Food is not only essential for survival, but it’s central to our happiness and emotional wellbeing as well. Recent years have seen consumers demanding more options for food that is diverse, responsible, and high quality, and food technology startups are responding to the challenge.
Some of this year’s most promising startups have been in food technologies, innovating new approaches to making, delivering, and packaging food.
Notpla is a UK-based group of designers, chemists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. They have designed a unique, edible, biodegradable alternative to plastic single-serve condiments, including sachets for sauces and dressings, liners for take-away food containers, and single-use plastic cups. Their revolutionary material, called Ooho, is made from seaweed and plants, but performs like plastic. The company doesn’t just make the material, but has made a machine that fills Ooho cartridges with 15-20ml of products at a time. It is designed for use by restaurants and food companies who want to replace single-serve portions of sauces and condiments with an eco-friendly and biodegradable alternative. The company is also looking at producing sachets for non-food items, heat-sealable films, and biodegradable nets.
Finnish startup Gold&Green has produced another plant-based meat replacement product, called Pulled Oats. Instead of trying to make a plant-based product that replicates the flavor and texture of meat, Gold&Green founders simply set about making a plant-based protein source that was delicious, nutritious, and eco friendly. Pulled Oats is made from oats, yellow peas, fava beans, rapeseed oil, and salt. In 2017, it was voted Finnish Food of the Year, and in 2020 Gold&Green won the Netherlands’ Horecava Innovation Awards. This year, Pulled Oats became available in the US, and the company is expanding its product line.
The Vurger Co is another plant-based protein brand that is giving UK burger lovers an alternative to fast food chains. The company has made a huge impact on the vegan burger scene, partnering with celebrity chefs and famous food brands like Tabasco and Ben&Jerry’s. At their restaurants, they offer not just 100% vegan foods, including the famous Impossible Burger, but foods that are ethically sourced and produced, with completely sustainable and compostable packaging. They also support the community by sourcing foods locally, contributing to local causes, and have expanded from their first location in 2018 to three locations today. They now also offer make-at-home meal kits for delivery throughout the UK.
Crisp is the Netherlands’ first supermarket in an app, but it’s so much more than that. Crisp offers incredible transparency about the sourcing and environmental impact of all their foods, and features fresh, seasonal, local foods from over 200 different Dutch specialty providers. The convenience of shopping online and fresh food delivery, paired with the ability to choose the very best, freshest, artisanal local foods makes Crisp irresistible to consumers who care about quality, sustainability, and their environmental impact. In November 2020, the thriving startup opened a new distribution center in Amsterdam, making their daily deliveries even fresher and more efficient.
Solar Foods is breaking the limits of ethical eating by producing natural proteins using nothing but electricity and air. Their goal is to create foods with zero agricultural impact, requiring no land, water, or resources to produce. The Finnish researchers at Solar Foods use renewable energy and bioprocess engineering to create Solein, a single-celled protein created with just electricity and air. Using natural fermentation processes, Solein is sustainable, natural, and flavorless, adding protein and nutrients to every food it’s added to. While Solein is an incredible product, and has been featured in major media outlets worldwide, Solar Foods is focused on creating not just a product, but a platform for bioprocess engineering that creates sustainable food production without the constraints of agriculture.
While plant-based meats have been getting all the attention lately, Swedish startup Noquo is doing the really important work: developing plant-based cheese. Founded in 2019 by entrepreneur Sorosh Tavakoli and food scientist Anja Leissner (video), this ambitious startup has already raised €3.25M in seed funding. Noquo aims to create more sustainable, more ethical alternatives to cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, and other dairy products that taste as delicious and satisfying as their animal-based counterparts.
This generation of startups promises not just to create more options for eco-friendly foods than ever before, but also caters to a new generation who are demanding specialized, customized products from app-enabled, ultra-convenient, hyper-specialized businesses. This is a fantastic time for designers, engineers, and food scientists to create specialized solutions for consumers, retail stores, restaurants, and suppliers, and grapefrute is excited to see what the future brings for food, ingredients, and sustainability. Do you need to expand your innovation & product development team? Contact us today.