Foodtech and sustainability

Fintech and Edutech are buzz words we hear a lot lately. In my mind, foodtech is becoming a major game changer in the sustainable production and consumption world. In recent years, I have been closely following some of the world’s leading food technology companies particularly those producing plant-based meats/eggs. That reminds me about opting for vegetarian dishes instead of beef/steak at Garden Restaurant during our first workshop at Robinson College. Hopefully, more vegetables and less meat can help reduce burden on carbon emissions! First movers such as Hampton Creek and Beyond Meat attempted to provide more sustainable and affordable alternatives to replace similar functionalities in egg/meat across an array of food. Celebrities like Bill Gates and Li Ka Shing are early investors. These startups have pushed global food giants such as Unilever and General Mills to step up R&D in sustainable food (albeit Unilever is already at the forefront of sustainability globally). CEO Tetrick claimed that Hampton Creek’s plant-based products are almost 50% cheaper than conventional chicken egg, which means this type of healthier and more environmentally-friendly food products can be enjoyed by mass market consumers in coming years. Earlier this year, Hampton Creek even announced the plan to develop lab-grown meat. They should be well received by consumers in Asia and Brazil etc given food safety is a hot topic in these geographies. Separately, I believe food and beverage that carry low GI (Glycemic Index) will be increasingly popular too. GI is a measure of the blood glucose-raising potential of the carbohydrate content of a food. Simply put, low GI food can potentially reduce risks of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obseity which are key healthcare threats in both the developed and developing world. To conclude, consumers can expect to see much more creative + green + inexpensive food products on the shelves of specialty food retailers going forward. Have you tried a Just Mayo egg as yet?

3 thoughts on “Foodtech and sustainability

  1. What an interesting field to be exploring and also a sometimes very controversial topic. Have you watched the documentary Food Inc? After watching it, I decreased my meat consumption drastically and felt much better- both physically and mentally- for doing so. I started by going meat free on Mondays and searching for more veggie based meals to eat and am now equally happy to consume more vegetables and meat alternatives than meat itself.
    I’m wondering if you have come across two biotech based agriculture companies called Monsanto and Syngenta? They are both large publicly listed companies on the US and US/Swiss bourses, respectively. Both have been fairly controversial as they genetically modify seeds to make them more bug and weather resistant. The big positive to this means that farmers yield better crop returns on their land (ie. less wastage, more food) but it also means farmers become extremely dependent all their products to irrigate and farm – not too dissimilar if you are an Apple user, they have a way of keeping you in their eco system.
    I think in the developed world there is growing awareness and education around the benefits of consuming less meat and eating more veg but what about developing countries where population growth and wealth creation is happening much faster? Meat consumption is considered a luxury item in many of these emerging economies and as people become wealthier they believe that consuming meat is a good thing. Thus we are seeing more and more deforestation in areas such as the Amazon in Brazil being cut down to make way for farming livestock such as cows for their beef to be exported globally. How can we further educate people to the benefits of healthy eating? Is there anything that individuals can do to help change this trend or is it more of a policy that needs to come from top down?

    Thank you for your post.

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  2. You’ve chosen a very important topic to examine – as consumption of food is something which is common to everyone and isn’t optional! We know that one of the major causes to global warming is agriculture, and this is only exacerbated by the growing demand for beef. By looking for suitable substitutes, there is an opportunity to substantially address this big issue.

    Have you ever tried any plan-based “meats”? I know the technology is advancing quickly and I imagine it won’t be long before it is hard to tell the difference between this and the real thing. Personally, I am trying to restrict meat from my diet, only occasionally selecting it when the alternatives are not so appetising! Plant-based meats, when fully commercialised, may be the final step in switching to a meat free diet.

    The final aspect I wonder about is what is the impact of growing these plant-free meats, and how does that compare to standard vegetables? I look forward to following “foodtech” with interest and seeing how the technology and the market develops.

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