October 2, 2019 |
I was watching an old version of Masterchef the other day, I mean the old 1990s one with Lloyd Grossman, adjusting his spectacles and saying ‘paaarmezan coulis’ a lot. Food programmes of that time were not exactly the money spinner they are now, but they still had a loyal audience.
Shift gears to today and there are channels devoted to cooking and chefs, regardless of their pedigree, have donned the celebrity jacket and proclaimed genius.
Foodtech is about to take the same journey.
In days of yore, the ability to artificially alter the natural state of a vegetable was solely the domain of the giant food companies. They had the bucks to create labominations and use advertising to tell everybody that the carrot crisp infused with garlic and thyme, that had ‘zero fat’ emblazoned across the packaging was natural and healthy. They were, in effect the Lloyd Grossman of food tech, so whilst LG was pontificating on the aforementioned coulis, major food companies were winning gold medals in the bullshit olympics.
As always when the door is left slightly open, a dandy with a swagger strolls in and claims the maiden. Although in today’s world it could be the other way around, a bit of the same or generally a combination of all possibilities. So in the case of food tv, in walked Jamie, Gordon, Ainsley (yes Ainsley) and started to add a bit of fun to the serious world of cooking and made it accessible to the masses.
So whilst the major food companies were blindly investing in their laboratories and seeing whether lab mice like their new cheese sauce, a whole raft of players emerged to claim their right to change the eating habits of the mainly western world. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat started competing in the replacement meat market, producing burger substitutes that had a closer resemblance to meat than the previous dust and salt versions.
Coffee brands started taking an interest in their growers and sourcing beans ethically, whilst simultaneously creating the speciality coffee movement to ensure that their additional investment was paid for. Even chefs like Gaz Oakley popped up, using relatively inexpensive grains and pastes to create vegan versions of traditionally meat-based dishes. The foodtech revolution was underway.
Foodtech is changing the way we produce food in the same way that celebrity chefs changed the way we consumed it . Oh and can we agree that delivery companies aren’t actually foodtech? Employing (or not as the case may be) people to deliver food to millennials ordering on an app isn’t foodtech. Neither, by the way, are smart kitchens. Just because you can have an app to adjust the temperature of your oven whilst you are in the middle of your peloton session does not make you part of the foodtech future.
The definition of foodtech is when food uses technology to improve agriculture and food production, the supply chain, the distribution channels (not delivery channels) and ultimately consumption. It is a space for individuals and companies with a humble and wholehearted desire to preserve the planet for future generations and not for those who seek peer adulation and short-term profits.
The prediction is that the global foodtech market will reach $250bn in 2022 and the hustle is well and truly on to win market share.
There are some examples of companies who are actually trying to do some good (whilst also making a profit) – Planeteer is making edible cutlery (would you like some bread with your knife sir?) as well as a whole raft of meatless meat companies that will make the beef burger an antiquity of Lloyd Grossman proportions.
These are the true foodtech pioneers who deserve a large slice of the foodtech billions, and not the well-funded companies who are just jumping on the bandwagon by using their virtual assistant technology to develop a smart microwave.
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