By Karl Naim
Over $1 billion was invested in food start-ups in 2016
If you had told your parents that one day they would be able to order food online from thousands of different restaurants, what do you think their reaction would be? Most probably they would have labelled you as crazy.
FoodTech was the fastest growing tech industry in 2015, before seeing a slowdown and consolidation in 2016. That being said, over $1 billion was invested in food start-ups and projects in 2016 alone, according CB Insights, making it a sector to watch for in 2017.
As the co-founder of ChefXChange, 2016 was rich with lessons learnt, specifically on understanding the needs of our foodies, which is how we call our customers. Below are the trends I believe will stand out for 2017 as well as my tips on how to tackle them.
The health-conscious foodie
Paleo, Atkins, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, you name it. More and more people are now following what they call lifestyles versus just dieting. This derives from the fact that progresses in science have in the past few years completely disrupted previously thought fallacies, with fat versus sugar being the biggest scam in our modern history. More and more restaurants now offer and cater to different ‘diets’ and more and more foodies have become aware and knowledgeable about nutrition.
People want more information and as a result we are bombarded with too much content, fake food news and poorly designed recipes. At ChefXChange we create our own curated and original content and share it via targeted newsletters and our social media channels. It is an imperative to be simple, stand out, engage and be multi-sensational. Next step for food-related communication will come through gamification and VR content.
The socially-driven foodie
While the food industry argues about the definition of sustainability, consumers have already weighed in and are making their food decisions based on where and how their foods are made, grown, raised and by whom. Millennials and Generation Z have been shaped by the recession and terrorism and, as a result, are willing to work hard for a stable future. They are financially cautious and demand good value from the foods they consume in and out of home. They hate corporate greed; don’t trust brands and demand transparency.
In the age of social media and easily accessible information, it is harder for conglomerates to hide. At ChefXChange we are all about empowering chefs and diners and not brands. All our chefs are looking to share their passion and values around the food they prepare. They rely heavily on locally sourced and in-season ingredients to help to drive sustainability in our core cities. It is important for foodtech start-ups to lead the way when it comes to sustainability.
The nostalgic foodie
We see many requests coming through our platform from foodies looking for an authentic, home-cooked meal that reminds them of their grandma’s or mother’s cooking. This generation is more likely to eat fresh home-cooked meals, look for healthier offerings, and think that cooking is cool. Platforms, such as YouTube or Foodgawker, and TV shows, like MasterChef, ProChef, and others, have gained a lot of popularity and have a huge follower base.
Many foodtech start-ups also put authenticity and nostalgia at the forefront of their offering: you can now order food from your neighbour, or while traveling, have an authentic meal with a local family instead of dining out in a restaurant.
The adventurous foodie
Millennials and Generation Z are also the most ethnically diverse generation, therefore, ethnic foods are the norm. As an example, Peruvian was the trend for 2016, and I expect Cuban to be the one for 2017.
In line with the sustainability problem we are facing, where raising cattle is becoming more expensive, we are moving to other sources of protein, such as insects, which has been the rave in Asia for a few years now, and Western countries are starting to experience it. I had my first fried crickets in Thailand in 2009.
Food waste is a huge and growing issue. As more organisations try to combat this issue, people also try to implement food-saving tactics in their own purchasing and food care practices. This presents a huge opportunity for foodtech entrepreneurs, and it is not just an altruistic cause.
We encourage people to create fridge filler menus to avoid food waste and educate our foodies about this growing problem. Preventing your own food waste can save you big bucks at the grocery store.
Self-prepared meal kit delivery services have capitalised on this by creating meal plans with precisely proportioned ingredients, thus saving on food waste and their own bottom lines.
Karl Naim, Co-founder and CEO of ChefXChange, an online private chef service.