August 13, 2020
Today, food faces a number of major challenges: how to help people eat better? How to feed the world population in 2050? These are big questions without simple answers. After all, the way we eat is constantly changing and this opens up a wide range of development opportunities for FoodTech.
But what is FoodTech? It actually brings together all innovative digital, technological and entrepreneurial initiatives related to food, which means that it covers the entire chain, from production through processing and distribution to consumption.
The ecosystem, made up of a wide variety of organisations from start-ups to mature companies, can be broken down into six categories:
- AgTech (agriculture and farms of the future, sensors, drones and software)
- Delivery (meal and shopping delivery)
- FoodService (improved management of out-of-home catering)
- FoodScience (healthier, ecological, nutritional product innovations, as well as breakthrough innovations)
- Coaching (applications and personalised nutrition)
- Retail (innovation in distribution from the supply chain to the customer experience).
According to a recent survey, the UK has led FoodTech in Europe for the past six years. In 2019, it invested 711 million euros - 94% more than in 2018. London alone attracted 95% of this investment. France, with 404 million euros of investments in 2019 (up 76% compared to the previous year), is in second place.
Adapting due to the pandemic
This key sector of the economy, one that is growing rapidly, has been heavily relied upon during the lockdown, and has allowed many restaurants and food services to remain active, despite the closure of their establishments serving the public.
As the world faced these closures, together with the risk of shortages in supermarkets and a lack of manpower in agriculture, industry and consumers were forced to adapt. FoodTech has multiplied its initiatives and deployed solutions to get through the crisis and proved, more than ever before, the usefulness of digital technology in food services.
For example, available workers in France have been put in touch with producers and farmers in need of manpower via the Wizifarm platform. The Phenix digital platform made its anti-waste app free for retailers in March, enabling them to sell their unsold products to consumers.
Meanwhile, last April, several start-ups launched “Aide-aux-restaurateurs.fr" which enabled consumers to access a list of 500 restaurants that were still delivering in major French cities.
A sustainable food system
It remains to be seen whether the crisis will bring about a real change towards a more sustainable food system. Beyond the pandemic, organisations in the FoodTech sector will be able to offer more transparency around the traceability, composition and recycling of products to adapt to changing consumer expectations, as well as to a growing ecological and climate change awareness.
Accordingly, at the beginning of July, the French government announced that it would give until October 2020 to those involved in the delivery of meals to develop a zero-waste strategy. Thus, Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Sushi Shop, Foodchérie, among other meal delivery apps, now have three months to unveil their "0 waste" strategy.
Today, hundreds of French and European start-ups in the FoodTech sector are positioning themselves around a few key areas such as supply, services, delivery, new technologies and agtech, without forgetting environmental issues.
More and more professionals, as well as consumers, are realising what digital progress and innovations can bring to their daily lives. Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and blockchain (to name a few) are definitely part of the plan enabling the sector to be innovative, adapt to changing times and provide healthier, more suitable food products with low environmental impact. All this, together with meeting the rising needs of consumer convenience - a real challenge in a very crowded and competitive market.
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