What is the meaning of Food Tech?

Natalie S, communications expert
Natalie S, communications expert
Jun 19, 2024
15 minutes
Contents
In fact, if you love food and love technology, then you already know what foodtech is. After all, you probably have food delivery applications or loyalty programs from your favorite hypermarket chain installed. You definitely ordered groceries online during the pandemic. And while traveling, I saw a robot at some airport that makes coffee. Yeah, you are already mired in food tech with might and main. But in fact, it hides a lot more directions behind it. And trust me, it’s much more interesting!

Agritech

This, of course, is not about milkmaids milking cows. This is about start-ups and developments that allow you to increase the productivity of farms, predict storms, hurricanes, and generally do things in such a way as to use fertile lands to the maximum.
Modern farms have been monitoring their land for a long time using drones, sensors and special software.
Agritech also includes the creation of new agricultural products and urban farming. In general, this area can be divided into several areas:
Farm management
This includes organizing and optimizing all tasks on the farm using data collection devices or decision food tech solution. So the American startup “Saban to” raised $17 million for its technology, which makes existing tractors autonomous.
Farm robotics
These are the robots that replace or complement humans to perform complex jobs. For example, machines for milking cows.
Urban and new farms
These are indoor farms that are created to shorten the distance between production and consumption. Surely you have heard something about vertical farms that are built in dark stores and at shops. Greens, mushrooms and some vegetables are grown there. So we get much fresher products that will last longer, at a lower cost. So OneFarm, a UK-based vertical farm, raised €8.7m. The number of transactions in the UK related to vertical farms is quite impressive. Is it a viable technological introduction or a short-lived fad?
One Farm, a British vertical farm
Agricultural markets
There are a lot of different commerce: electronic, mobile, quick (e-comm, m-comm, q-comm), so far there is no separate letter for farmers. But this does not mean that there are no special platforms where you can buy seeds, fertilizers, feed, and equipment on an industrial scale. These sites are also constantly evolving, providing ever better and more convenient service to their customers. It's a really new technology in the food industry.
Agribiotech
More broadly, this includes technology innovations in food industry in living systems and organisms for agriculture (particularly crops), animal feed, and health care. That is, all those developments that allow you to grow disease-resistant wheat, rye, etc. For example, Slovenian startup Trapview has raised €10 million to use artificial intelligence to help farmers adopt more sustainable pest management practices.
Trapview Pest Trap

Biotech

This new technology in the food industry is perhaps one of the most developing areas today. We are talking about artificial meat, milk, protein, etc., which are gaining popularity. More and more people are abandoning original products in favor of substitutes. I will not argue about the benefits and harms — beauty is in the eye of a beholder. However, I note that today in the world most of the fertile land is devoted to the cultivation of grain for feeding animals, and the smaller part is for people. As the population grows, this ratio will change. Therefore, we will see less and less meat of animal origin on sale.
Alternative proteins
This includes mostly the foodtech start-ups that are developing alternative protein products or ingredients. They mainly work with ingredients of vegetable origin, fermentation and cell farming. And it is these tech food companies that are now receiving the most investment. For example, German startup MicroHarvest has raised €8.5 million for what it says is the “fastest protein production system” in the world. To do this, the startup uses precision fermentation.
Vegetable protein from MicroHarvest
CPG-startups
Startups that introduce incremental innovations in already well-established ingredients or markets. They are distinguished by innovations in the product itself, transparency of its composition, methods of distribution or greater individualization of products. For example, US-based startup Kate Farms has raised $75 million for its meal replacement solution for people with chronic conditions that require them to consume liquid food (particularly through a tube). This is a very impressive company that shows how food technology startups can provide nutrition to those who need it most.
Liquid Food from Kate Farms
Beverages
Startups working on new forms of drinks, alcoholic or not, to promote new ingredients or healthy lifestyles.
Ingredients
Startups that develop new ingredients, replace additives, add functionality (such as reducing sugar), and improve the taste of foods. For example, Nutropy, one of three French start-ups working on precision cheese fermentation, has raised 2 million euros.

