Keep an Eye on These 3 Ingredients: Foods & Drinks of the Future to Watch in 2020

Lorena Mastromatteo
Jan 23 · 9 min read

Alternative protein from industrial emissions, canned fizzy drinks to boost your social skills, collagen-based beauty snacks. Feel like being on a Sci-Fi movie set yet?

If all that got you curious to know more, here’s a list of 3 ingredients featuring in Next-Generation Foods and Drinks that you might want to acquaint yourself with, as you’re likely to be snacking on these guys over the next few years.

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Are you one of those FoodTechies who never miss a beat on the Food & Beverage sector’s latest trends? Do you love to stay on top of what’s hot when it comes to startups shaping the future of food? At Forward Fooding, we sure are. Stay tuned and keep reading, as this list of ingredients to watch in 2020 will literally fry your brain!

When collagen comes into the picture, you will probably think of Cosmetic Products and the Beauty Industry, am I right? As a matter of fact, due to its incredible effects on skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkle reduction, collagen has up to now been injected or consumed as a beauty hack and a health supplement.

Rumor has it this healthcare superstar ingredient is now being eaten and drunk as a snack, too. Newly created, the Ingestible Beauty or Nutricosmetics category is expected to value $7956.63M in 2024, with a forecasted period’s CAGR of 8.63% (PR Newswire).

Food technology thus seems to have enabled us to ingest our beauty elixirs as snacks and beverages of the future, bringing collagen to the ingredient list of a bunch of Next-Generation Foods & Drinks.

Let’s have a look at some start-ups who already are riding the wave of snackable collagen, featuring our skin-friendly companion among their FMCGs.

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First in line is Vital Proteins, a company operating in the Food Supplement sector that has been counting many a happy customer, offering the U.S. public its collagen-based lattes, creamers, water, and even protein bars.

Born in Chicago in 2014, Vital Proteins has to this date raised $25.5M in VC funding and is looking at an even brighter future. (Crunchbase)

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Another U.S. native from 2014, Bulletproof, is using collagen as a base ingredient for its FMCGs. Operating in the Dietary Supplement category, Bulletproof has raised funds for a total of $68M, with a Series C latest funding round in late July 2018 (Crunchbase).

On Bulletproof’s product list are some collagen bars with chocolate chip cookie dough and fudge brownie. Yum!

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Last but not least is Dirtylemon Beverages, a New York company founded in 2015 and specializing in Functional Beverages and Food Supplement (fun fact: they are the only consumer company to sell their products exclusively via text message!).

Dirtylemon has launched to the market a collagen-based beverage, with each serving containing 4 grams of hydrolyzed marine collagen, a true blessing for your skin!

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So, whether you’re struggling to fight off the first signs of aging or you just love taking care of your skin, it’s worth keeping an eye out for edible collagen: the future of food is going to bring you incredible skin elasticity and glow.

In today’s FoodTech scenario, it seems like everyone is on the lookout for alternative sources of protein. As a matter of fact, the protein of the future market has seen aggressive growth over the past few years.

As far as alternative protein is concerned, we are not going to tackle the plant-based and clean meat market, as we’re sure you’ve already heard a great deal about it. Instead, we decided to bring attention to the craziest protein seekers out there: let’s dive into thin air!

With so many actors in the scene seeking to find the perfect source of clean, sustainable and resource-conscious protein, the answer to the protein of the future might be just above our heads.

In fact, turns out the future meat replicates will not only be coming from plant-based proteins but will be sourced from the carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen naturally present in the air. As a matter of fact, these elements from the air can be aggregated into a powder and used as a supplement base for meat replicates. Pretty futuristic, right?

If you’re struggling to get a grasp of what this thin air protein business is all about, take a look at these startups.

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Buckle up: Finnish startup Solar Foods are using only air, water, and electricity as their main sources of protein.

Now, if you think about it for a second, such protein format would revolutionize our entire food system completely. By using these new protein sources, we would switch to a food system that is no longer reliant on agriculture, the weather or the climate, and might produce a 100% clean, environmentally-revolutionary protein. Wow.

After being founded in Helsinki in 2017, Solar Foods closed two funding rounds in the next following years, for a total raised funds of $2.8M. Big up for these European superstars, and we’re rooting for them on their ‘Free from Agriculture, Ready for the Future’ mission!

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At Air Protein, they say: ‘If plants can transform CO2 into nutrients, why can’t we do it too?’.

These guys have a point. Or at least, their question sets the grounds for what could be a crucial challenge for our future food system. The team behind U.S.-based startup Air Protein are on a mission to create a whole new food category, producing what they call Air-Based Meat. Envisioned to be produced not from breeding cattle but simply from the air we breathe, this product really sounds like the ultimate meat high-tech.

