Why Tech Startups Should Look To Non-Tech Industries: Food Tech

Even though there are innovative startups in nearly every industry, the food industry is severely lacking in technology, innovation and forward thinking, making it an appealing opportunity for startups and anyone involved in food innovation and technology.

Up until now, most food innovation took place in high-end laboratories where professionals mixed chemical concoctions in order to alter flavors and reduce production costs – a process that resulted in happy shareholders and investors and unhealthy consumers. This is changing however, at a faster pace than even the food industry imagined, thanks to the availability of information only a click away.

Additionally, tech-savvy consumers now care more about their health and demand more from the food they eat – that means more nutrients, less chemicals and shorter time to table. So food companies have in turn shifted to increase their dependency on innovation from the actual food providers.

Sebastien Helin - Amazon Web Services

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Sebastien Helin - Amazon Web ServicesPartner and Alliances Lead (EU-EC, MEA, Israel, Russia-CIS)

Where Can the Food Industry Innovate?

Food and beverage companies are looking for innovative solutions that streamline their operations and improve their products without impacting the quality or consumer experience.

Higher quality food delivered at a faster rate than ever – are tasks many food companies are not equipped to adhere to.
(Consider this: the average apple can take around 11 months to reach your hand from the moment it is picked from a tree – now are you concerned about quality and time to table?).

If companies are going to reduce the time it takes for produce to reach the consumer, they must improve their packaging, shipping and distribution channels by automating processes previously perceived as manual labor.

Food companies seem well equipped to know what innovation they need in order to move forward and join their consumers in the 21st century, however in practice, they have not adopted new technologies possibly due to an inability to test game-changing technologies in a controlled environment to eliminate risks to health, delivery, and employment.

Examples of Forward Thinking New Food Tech Adopters

Food companies standing out, in terms of technology, are those large-scale enterprises that focus heavily on consumer relations. Companies such as Nestle, Kellogg’s and Heinz have shifted their focus from pure food manufacturing and distribution, to creating a powerful brand that relates to consumers on a deeper and more digital level.

While there is still much room for improvement, the fact that food industry specialists have started turning to external companies for innovations in the food industry is a positive sign for consumers who are looking for quality, reduced prices and new levels of satisfaction.

There are some challenges ahead though as less and less young professionals want to enter the agricultural industry. To replace the dwindling number of manual laborers, companies have had to resort to implementing technology such as using satellite imaging, GPS navigation, automated irrigation and remote visual examination to monitor food production while simultaneously reducing overall waste and inefficiency.

Examples of unprecedented value rendered by going digital are now emerging. A large farm can benefit tremendously by understanding exactly how much water a plant needs at any given time and providing the plant with exactly irrigation requirements – this simple task is easily monitored remotely with technology and improves overall plant quality and yield as well as water waste reduction.

Perhaps it doesn’t seem like much to save a few drops on a plant, or improve yield by grams but when you remember that there are nearly 9 billion people on earth that need to be fed on a daily basis, and those tasked with feeding the people are dwindling in numbers, it adds up to quite a bit.

Food Tech Landscape:

Food-Tech-and-Media-Industry-landscape-2016-Rosenheim-Advisors

What is On the Food Industry Tech Horizon?

Beyond improving the chemical composition of food and getting it to your table quicker, more and more food companies are seeking solutions that take them outside their comfort zone in the hopes of not only keeping up with consumer expectations but surpassing them, thus ensuring customer satisfaction, loyalty and subsequent dominant market share.

Food companies are becoming increasingly concerned with building a brand, not just putting a product on your table. What this means is that they are spending more time, energy and resources into building their brand into something you, as a consumer, can trust.

Additionally, many companies are investing in technologies such as chat bots that will enable them to communicate directly with their consumers, effectively bypassing middlemen and building their brand identity.

What is the Starting Point?

The idea of approaching startups is foreign to many decision makers in the food industry, despite the fact that startups, with their out-of-the-box solutions for complex problems, are often the most equipped to help them – especially when they are seeking innovative solutions outside their element.

Are you a startup or software vendor wondering what type of innovations food companies need? Think about the following:

  • While many new BI innovations have been created and released to the market in recent years, few have been designed with the specific needs of the food industry in mind. Despite needing to orchestrate large operations on a daily basis, the food industry is severely lacking behind where BI innovation is concerned
  • Mobile Applications are the next big thing for food companies who want to connect directly with their consumers. Whether looking to improve brand awareness through a sticky application, or looking to integrate eShopping through a mobile app, the food industry has a long way to go in terms of mobile applications.
  • IoT technology is growing across all industries, and food should be no exception. Consumers expect their devices to know their actions, their location and their statistics – so of course they expect their device to know what they are eating, how many calories it contains, and how that fits into their personal goals. The problem? No one came up with a solution that connects food to other devices.

Think you have the next big idea that will transform the food industry? Check out some of the pilots that food industry executives and decision makers are looking for on prooV!