Public catering

Here we will talk about everything that will make the hospitality industry better: whether it is software for dark kitchens or a development restaurant ordering system without a waiter. Even the menu implemented through a QR code can also be attributed to this item.
The Neomenu app by dev.family
Booking Platforms
No matter how sad it is to admit, but booking a table in a restaurant is still not the most technologically advanced process. Most often it is “leave your number and we will contact you”. Agree, it is much more convenient to click a couple of buttons on the website and reserve a place online, as well as leave a pre-order or even pay all at once.
Service management
From online presence, marketing, customer feedback, purchasing and inventory management, to transparency, today’s technology is helping restaurateurs improve their operations. Remember “Dodo” — this, in my opinion, is a unique food tech business automation and management system. Everything is calculated automatically: how many and what ingredients are needed according to the recipe, whether there are enough of them in the kitchen, whether it is worth ordering delivery for tomorrow, which dishes are on the stop list — this is what managers see on one side of the screen. You can watch in real time how your pizza is prepared, you can create your own unique recipe. Your dodo-coins are stored in your personal account — points that are awarded upon ordering and deducted at will (one of the options for a loyalty program). Here you can leave a review, contact support. In a word, all the processes that will allow you to trust the brand, receive the highest quality product and remain a regular customer are brought online.
Cooking pizza in real time from Dodo
Payment Services
This is how you pay for goods and services at the establishment. Whether you do it with a QR code, leave a tip to the waiter in the application, make a purchase online — all this belongs here.
As well as trends in food technology that combine all services together. For example, a loyalty program, personnel management, kitchen loading, contactless customer service, back office tools, and even some kind of application. Startup “Toast”, which at the time of covid was about to go public with a preliminary valuation of $20 billion, was about just that.
Virtual orders
We are talking about establishments that are available only online. While most of the restaurants have a B2C business model where a meal can be ordered through a delivery platform, others are B2B oriented and operate as virtual eateries. This also includes platforms that work for the benefit of institutions. For example, Nigerian startup Vendease has raised $30 million for its food purchasing platform. This helps restaurants connect with suppliers and reduce the amount of time (and money) allocated to an operation. This is one of the ways that will help solve the problem of buying food in restaurants.
Food Delivery by Vendease
Robotics in catering
Cooking robots that assist or replace human tasks. This also includes 3D printers, automated kiosks and robotic bartenders. So the American startup Artly raised $ 8 million for its barista robot. Let’s hope it has more success than other coffee robots (everyone loves the idea of ​​food robots until they see their upfront and maintenance cost).
Cloud kitchens
Foodtech Startups that operate kitchens and rent them out to other companies (often directly to virtual restaurants) so that they can deliver. These are compact spaces for food preparation, without places for serving guests. Functioning as food delivery and catering orders, they do not need to rent expensive commercial real estate. According to Statista, the $17 billion online food delivery market in the US will grow to $24 billion by 2023.

