By Manuel Gonzalez
No matter where you travel, food is a commonality amongst us all. We’re at a critical moment, however, where the needs surrounding food across the globe are drastically different from one country to the next. Some regions face food shortages and continue to struggle with the problem of access to food, while others deal with an immense surplus. In fact, nearly a third of all globally produced food is wasted.
We need large-scale solutions to address these complex and global problems. We need all stakeholders – farmers, manufacturers, financiers, governments and others – to continue to work together on this front.
At the same time, we’re seeing the proliferation and success on a smaller scale with food and agriculture startups. These companies are finding solutions to everyday problems and creating unique, out-of-the-box products. So, what can we learn from these companies today, as we think about how to address problems on a global scale?
Here are five ways food startups are making a positive impact on industry-wide problems:
Making more with what we have isn’t a new concept, but it’s certainly one that needs to be driven into practice. That’s where groups like Foodfully, a mobile app platform, come in. People can use Foodfully to track their grocery purchases and receive notice when unused food items are at risk of spoilage. Creating awareness between consumers and their purchased food can help change habits that lend to waste.
Imperfect Produce, for example, is hoping to change the perception of what food is by giving consumers a venue to purchase and embrace the “ugly” fruits and vegetables often overlooked (and gone to waste) on grocery stands. Netherlands-based Seamore is also changing the way customers think about the popular foods we consume, like spaghetti, through use of alternative ingredients – in this case, seaweed.
Patrick’s Fine Sodas and True Made Foods, for example, are changing the way we think about sodas and sauces by utilizing alternative, more natural ingredients. By innovating for nutrition, without the compromise of taste, it makes it easier for consumers to make more informed, healthier choices.
The way we experience food is being impacted by our understanding of how food is grown, who grows our food, and the journey it takes before it ends up on our plates. To that end, startups that focus on locally sourced ingredients, and truly feeding the communities in which they work, are getting more and more consumer attention. The potential benefits of eating local are vast – from a positive economic impact on local communities to lowering your carbon footprint.
So, what do these food startups mean for the food industry at large? It may not mean that there’s a solution today for the global food crises that we face, but they’re proving to address issues in their own networks that we can certainly learn from.
At Rabobank, we’re supporting these startups because we believe in their potential for inducing change. And we’re thrilled to hear from the next round of innovators at FoodBytes! Boulder on Oct. 26 – a platform for startups to share their innovations, talk with peers and other influencers. We want to keep learning from this group and we encourage everyone to take note – because food is the factor that affects us all.
Image courtesy of True Made Foods
Manuel Gonzalez is North America Head of Start-Up Innovation for Rabobank North America Wholesale.
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