Founded in 2019, Air Proteins are a baby in the market, but they are literally aiming for the stars. In fact, the technology behind their air-based food is inspired by the 1960’s NASA’s quest for deep space travel. It is thanks to NASA scientists that the concept of microbes acting like plants and creating food from carbon dioxide was born. Since then, the sky’s the limit.

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Finally yet importantly, another Venture-backed startup founded in 2018, Nottingham-based Deep Branch Biotechnologies, is taking the whole air-based protein business even further, retrieving carbon dioxide directly from industrial emission. Yes, you heard right, these guys are aiming at generating clean, sustainable protein from today’s polluters. Now, what’s greener than that?

Deep Branch claim that their protein is ‘nutritious’ and ‘acts as a more sustainable alternative to soy or fishmeal, the conventional protein sources for livestock and aquaculture feed’. Less pollution, cleaner nutrition? Sounds like a deal.

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Although air-based protein may still sound like a very far-fetched idea, we, for our part, are all about it and will be first in line to see where these guys are heading!

Ever wished to be one of those superhumans like Bradley Cooper in the film Limitless? Well, the future of food is bringing to you natural, plant-based, mind boosters that will enhance your memory, energy, creativity, and even social skills — happy days!

Their fancy names might not yet ring a bell, but adaptogens and nootropics have been out there for a long time, possibly for centuries. As a matter of fact, adaptogens (usually herbs, roots, and mushrooms) are normally associated with Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. As for nootropics (a word which literally means ‘mind-shapers’), I’m quite sure you’ve already consumed your daily dose, if not more than one, just today: I’m talking about caffeine.

However, nootropics are not limited to caffeine. Another very popular nootropic is l-theanine, mostly found in certain types of green and black tea leaves, and in some species of mushrooms. These amino acids are said to help your organism with stress-relief and relaxation.

So where have these marvelous, nature-made substances been hiding? Time to look into some game-changing FoodTech startups that are ready to literally blow our minds with their nootropic-based CPGs.

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Meet Kin-Euphorics for Humankind. After starting in 2018, these New York guys have already raised funds from Canaan Partners, Female Founders Fund and KBW Ventures (CB Insights), and they are ready to revolutionize the way we consume drinks with their ‘All bliss, no Booze’ claim.

Kin produce premium functional drinks based on adaptogens and nootropics such as reishi mushrooms, passionflower, melatonin and l-theanine, and various botanicals. Their $3.54/serving nootropic drink, Dream Light, is promised to gently walk you through a night of intense sleep and perfect morning regeneration. Among other Kin products is a social boost, High Rhode, and a Kin Spritz, designed for a whole new party experience. Pretty intriguing, if you ask me.

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Time for a European champion operating in the world of nootropic-based functional beverages: London startup Brite Drinks. Started by Simas Jarasunas and his co-founder Andrius Ratkevicius in 2016, Brite manufactures a nootropic beverage that comes in two flavors — Pinapple & Mango and Raspberry & Mint — called Focus, and it helps you do precisely that.

The two millennials developed the idea of a concentration beverage finding themselves needing a non-caffeinated drink to keep up with their workload. After studying the work of leading neuroscientists and collaborating with food technologists and nutritionists at University College London, they came up with the official Brite formula.

Distancing themselves from the market of mere relaxation drinks, Brite is thus working on boosting human mental activity and improving cognitive functions, enhancing concentration and productivity.

As well as fruit juice from concentrates, herbal extracts, and organic tea, each serving of Focus contains equal parts of caffeine and l-theanine, for a total of 300mg nootropic substances.

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They call it Performance Drink, and it is intended to drastically transform your idea of a berry juice. New Zealand company Arepa has just stepped into the market of Nootropics, creating a performance drink for the mind.

Arepa’s secret recipe uses 100% natural, locally sourced ingredients such as an extract from the bark of New Zealand grown pine trees, blackcurrant extract and, of course, l-theanine from Japanese green tea leaves. It is, as they define it, ‘Brain Food for the Modern World’.

Just like other FMCG companies operating in the Nootropic sector, Arepa’s formula is the result of a series of studies and collaborations with the world’s top neuroscientists and food technologists. After 5 years of research, this fantastic kiwi startup has successfully filed a patent for their new v2.0 formula, bringing to the market a product that is promised to give you mental clarity and keep your head in the game.

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L-theanine it is, then! Just keep this little sidekick in mind (pun intended) and you’re all set for a future of enhanced executive functions, boosted memory and great creativity.


We really hope you appreciated the insights we shared about the 3 ingredients to watch in 2020. At Forward Fooding, we’re lucky enough to be able to see (and to some extent foresee) some of these trends thanks to our data intelligence platform from the global AgriFoodTech ecosystem, The FoodTech Data Navigator. If you wish to know more about it or are interested in giving this amazing tool a go and take advantage of our 7-day free trial, you’re welcome to book a free demo: just leave your details here.

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