The Most Interesting Food-Related News — August 2017

I read all the food, beverage, and CPG (consumer packaged goods) news so you don’t have to! Here’s what happened last month and why it matters:

Big Company Moves:

Amazon is again top of mind as they cut prices at Whole Foods in a move nearly everyone expected. Still hilarious to see Alexas being sold at the entrance of the store as “Farm Fresh.” Lower prices are making things harder for rival stores like Trader Joe’s, Kroger, and Safeway, who were already struggling to compete with Amazon in an increasing number of categories. Read more.

Mmmmm, I love the smell of fresh IoT devices in the morning!

IBM launched a new blockchain-based initiative aimed at improving supply chain transparency in the food sector. Blockchains are a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. IBM is increasingly reliant on marketing projects/stunts to drive consulting revenue growth and I doubt this will have any staying power, but food safety is incredibly important and I will support any initiative aimed at improving consumer health. Read more.

Gatorade (which is owned by Pepsi) has successfully pulled out of a bit of slump with the successful launch of the G-Series. The line includes three complementary products to help athletes: energy chews and carbohydrate drinks to “Prime” before an athletic event; the core hydration drink to help the customer “Perform”; and protein shakes and bars to “Recover” after an event. They successfully stopped the advance of rival Powerade (owned by Coca-Cola) and now own 78% of the market. Read more.

An Eater reporter used Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs) to figure out the brands behind dozens of Trader Joe’s products. By hitting the FDA and USDA with requests for recalls and alerts that mentioned Trader Joe’s in the last 10 years, Eater revealed a number of brand suppliers which Trader Joe’s does not publicly acknowledge. Nothing malicious going on here, just interesting to unmask the store brand marketing. One example comes from the Trader Joe’s mango smoothie, which has the same ingredients as Naked’s mango smoothie, and FOIA requests show Naked has supplied Trader Joe’s with beverages. Read more.

Startup Moves:

CNBC titled a group of investors the “vegan mafia” due to their taste for plant-based deal flow. I love that this space is getting more positive attention these days. Increasingly, improved unit-economics are driving these companies towards profitability as opposed to merely a social mission, which means both the world and investors win. Ryan Bethencourt and Seth Bannon both got nice shout-outs for their work in the space thus far. Read more.

Lab-grown food startup Memphis Meats raised $17 million from DFJ. It’s not available publicly yet, but if it’s anything like the Impossible Burger, I will probably thoroughly enjoy it. I anticipate that there will be a bit of a battle about the use of the term “clean meat” if they reach significant scale, as producers of USDA Prime meat will not want their brands diminished. Read more.

Entocycle pitched their black-soldier-fly-as-livestock-feed business at Y-Combinator’s Summer 2017 Demo Day. They have an interesting dual-sided value-proposition because not only do the larvae grow quickly into animal feed, but they sustain themselves on food-waste, which doubles the environmental benefits. Read more.

Chowbotics, which makes robots for food-services, launched an automated salad-maker. This looks a little bit like Juicero, which went out of business this month, but by focusing on food-service specifically, I think they have a better chance. They have also only raised a modest $6.3M in funding, so the expectations and pressures for the company must be much more reasonable. Read more.

Interesting Data:

The dating app Hater, which matches potential couples based on their mutual dislikes, released this graphic of what foods are most disliked in each state. Read more.

Definitely some political concerns expressed here (see California).

New Technology:

Kabaq shared a demo of an Augmented Reality food menu that you view with your iPhone. With the app, you see virtual 3D food on your table
in the restaurant or when ordering online. Kind of a gimmick if you ask me, but it will have some novelty the first few times around.

Indena, an Italian company that specializes in the identification, development and production of active principles derived from plants, for use in the pharmaceutical, health-food and personal care industries, published a lengthy white-paper on DNABarcoding. The basic idea is, by sequencing extracts or ingredients used in food products, manufacturers / brands can verify their supply chain integrity and guarantee the origin of the ingredients.

Beautiful Design:

The Dieline put together a great roundup of Black & White packaging designs. There are some really striking images in there, I highly recommend checking it out. See all the designs here.

Just Funny:

Heinz Introduces New Quick-Recovery Sports Ketchup — The Onion


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