New ways of approaching food systems, food products and the food supply chain have been making news lately, including some friends of Food+City. These emerging businesses are inspiring as we plan for the 2017 Food+City Challenge Prize. What cool new solutions are catching your eye these days? Let us know in the comments.
We’re starting today with a bit of news about a member of the Food+City family. True Made Foods — the 2016 Food+City Challenge Prize winner — founders Abe Kamarck and Kevin Powell share their somewhat rocky origin story in Forbes. Both military veterans, the self-described “odd couple” kept their product top of mind as they worked through iterations. “We are not afraid to tell each other the hard truth in any facet of our business,” Powell said. “And most importantly, after hearing that hard truth, we can still work effectively, because it’s not personal. It’s about the mission.” That strategy must be working: Their low-sugar sauces will be featured as a Primo Pick item in HEB grocery stores in mid-June.
The True Made Foods guys appear to be on the right track, according to a venture capitalist at last month’s Rethink Future Food-Tech conference, held in New York. Consumers that are more selective and health conscious are reshaping the food innovation landscape. “The last 50 years, industrialized food systems focused on producing at lowest cost, and that’s been accomplished,” Vishal Vasishth, cofounder of Obvious Ventures said. “The next 50 will be focused on producing the best food.” Another route to entrepreneurial success may be to “invest in parts of the food system that ‘are not very sexy, everything from soil health and storage to logistics and ingredient development,’” suggested Victor Friedberg, cofounder and managing director of Chicago-based S2G Ventures.
Food waste is a decidedly unsexy part of the food system, and yet it’s providing fertile ground for new venture ideas. “Several start-ups are chasing ways to use food waste to make other edibles. Some are aiming to quickly distribute food that is about to be thrown out. And yet others are working to use every last ounce of ingredients.” For example, Wtrmln Wtr was founded as a way to repurpose the tons of annually unsold and wasted watermelons. “Its biggest challenge was creating a supply chain. Scuffed, sunburned or otherwise unwanted melons can be sold in a secondary market, but prices are volatile, so farmers may just plow them under because hauling them is expensive. Now, Wtrmln Wtr wants them. ‘It’s definitely created a new opportunity for us,’ said Chandler Mack, whose family grows potatoes and watermelons in Central Florida.” And did we mention that Beyonce is an investor in Wtrmln Wtr?
A little closer to home, UberEats has partnered with Austin’s Sustainable Food Center to deliver produce from its downtown farmer’s market to homes in Austin. It’s UberEats’ first foray into grocery delivery.
For the first time in more than 20 years, nutrition labels on the food packages we buy have been updated. Calorie counts are larger, added sugars are noted and — perhaps most interesting — portion sizes have been reconsidered to reflect the way Americans eat today. “Millions of Americans pay attention to food labels. The changes are meant to make them easier to understand.”
In other regulatory news, the Food and Drug Administration has finalized the seventh and last rule that’s part of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The rule requires food facilities (both in the U.S. and abroad) to develop and maintain a food defense plan that “assesses their potential vulnerabilities to deliberate contamination where the intent is to cause wide-scale public health harm.” “While such acts are unlikely to occur,” this article acknowledges, “the new rule advances mitigation strategies to further protect the food supply.