The evolution of the food industry over the last five years has been startling, from the farm-to-table movement to the meteoric rise in the popularity of plant-based diets. With the younger generation leading the charge for better food, it’s little surprise that startups and apps have been at the forefront of these changes.
Food companies, new and old, have all begun to take radically different approaches to improving the way consumers think about food, particularly when it comes to important concerns around waste and the environment. However, the startups which have been founded to tackle these issues aren’t attempting to be disruptive in the same way as many of their counterparts in other industries. Instead, they are simply endeavouring to create a more sustainable world, setting the table for a healthier, more eco-friendly future of food. Here are three major players to watch.
Huel was founded in 2014 with the aim to create nutritionally complete food which is quick to prepare. Although it isn’t the first powdered meal to hit the market, the product’s design is the first to provide one’s complete daily nutritional requirements via an all-natural list of seven ingredients. The company’s founder, Julian Hearn, has recently discussed the need to provide a “more frictionless” approach to a balanced diet, eradicating the need for lengthy cooking times or costly ingredients.
The product’s packaging is also designed to minimize the amount of waste consumers produce over the course of a year. Bearing in mind that the most recent figures have shown that the average Brit generates 412kg of waste per year, this is a consideration more brands should take.
Furthermore, it is versatile beyond simply mixing with water; acolytes take to the Huel Facebook page on a daily basis, discussing recipes, flavors and tips, as well as interacting directly with the company. Creating this kind of dialogue with their customers shows that Huel is a brand that takes the time to listen to their audience’s concerns and comments, allowing the people who use Huel to have a hand in its future.
In 2012, the UK experienced one of its worst harvests in living memory, leading to a reduced crop of fresh fruit and vegetables in its supermarkets. However, the cosmetic standards of the produce that was grown were relaxed in some supermarkets. This came on the heels of published estimates that stores reject up to 40% of fruits and vegetables for being irregularly shaped or coloured.
Since then, the campaign for “wonky vegetables” has grown significantly, and London startup Oddbox has been at its head, providing a subscription service delivering boxes of imperfect looking produce. The couple behind the company, Emilie Vanpoperinghe and Deepak Ravindran, obtain the contents of their Oddboxes from global sources—“from farms and packhouses where imported goods are sorted”—and donate any remainders to food banks and charities.
The number of people adopting plant-based diets rose by 350% between 2006 and 2016, and the number of restaurants and startups opening to cater for this newfound popularity has expanded with similar fervour. As Huel and Oddbox have demonstrated, delivery services for vegan nutrition and ingredients are big business, but the parallel rise of meal kits like HelloFresh has created an instant gap in the market for a plant-based subscription service. Enter AllPlants.
Having recently received £800,000 in investment, the startup aims “to create the UK’s first environmentally sustainable way to deliver delicious food worldwide”. The meals are “freshly frozen”, meaning they lose a minimal amount of nutrients before reaching customers’ tables, which allows them to balance nutritional concerns with convenience. The company is prospering too—although these take the form of vegan frozen ready meals, recent figures have shown that half of AllPlants’ customer base actually eats meat.
So whilst the major supermarkets are now offering vegan ready meals and wonky veg, it has taken startups to lay the crucial groundwork in setting out their vision of what the future of food could look like.