Food In 2030
"Civilization depends on our expanding ability to produce food efficiently, which has markedly accelerated thanks to science and technology," said American molecular biologist Nina Fedoroff. The past year has not proven her wrong with 2021 being a record year for fundraising in the food sector. Indeed, in 2021, according to Crunchbase, $5 billion was invested in AgTech across 440 financing deals, compared to $3.3 billion in 2020. The year was thus marked by some iconic investments, such as Apeel Sciences and their plant-based protection to extend the shelf life of fresh food products, which received a $250 million funding round. Then there’s Nature's Fynd, specializing in food creation from microbes (yes, you read that right) and its $350 million raised. Not to mention other booming fields such as vertical farming and the $300 million raised by the high-tech salad grower Bowery Farming.
However, all this is just a tiny glimpse of what's to come in a future made of robotics, 3D printing and hyper-personalization, amongst other things. But it’s not only about technology. It’s also about new paradigms guided by sustainability consciousness, cultural shifts bringing in new momentum and distribution models driven by a booming economy of tooled-up foodista creators. I went to meet some experts to try to understand how we will eat by 2030. Here are their thoughts.
Harvesting our cities
“The climate crisis is one of the most pressing global issues; damaging both what we eat now and will eat in the future. However, it’s not the only problem: a growing population (especially in cities) and destructive methods used in food production (monocultures, use of pesticides, deforestation and loss of species…), are also cause for concern.
All this has to change and part of the problem could come from a series of overlapping trends converging into another that has gained strength in recent years. More people turning to vegan and vegetarian diets, a growing concern for our health and nutrition, or reconnecting with nature (especially after the pandemic) are lifestyle trends that could easily benefit from urban farming.
The benefits of converting our cities and homes into urban gardens are many and very evident: self-consumption helps to reduce the climate impact of agriculture and, on a bigger scale, it would reduce pollution and improve air quality. It also offers us healthier and more seasonal foods, it reconnects us with nature and it can even help us recovering practically extinct varieties of food —which is of little interest for the capitalist and massive food industry.
Urban farming could become a reality in many places by 2030, with large companies already investing in projects of this kind. For example, last year we worked for international kitchen appliances company, TEKA, on a set of speculative kitchen modules that cover this home-grown food trend in its broader approach: from growing herbs and veggies to incorporating algae, mushrooms or mealworms in your diet! The goal was to bring this trend closer to the mainstream market: we moved away from especially futuristic aesthetics and presenting the appliances as something that people could buy tomorrow in any shopping mall. And I think we made it!”
Food is too cheap, it won’t be for long
Estefania Simon-Sasyk, is a Michelin-trained chef turned strategist in food innovation and foresight for public and private organizations around the globe. She’s launching Mycelium, a gastronomy innovation network of food experts to deliver transformational projects.
“The cheap food revolution came to be fueled by agricultural subsidies, a global supply chain, the rise of ultra-processed foods and ever larger supermarkets competing on price leadership. It has allowed for food affordability for low-income families but at the cost of deforestation, a large carbon footprint, contemporary slavery, the obesity epidemic and a loss of social apreciation of the value of food.
If the true costs of food production were part of the price tag, food would have to be much more expensive and it will be: our food supply chain has been shaken, from reduced access to animal fodder to shortages of labor, and global crop yield forecasts anticipate a decline due to high temperatures and dry weather. Various pressures are already starting to drive food prices up.
To meet Paris Agreement goals and set humanity on a regenerative path, those things called “externalities,” the costs not reflected in market prices will necessarily have to be factored in. Science-based approximations calculate that our individual footprints need to be reduced to less than a third in the next 20 years. These transitions will have an inflationary effect coined “greenflation.”
The breakthroughs that need to happen in the coming decade to meet these challenges satisfactorily are not only technological, contrary to the mainstream narrative, but cultural. The rise of food costs will have to be encompassed with a cultural transformation towards revaluing food, being less wasteful, buying more consciously, eating locally, less and mostly plants. And maybe most importantly, these new characteristics of our daily diet will need to be very much enjoyed and desired by eaters around the globe.
This cultural shift will have to be encompassed by new policies and subsidies, including affordability for those with less leeway, hopefully creating the space to rethink food affordability in terms of nutrition and not calories.
We should start embracing the certainty that in the coming decades we will have to give up many things that make up our current lifestyles.”
Food will become personal
Daniel Skaven Ruben is Head of Strategy & Special Projects at Swedish plant-based cheese startup Stockeld Dreamery. He’s a mentor to several FoodTech accelerators, a venture partner to three foodtech VC firms, and is an advisor to a number of AgTech and FoodTech startups. He curates the newsletter FoodTech Weekly, and co-hosts The Appetizer podcast.
