The last weeks, our senior strategy consultant Brigitte Zeller attended Future Food Asia, an event about AgriFoodTech innovation in Asia Pacific. To add to that, our HMT founder, Peter Wennstrom, attended the Big Meet in Sweden, the annual foodtech “un-conference”. We wanted to find out what are the learnings from these 2 big food tech events, and what are the similarities and differences between the two different regions. And of course, what does it all mean for the future of food?
HMT: Brigitte and Peter, tell us a bit about the respective events that you attended and what did you find out?
Brigitte: The Future Food Asia in Singapore had a very clear message: we cannot keep supplying and eating in the same way. Upstream 40% of the waste is coming from crops and downstream 30% of the waste is from consumers. Asia is a predominantly agriculture region so there is a lot of pressure on the industry to act. The main message was that solutions need to be part of an ecosystem in order to successfully drive change, they cannot be stand alone. The event focus was a lot on regeneration of waste and smart solutions and many stake-holders like government, suppliers , FMCG , startups participated .
Peter: Sustainability was also a key theme at the Big Meet in Sweden, albeit from a different angle: It seems that a lot of the food tech innovations are using sustainability messages to drive permissive indulgence. I saw a lot of natural candies, natural soft drinks etc. The other important point to keep remembering is that TASTE IS KING. As part of the industry, we get caught up in the (admittedly often fascinating) technologies but we can forget that food is still food and taste will always drive purchases. I also saw a big trend about upcycling, which is in line with the waste management insights that Brigitte spotted in Singapore. One of the most striking upcycle projects that draw my attention is about the milk cows that are out of production. There is a new project that is taking them to some sort of “retirement home” if you like, to pastures for grazing and regaining muscle mass. Then they turn them into premium meat. One fast food chain in Sweden is collaborating with a chef who is explaining that the origin of the meat they are enjoying is from “retired” milk cows. This is also addressing the growing consumer demand for transparency: to know where your meat comes from.
HMT: Is there anything that stood out for you Brigitte as being quite particular to Asia and different to Europe?
Brigitte: I think it’s about how different sustainability is approached. In the Future Food Asia it was a key theme but approached from the perspective of the industry, of the supply how the industry can upcycle their waste and how to avoid food waste at the roots. An very interestingexample was “Inspired from Nature” by GreenPod Labs, an Agri-biotech company developing sustainable nature inspired solutions to minimize food waste in India. Despite India being the 2nd largest producer of fruits and vegetables, 40% of it is lost before it reaches the consumer. The economic loss of food waste costs the country $12 Billion. The primary causes of the losses are poor storage and transportation facilities. Their solution? An active packaging sachet that can extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. The product comprises of nano-encapsulated plant extracts that can naturally slow down the ripening rate and minimize the microbial attack.
However, in Asia sustainability as a driver behind consumer purchases, is not yet there, it is not yet such a force as it is for example in Sweden. I am certain it is only a matter of time until it comes, and it is an opportunity for brands to be pioneers and especially if they target the younger generations, to address sustainability and make it a key product feature.
HMT: Is it really so different in Sweden Peter?
Peter: Absolutely, sustainability on some degree is even a hygiene factor in certain categories, something consumers expect and take as a given. And in other categories it properly drives innovation. An example is a new chewing gum brand that is 100% plastic free, called Chew Folk. The brand identified an issue with all the discarded chewing gums that are not biodegradable and addressed it head on. So sustainability in this case becomes the differentiator.
HMT: How is it about plant-based meat? I would imagine it is a central theme in food tech events.
Brigitte: In Asia there is a lot of disbelief around plant-based meat because they tend to have a long list of ingredients that the consumers don’t understand. This combined with usually low nutritional values is inviting consumer scepticism. A brand-new start up from Australia, called Eighth Day got my attention as they are addressing exactly these barriers. They are working on a new alternative protein which is only coming from one ingredient: Lupin. Lupin is a legume which is a moderate-rich source of B vitamins, especially folate. Lupin also contains substantial amounts of dietary minerals, including manganese. So not only is an ingredient easy to understand by consumers but it is also nutrient rich.
Peter: At the Big Meet, protein replacement was a recurring topic. I saw a lot of different proteins from different sources, replacing different things. The Mycorena was one of the companies who stood out for me with a product called Promyc® which can be used as an alternative not only for meat but also for tuna as well as in desserts or protein beverages.
HMT: Are there any common themes between the two events and regions?
Peter: Absolutely: transparency in the food chain, for example where does my meat (or non- meat) come from and what’s in it. Consumers EVERYWHERE expect transparency and want to know. It’s as simple as that.
Brigitte: I also have to agree with Peter’s earlier comment about taste: recipes and products need to be familiar, and taste is ultimately what will make or break a product. One way to get consumers familiar with new food tech technologies is involving chefs and creating well- known recipes with new products.
Peter: I met quite a few innovative start ups at the Big Meet in Sweden employing this strategy and using chefs to bring new innovations to market. The chef is actually becoming the linking pin between food tech innovations and consumers. They lead the way and they help us accept new ideas and new role materials. I expect we will be hearing much more about them in the future.
HMT: Thank you Peter and Brigitte!
1) Taste is still KING:
New innovations and technologies are fascinating and we can’t blame you if you are caught up in the enthusiasm, but: remember food is still food and taste is a major driver.
2) Sustainability in Asia as differentiator:
Sustainability in Asia can be a very relevant USP for innovative brands that target lifestyle consumers or younger generations. It is an opportunity as the sustainability trend is not yet on the maturity level that we see in Europe.
What you do with your waste can be as important as what you do with your product. Think about your waste and if you are doing something good with it, let the world know.
4) The future belongs to the chefs:
Chefs are what is standing between your new ingredient or technology and the consumers. They have the power to create recipes that drive consumer acceptance. Do you have a resident chef yet? Maybe it is time.
5) Transparency in the food chain:
Be transparent about the origin of the ingredients and the origin of your products. Consumers are more connected and educated than ever before and they WANT to know.
Do you have any questions? Do you want to know how to make the latest food tech trends work for your brand? Contact our resident chef (we mean senior strategy consultant!) and schedule your free one-hour consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org