Consumer Technology

Basically, these are services that help or encourage you to cook, identify the best products and achieve personal goals. Start fasting, healthy lifestyle, veganism? Surprise your friends with gourmet dishes made from simple ingredients? Count all the nutrients in what you eat? All this has long been in vogue, but only in recent years has it become as automated as possible. And thanks to various modern sensors, it is also personalized.
Nutrigenomics
In general, this is a science that studies how food changes our genes. But I’m talking specifically about startups developing services and devices that take into account consumers’ biomarkers (such as those included in the genome, microbiome, and blood) to then make personalized recommendations about the foods they should eat or avoid.
The field of nutrigenomics has grown tremendously over the past couple of years. There are new devices and test kits that help you gain more knowledge about yourself:
• DNA testing kit (e.g. Genopalate, an American startup selling a DNA testing kit with a focus on food)
• Breath analyzers — Lumen (Israel) and FoodMarble (Ireland).
• Microbiome startups, where Viome (USA) is the lead startup.
• Startups specializing in blood samples or glucose patches from Clear.bio (NL).
We should also highlight “Zoe”, a British startup offering a service that combines bowel and blood tests.
A health monitoring kit from Zoe
Recommendations
Most often, these are applications that help answer the questions “what should I eat (or drink)?” and “Is this food good for me?” They suggest meals, recipes, shopping lists or wines based on each customer’s expectations.
• Lifesum, the Swedish app to help you achieve your health and weight goals through better nutrition.
• Jow, a French app that creates custom menus and does your shopping for you.
• Vivino, the world’s largest Danish wine app to help you find the best wine for you.
Recipes
It would seem, well, what is technological and new here? Everything has been figured out for a long time. But some startups are reinventing the recipe with new formats like interactive games or immersive video. In this area, it is worth paying attention to the following market players:
• Chef club, a French startup that broadcasts recipes on social media.
• Kitchen Stories is a German recipe site that provides step-by-step photo instructions and video tutorials for cooking various dishes.
• Tastemade, an American food network that allows you to find places to buy food, create new dishes and share them.
Household appliances and kitchen utensils
The new generation of household appliances and kitchen utensils is one that fits seamlessly into a smart home, and you wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and crispy croissants. And yet, these startups are delivering more technology, new distribution channels, or more personalization every day. Here are just a few of them:
• Ave in, the French startup that developed the smart wine aerator.
• Rotamatic, a Singaporean company that created versatile cooking equipment.
• Mitte, a German startup working on a home water purifier.
Mitte Water Purification Device
Food impressions
When I travel to another country, immediately after buying tickets and booking accommodation, I open Tripster — a site where you can book an excursion from locals, perhaps with a master class in cooking national dishes or some delicious tasting. However, this site is not only about food. It turns out there are startups that are cultivating experiences around food-related attractions (brewery, vineyard…) or reopening access to cooking classes:
• Wine list — is a booking platform for grape tourism.
• Cuisine aventure — cooking lessons for kids that adapt to their skill level, food intolerances and their available equipment.
• Do Eat Better is a platform for booking gastronomic tours in Europe.

Delivery

A detailed description of this direction is superfluous. I’m just listing what’s included.
Food impressions
This includes companies that supply their customers with cooking ingredients or ready-to-eat meals on a regular basis. The food parcel ecosystem has been around for a long time, but it’s very fragmented, even with leaders like HelloFresh. So, there are many players, each of which is a leader in his country, for example, Gousto in the UK, QuiToque in France.
This is due to logistical difficulties, the lack of a one-stop shop, and cultural differences. When a food startup wants to grow internationally, it has to work from scratch with local partners and build new warehouses in the country, as well as take into account the taste preferences of the target audience.
Why do I say that this sector has already formed? Because the number of important transactions has increased (in terms of volume), but the number of new startups has decreased. If you are interested in this area, take a look at:
• HelloFresh, Ecosystem Leader from Germany, Sells Meal Kits Worldwide.
• QuiToque, French player acquired by Carrefour.
• Mindful Chef, UK Player Acquired by Nestlé.
Retail Suppliers
This includes companies that develop ecommerce grocery platforms, including solutions for farm-to-home delivery and grocery delivery.
Ecommerce food has been on the rise for a long time and penetration rates vary widely across countries (about 17–20% in China and South Korea, 8% in the UK and less than 1% in Germany). However, Covid has had a huge impact — the growth of startups in this space has been impressive.
New retailers are start-ups looking to rebuild the infrastructure of a traditional retailer with a focus on ecommerce. They are implementing software that can automate supply chain management, delivering goods using robots and drones, and building modern warehouses. They combine the best of both worlds: run like startups, but with the ambition and knowledge of the age of mass retail.
Q-commerce
This is everything related to the “instant delivery” of products: dark stores, delivery methods, logistics, etc. People are no longer willing to wait even an hour for the missing ingredients to be brought to them. Now this time has been reduced to 10–15 minutes (in Europe or up to 30 in the USA).
Quick commerce startups emerged during the pandemic and have continued to grow since. However, the concept itself is not new. For example, GoPuff, the leader in the US, was founded in 2013 but raised $3.4 billion after the first wave of Covid.
Key startups to consider:
• GoPuff, the US leader in acquisitions in Europe.
• Getir, a Turkish leader that is expanding across Europe.
• Glovo, the Spanish company that moved from restaurant delivery to q-commerce.
• Gorillas, a German startup that raised over $1 billion.
Delivery from restaurants
Startups that allow their customers to order food and have it delivered from nearby restaurants.
This sector consists of many unicorns:
• Just Eat is a takeaway restaurant based in the Netherlands.
• Delivery Hero, a German company with several brands.
• Deliveroo, from UK.
• Uber Eats, Uber’s food delivery subsidiary.
• Doordash — in the USA.
• Zomato in India.
Just Eat Delivery
Robotics
This category brings together startups developing drones, robots and autonomous vehicles for food delivery. It gained momentum as a result of the pandemic and the labor shortage in its aftermath. The two main criteria for understanding this ecosystem are:
• Robot “habitat”: on the sidewalk (small robots like Starship Technologies), on the road (Nuro autonomous cars) and in the air (drones like Manna).
• Level of Autonomy: Some of these vehicles are fully autonomous, while others are remote controlled (eg Coco, a small robot company).
An autonomous robot from Coco