“The Human Genome Project was initiated in 1990, aiming to determine the DNA sequence of the entire human genome. The project was declared complete in 2003, at a cost of $2.7B (today, you can sequence your own genome for less than $1,000).
But the scientific understanding of the foods that nourish us is still primitive. Over 26,000 distinct biochemical components of food have been discovered (e.g. carotenoids, polyphenols, phenolic acids, and flavonoids), many with documented effects on human health, but yet only 150 of these key nutritional components are measured and tracked in conventional databases — meaning that 99% remain unquantified. In other words, there’s a nutritional dark matter when it comes to food.
Tools like low-cost mass spectrometry kits, AI, and cloud-based data processing and analytics are now being deployed to build public databases that will enable deep compositional analyses of food, and help provide us with actionable insights to improve health outcomes.
Another rapidly emerging field of science is around the gut microbiome — the unique set of microorganisms such as bacteria found in the human digestive tract — and how that microbiome is a key determining factor in individual health. All humans share 99.99% of the same DNA, but their microbiome will be at most 25% the same.
Startups are now offering a full sequencing of the microbiome — and the microbiome can be shaped based on what one eats. Soon, we’ll not only fully map and understand the biochemical compounds of food, but dietary guidelines can finally go from generic to personalized, which can improve our gut microbiome and improve health outcomes in a number of ways (e.g. reduce non-communicable diseases like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, as well as improve safety from allergens, and enhance childhood nutrition). Food will become personal.”
From Lab to Fork?
Nicole Haenlein is Innovation, Trends & Foresight Senior Analyst at French agri-food group Savencia, the world’s #5 cheese manufacturer, and an international player for sweet gastronomy in Premium Food Service, also present in retailing via strong charcuterie and seafood brands.
“Population growth is expected to lead to a 40% increase in global protein demand by 2030. Animal protein will find it difficult to meet the demand without leading to major ecological consequences linked to livestock farming (deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.), moreover in a context where livestock farming is undermined by the question of animal welfare, a subject that has become highly ethical and political.
Therefore, new players are exploring the field of alternative proteins, generating spectacular fundraising and ambitious research programs. Around the world, over 70 start-ups are working today to develop meat, seafood, or dairy from cellular agriculture, and receiving funding, the amount of which exploded in 2021, to reach 913 million US dollars.These start-ups (among which Mosa Meat in the Netherlands -whose founder produced the first lab-grown beef burger in 2013-, Israeli companies Future Meat and Aleph Farms, San-Francisco based Wildtype that uses cellular agriculture to grow cultured salmon) are supported by many Silicon Valley billionaires (Bill Gates is one of them), and by celebrities (Leonardo Di Caprio, Ashton Kutcher...). But among investors, we can also find a big pharma giant (Merck), and meat multinationals (Tyson and Cargill) that could therefore be at the forefront of the cultured meat industry as it progresses.
Cellular agriculture consists in growing animal proteins in a lab, using in vitro synthetic biology techniques. The objective is to obtain the same nutritional, taste and texture characteristics as animal proteins, in order to fully satisfy consumers of meat, fish and dairy products concerned about animal welfare and environmental issues, two areas where factory farming inherently fails.
The consulting firm A.T. Kearney estimates that 35% of the meat consumed in the world in 2040 will come from in-vitro meat. The think-tank RethinkX goes further by asserting that cellular agriculture will replace 70% of meat from farmed animals in 2030. Cultured meat therefore seems to be a promising market for manufacturers. States are also increasingly interested in it, like China, which has included in-vitro meat in its national agriculture 5-year strategy plan.
Although there are still many technical challenges for production on an industrial scale, we can draw 2 hypotheses for 2030.
If startups of in-vitro cultured products succeed in reducing costs thanks to economies of scale, they will market their products in the most advanced countries in terms of regulatory approval (cultured meat was approved for sale for the first-time last November in Singapore) and consumer acceptability (it is difficult to date to apprehend the latter, since products are not even on supermarket shelves yet…). In Asia, however, consumer adoption could be higher than in the West: 70% would be willing to test in vitro meat, and 58% would buy it. We would therefore end up with contrasting situations around the world, and “Lab to Fork” could eventually coexist with “Farm to Fork” products.
