a significant hurdle for many in the food-tech space is scaling – especially in distribution. This challenge demands a robust team capable of establishing critical partnerships and accelerating business growth.
Innovative young food-tech companies are challenged with bringing their products and intellectual property to scale, even if they have game-changing innovations. Leadership in startups is critical for developing high-performing teams and cultivating key partnerships for scaling and distribution, while at the same time managing risk and ensuring a positive impact. The rise of venture capital arms in large multinational corporations, alongside traditional venture capital options, provide an opportunity for accelerated growth with established distribution opportunities.
New ventures aren’t unsuccessful because of tech, but because of people. Successful scaling requires a plan to execute and individuals to lead those initiatives. It is evident there is no one-size-fits-all solution to commercialize a product because each is unique and should receive an adaptive approach.
From vertical farming equipment to cultivated meat, sustainability efforts can be seen throughout the food-ag value chain, but leadership must shift from a reactive mentality to a proactive one in order to scale sustainable food options successfully. Investors in ag-tech and food-tech companies can drive change by ensuring leadership teams have the vision for impact and scale.