Supplies

In the final block, we will talk about the development of solutions for the food supply chain and retail, digitalization and automation.
Smart and offline store
Startups developing technologies that enhance the in-store experience or make the store more or completely self-contained. You’ve probably already heard of the Amazon Go concept store, a “no-line, no-checkout” store where the shopper just needs to identify themselves with their phone, select a few items, and leave. Some startups are working on similar non-box office solutions that combine cameras and AI systems.
Disposal of food waste
The topic is certainly not new. We have been hearing about recycling plants for a long time. So far, of course, we hear more than we see. But now startups are coming to the forefront using data to avoid food waste, either by regulating prices or by building the right connections with food banks or consumers.
Here are some start-ups to consider:
• Nordsense, a Danish startup developing a SaaS platform that helps with waste collection processes.
• Olio and Phoenix, British and French start-ups fighting food waste, giving new life to unsold products.
Transfer of unsold products to an Olio volunteer
Supply chain data
This category includes startups that enable food companies throughout the supply chain to create, access and share product data.
I dreamed that in the future we would be able to track food from farm to fork using blockchain. But this ecosystem preferred to develop in a more “practical” direction.
Now startups are trying to solve business problems, manufacturing, retail, compliance, quality control, and so on. Consumers have tried to offer apps and services so they can make more informed choices, but so far no viable business models have been created.
Package
Startups developing smarter and more sustainable food and beverage packaging. In other words, “smart packaging”. It reduces the amount of food waste and at the same time increases the shelf life of the product.
We are talking about biodegradable packaging solutions or even compostable ones. However, a real revolution in the world of packaging can occur when solutions appear that allow you to do without packaging at all. Already, with protective coatings applied to fresh produce (fruits, vegetables, and meat or fish) or sensors in containers, some companies are reducing food waste and extending product shelf life, as well as lowering food costs.
Key startups to consider:
• Tipa, an Israeli startup that has developed a mixed solution of plant and petroleum elements that decomposes under composting conditions.
• Lactips, a French company working on a plastic-free, biodegradable polymer.
• Innoscentia, a Swedish startup that has developed sensors that indicate the growth of bacteria in meat.
• Apeel, a California startup that adds a layer to the surface of fruits and vegetables. This helps keep moisture inside and oxygen outside, which means food lasts twice as long.
Treated fruit by Apeel
I think it is now 100% obvious that the field of food tech is much more extensive than it seems at first glance. That is why we are increasingly immersed in it with great enthusiasm. We created the foodtech.family community with the aim of moving the food and beverage industry into the future and uniting all market players interested in this. We look at breakthrough innovations that can change the world towards a healthier, more personalized and sustainable food system, as well as modernize service. We use our experience and connections to help our clients stay ahead or scale their businesses to become food giants.
So, in a word, our mission is to look into the future of food and services to make them better and more convenient. If you are also interested, join our community.