But, if the startups fail on their promises, and do not manage to go beyond the pre-industrial stage, or if their products present too many drawbacks (cost, negative energy footprint, allergies, non-acceptability of consumers, etc.), the speculative bubble around these alternative protein players could then burst. In-vitro meat would then remain at the stage of a prophecy like the utopia of the end of the 19th century, who imagined a “meal-in-a-pill” would be the solution of the future to eradicate famine across the world...”
Food as Medicine
Gil Horsky is Senior Director of Ventures at SnackFutures, Mondelēz International's new venture and innovation center. There he leads the company’s venture investments in capabilities: FoodTech, R&D, e-commerce, supply chain and digital capabilities. A specialist in developing and emerging markets, he is a regular contributor to trade journals and speaks at conferences related to food technology, innovation and startups.
“One of the food industry’s future trends for 2030 that I am personally and professionally excited about is Food as Medicine, or as described by the phrase from Hippocrates (400 BC) 'Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food', that emphasizes the importance of nutrition to prevent or cure disease.
The lines dividing between the categories of functional foods, supplements and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs will continue to blur. Consumers will come to view food choices as a means of self-care – and they will seek food products with active functional ingredients that are designed to prevent, remedy, or improve their specific physical and mental conditions, such as: improved immunity, mood or sleep. Consumers will look to have these active functional ingredients available in delicious food and snack formats, that easily fit into their daily lives vs. the traditional pills or powder formats.
New research will be applied to scientifically validate the efficacy and benefits of functional ingredients, such as: medicinal mushrooms, nootropics and adaptogens, and they will accordingly become more mainstream and commonly used by consumers as part of their proactive health regime.
The Functional Foods category is currently valued at $440B, but in this broader context, it has the potential to transcend traditional category boundaries and step into the much larger $4.2T global wellness market. With substantial growth expected in the broader functional foods category, coupled with the faster regulatory path and lower development costs when compared to pharma - we will see more and more experienced entrepreneurs, scientists and academic labs from biotech and pharma leveraging their know-how and skill-set and applying it into the functional food and FoodTech industry.”
A new “milk” generation is coming
Olivier FREY is an independent consultant, specializing in agricultural cooperatives and agribusiness. He is the founder of Eat's Business, a weekly newsletter in French that offers a press review on agribusiness, agriculture and food. www.olivierfrey.com Twitter: @olivier_frey
“In 2030, I see three types of “milk” co-existing.
The first, and oldest one, is the animal-based milk. It will still be the dominant milk in terms of volume of production and sales. However, social expectations regarding the environment, the preservation of natural resources and biodiversity have become increasingly strong during the 2020’s. Following what happened with red meat, direct and indirect dairy subsidies have been suspended and a tax on animal-based dairy products has been introduced. Only the fittest dairy farms have survived. The dairy industry made big efforts to lower the impact of milk production on the environment and the leading dairy companies have reduced their GHG emissions by 30 percent compared to 2020. But there is still a long way to go for carbon neutral animal-based dairy production. Given all those constraints, production costs have increased, and this has led to higher prices for end-consumers. Animal-based milk is now mainly used for dairy products like cheese, butter and yogurt. Fluid milk could not compete with plant-based milk anymore in terms of price and many dairy companies stopped selling fluid milk over the last five years. Butter and cheese are now seen as premium products.
The second one is fermentation-based milk. Following the steps of Perfect Day, fermentation-based dairy companies have multiplied in the 2020’s and have now succeeded in reducing the costs and scale the production. Leading dairy companies have also invested in fermentation-based milk. You can find many kinds of fermentation-based dairy products in the supermarkets, from butter to cheese. Some companies have even managed to come up with new options for infant milk formula. Since fermentation-based milk can be produced anywhere, many countries followed the steps of China, which bet on this technology in 2022 and has become a leader in the field. The countries that did not produce enough animal-based milk and used to import most of their dairy products have invested in fermentation-based milk to ensure their protein independence. Moreover, most consumers have accepted technological food products and they value the fact that there are no animals involved in the production of this type of milk and that it has a smaller environmental footprint.
The third one is plant-based milk. Its development began with soy milk, which took off in the 1970’s but it was soon taken over by almond milk and oat milk. Because of climate change and the extreme weather events that have multiplied, growing almonds has become more and more difficult and new types of plant-based milk have replaced almond milk. Oat milk is now the dominant player in this segment. But potato milk, buckwheat milk, peanut milk and rice milk are also trendy. Plant-based milks have made progress in terms of nutritional profile and texture. However, the growth of plant-based milk has slowed down in the last five years because of the development of fermentation-based milk, which tastes better and is closer to animal-based milk.”
Food Drops, Creators and Collectors
Olivier Mermet is the co-founder of Mirepoi, a startup at the crossroads of the food and the creator economy. He is a graduate of INSEAD and has worked on the development of mobile offerings for several start-ups in the food and restaurant vertical.
