Food tech: why US is leading the race ?

Periodic table of Food Tech (US) — June, 2016 — CB Insights

Since I moved to the UK 9 months ago, I keep on hearing about this ‘food tech’ frenzy. The more I talk about it with people within the food industry, the more I realize nobody has a clear definition of what it’s all about.

If you quickly google it, you’ll probably stumble upon one definition of Food Technology:

“Food Technology is a branch of food science that deals with the production processes that make foods” — wikipedia definition

Before the internet came into existence I believe this was the only definition that resonated with people: any technology (mostly hardware) that enables food production.

With the advent of the internet, though, new opportunities have become available for food entrepreneurs to create “extended” digital experiences related to food — from booking a table for your favorite restaurant from your phone to creating food logs and getting recommendations of what you should be eating — just to name a few.

To me Foodtech has one more meaning, and perhaps the most important one — it is a ‘social movement’ made of tech and food people, who see the potential in partnering up for creating solutions for our food system or new food products.

From what I have seen and experienced in the US (having lived in the Bay Area for almost 2 years), a few organizations started running meetups and other events to bring together the “techies” with the “foodies” to mingle and explore what the future of food could look like.

From doing so, a social movement (made of real people) was born. Those same people who met over a glass of wine (or two) started playing around to develop solutions to address some issues across the whole food supply chain. Indeed, I believe companies like Partender came about because the founders (techies) saw some untapped opportunities when attending those food events.

Nomiku, Nima, Teforia are other examples just to name a few. As these companies grew bigger, I believe other entrepreneurs (and investors) started looking at this space with different eyes and going after the “bigger” opportunity of ‘reverse engineering’ the way we produce food.

In my humble opinion, a strong desire to develop new solutions for our food system, combined with abundance of talents present in the Bay Area, made the whole food tech movement naturally evolve, and brought about the birth of companies like Impossible foods, Ripple foods, Clara foods.

This whole space developed over the course of more than 8 years and that’s the reason why in Europe (including the UK) we haven’t seen such “futuristic’ solutions developed by European companies quite yet. It takes time to build a real community of people who really want to challenge the status quo of our food system via entrepreneurship.

In other words I think the ‘food tech movement’ as we know it in the UK is just not mature enough to build solutions (and startups) capable of attracting sufficient level of public attention and investment to thrive. 
Besides the frenzy around food tech and a couple of heavily-marketed conferences, in order to see such companies venturing out of Europe, we need to build a real community of people who see some untapped opportunities across the food value chain and are passionate about building solutions to address those problems.

Breakthrough innovation comes from people. And to bring those to life, you need to put makers, innovators and ‘challengers’ in the same room.

To this end, as part of our Food & FoodTech Innovation Hub, we’re looking to partner up with a few fellow organizations to create the first real community of food tech innovators in the UK and provide them with the business tools to build such companies also on this side of the world — to learn more email us at