The food tech industry has been making waves by breaking barriers in sustainability and overhauling how people consume food. From plant-based products to cultivated food alternatives, the emergence of more advanced technologies has made it possible to blur the lines between taste and texture, offering a wide range of delectable choices that fit different lifestyles and health restrictions.
On today’s episode of Startups On Demand, I am joined by Christine Hall, Reporter at TechCrunch. We talk about the most exciting food trends, the most promising food tech startups, the stricter American criteria in food product approval, and the next big thing in the food tech industry.
Omri: What are some of the most exciting trends we’ve been seeing in the food tech industry in the last several years?
Christine: I definitely wanted to start out with the fact that, with recent news, we now have two companies: UPSIDE Foods and Good Meat, with the “blessing of the US Food and Drug Administration.” And it sounds like once these companies can get through some of the final hurdles like labeling and other approvals by the US Department of Agriculture, I think we could see their cultivated products. And as you know, Good Meat products have already been sold in Singapore for a few years now, so this gives them another country to give their products in.
Omri: Why do you think the US is harsher with their criteria in approving some of those products?
Christine: I think they have to be. The FDA is stringent about the things we put in our bodies, so it’s only natural that they’re making sure that food products are good. And this is a new thing. This is a new technology creating food from animal cells. Everyone knows about slaughtering meat and all that, but this is a very different method. It’s education that’s needed.
Omri: Which segments in the food tech industry are you seeing the biggest growth right now?
Christine: I’d say alternative seafood is one that’s really creeping up in terms of growth and innovation. I also think there’s a lot going on in the dairy/egg space, which I’ve written about as well. I think we can still remember months ago when egg prices were so high, and I’ve been asking people if it’s a good time for these alternative egg products to push themselves to get out there. I think that’s a trend that’s coming up as well. And plant-based is still a big category. The technology is getting better, and companies are doing whole cuts of meat alternatives now, which, before, you might remember it’s more on ground meat alternatives. But now, they’re producing things that look like actual steak.
Omri: In terms of the flavor, what are the differences between alternative meat and the real thing?
Christine: I think it depends on who you ask. There are some people who say “oh, I can’t tell the difference” but I think taste and texture are still some things that are vastly being worked on and I’m sure we’ll discuss this later. And it’s definitely the make-or-break for people.
Omri: What about food waste and sustainability in food tech? Can you talk more about that?
Christine: That’s one of the things that seem to go hand-in-hand with food tech these days. I think food waste and sustainability are going to play a big role in this. The cultivated meat method, for example, has been said to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by up to 96%, where there’s less water, less land use, and less energy over traditional ways of animals being used to make meat. With regard to food waste, I think it’s kind of the same. I think once companies can prove they can make food on demand, that should quickly resonate through the rest of the food supply chain.