"For several decades now, bottles of wine from certain great Burgundy Grand Crus have not even seen the shelves of wine merchants. As soon as they leave the cellars of the Hautes Côtes de Nuit, they end up in the reserves or on the tables of Hong Kong billionaires. Beyond the speculative aspect, the process of selling to exclusive lists of customers comes from a trend borrowed from the world of fashion and music: the "drop" concept.
During a "drop," a limited quantity of items is put on sale to insiders and collectors, which often sell out in record time. This trend is now spreading to gastronomic products that are commonplace, but supported by the reputation of the artisans who create them. Thus, hot sauces, biodynamic wines, mushroom coffees and other kefir limited edition are being snatched up faster than a Kardashian lipstick on its release day.
On the one hand, the growth of this type of offer, as well as the granularity of distribution channels (pop-ups, marketplaces, retail...), gives an important place to platforms that centralize and promote these items: Goldbelly gathers the best of American gastronomy, and Delli Market, an app recently launched by Simon Beckermann (Depop), allows artisans to sell their creations to London people.
On the other hand, the celebrity status that food professionals and creators have acquired is confirmed, with audiences on TikTok that would send the jury of TopChef into hypoglycemia. Influencers launching their own product lines, a practice usually found among TV celebrities, is a first step in the validation of the model.
This groundswell will probably not stop by 2030. But how, with a growing offer (more producers and creators), and an aligned demand (audience and fans), can we, as producers, keep an interesting margin? To push the prediction exercise, let's add a layer of NFTs. We are aiming for 2030, after all, and the subject is inevitable.
The very nature of these drops implies the importance of scarcity, whether real due to production capacity constraints (rare ingredients, talents), or artificial due to simple marketing strategy (luxury codes). In fact, the proof of possession of an item made artificially rare although easily imitable, in addition to being consumable, would be a possible non-speculative use of NFTs. Very little chance or interest here to speculate on the sale of a token in the long run, since it is devoid of its real utility (the real product can be consumed). On the other hand, the "bragging right" is real.
Another form of utility could be envisaged, firstly at the level of access (the NFT gives the right to obtain a rare good, a trend that we see emerging today with some restaurants) as well as at the level of distribution (an NFT implicitly gives the right to become and be identified as an intermediary, whether one is a distribution platform, a curator or a simple influencer with a relevant audience for the product).
Although the current state of the NFT market can legitimately leave some skeptical, it would be foolish to ignore their potential applications in a context where the observability of the transaction gives the very act of consumption a value. In the same way that being the recipient of a vintage wine gives the seller and the winemaker an undeniable mutual prestige, a partnership between producer and creator, sealed in a public blockchain, would give drops constant visibility as well as a form of propaganda integrated into its mere existence. A form of drop-aganda?
Still, it would be nicer than a headache on a corked Romanée-Conti in the Metaverse.”
Key investment sectors
Arman Anatürk is the co-founder at FoodHack - the world's largest Global FoodTech community supporting early stage investing into FoodTech startups. Every Friday FoodHack sends out a short snappy newsletter covering the most important FoodTech news of the week, in under a 5-minute read. And if you're an accredited investor looking to back FoodTech startups - FoodHack puts out a weekly deal flow newsletter.
“FoodTech-focused funding hit its stride in 2021 from a combination of new and established specialised FoodTech VCs, rising interest from traditional Venture, early checks from Accelerator/VC hybrids, and emerging new formats like investment syndicates and rolling funds. Driven by a growing awareness of food as a driver of climate change combined with favorable investment conditions - all drove record amounts of capital into transformative FoodTech startups. We’re leaps closer to moonshot technologies that will grow nutritious, affordable food for billions of people without ravaging the planet. Expect to see more micro funds, syndicates, traditional VC funding and more coming into this space in the year ahead - just watch out for valuations that have steadily creeped up over the past few months.
As for where to invest? We asked 20+ leading VC's and angels where they're looking to invest in the coming year. A few of the biggest trends that came up included: Side stream valorisation (especially on coffee, cocoa and grains), Cell-cultured enabling tech (scaffolding, medium, etc.), Democratized nutrition (convenient, affordable and nutrient-dense), Alternatives to seafood (plant & cell-based) and Precision fermentation (especially for lipids). Personally, I'm looking at the major pressures facing our food system today (skyrocketing fertilizer prices, climate change exposure, increased transportation costs, labor shortage) and keen to back solutions directly tackling these pain points - reach out if you know of some.”