The FoodTech Innovation Tsunami
What do we mean by innovation?
Innovation is a process that introduces new developments and consists of modifying things that already exist in order to improve them. We’re all in agreement on this, but your answer might change if the question being asked is: What does disruptive innovation mean to you?
If we ask people working in Marketing departments, they would say that it is the development of new products that break away from the traditional insights of the consumer. In other words, launching new products onto the market which involves new consumption moments, new textures, new formats, etc. mixing new technologies and packaging, if possible.
Entrepreneurs understand disruption as a process, a product that generates a new need and is completely different from other products that are already on the market.
However, if we ask an investor the same question, disruption would be developing a new, different, and highly technological product that doesn’t compete with any other products on the market. They usually have short-term returns, are very technological and have the “wow factor” which impresses people so much that everybody wants to buy it.
There isn’t much disruption in large food consumption, but a lot of innovation, almost 50% of investments are related to the retailer or last mile delivery and new distribution channels. This is followed by 25% of investments in the food industry, namely alternative proteins, cultivated meats and reduction of sugars and saturated fats. The agricultural production sector is being neglected and only new needs, such as optimising production and water shortages or the reduction of by-products when processing raw materials, are allowing capital and multinationals to enter the digitisation of the agricultural sector.
Which actors make up part of the FoodTech innovation ecosystem?
We’re talking about an independent innovation ecosystem, which isn’t linked to the R&D department:
- Start-ups – They develop the idea and proof of concept (MPV) in order to reach the market and develop the product commercially on the market.
- Technology Centre – It develops proofs of concept and usually creates a spin-off or a TBC (technology-based company) which is usually linked to the University.
- Food Industry – Customer and promoter/participant.
- Investor (Business Angel, Administration, Venture builder, etc.).
- Consultant (manages, mentors, and identifies needs and opportunities)
How can these different stakeholders interact?
Innovation ecosystems should work as transversal collaborative models in which the investor or food industry creates a space of comfort and creativity where ideas can be developed, and products can be created.
It is necessary to look for independent platforms by incorporating the passion of start-ups, the experience of the industry, the networking of the investor, without favouring any particular predefined model, in such a way that it is an open model from the beginning with a “funnel” methodology, focusing on the results at different stages of the project and entry to the market.
The consultant is a key player when it comes to harmonising, moulding, and mentoring you through all of the stages of this process, adapting needs to opportunity and helping entrepreneurs to find the best funding, while meeting the expectations of all of the stakeholders.
Areas of innovation in the agri-food sector, and impact on current business (Barcelona techcity):
- Sustainable/alternative proteins – plant based – fermentation
- Digitisation of the agricultural sector – artificial intelligence – machine learning
- Customised nutrition – adapted to different situations and different consumers (social and local aspects, food waste reduction, etc.)
Here is an updated map of the different FoodTech innovation systems:
Which is the most sustainable innovation model that best meets the needs of the consumer and the current market?
Please find the answer to this and more question in an eBook to come.