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Food Start-up Trends 2023

The world is slowly and cautiously breaking free from the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some sectors of the economy need to reorganize and restructure in order to recover. Others, like the food industry, continue to thrive.

People need sustenance, and given the appropriate financial means, they seek more than just any food.

A world of paradigm shifts

Trend researchers point out that the desire for healthy and sustainable food is no longer merely a symbolic gesture. No, it has become a demand. Especially younger generations yearn for food that satisfies their desires and visions. While the connoisseurs of the 1950s once dreamed of a better world with dishes like “Toast Hawaii” and visions of palm trees and sandy beaches, today’s focus is on healthy, sustainable food. This desire is accompanied by the globally announced “new normality,” which marks the beginning of the post-COVID phase. It is driven by a paradigm shift in which health, safety, and hygiene go hand in hand with fairness and ethics. Regarding food, this means that nutrition should be good for both the human body and the world. Against this backdrop, food trends that have been emerging for years are gaining momentum: zero waste, vegourmets, local exotics, e-food, and real omnivores. And it is precisely these future trends that some innovative startups are capitalizing on.

Trend 1: Fighting against waste

Waste could be considered one of the biblical deadly sins, and for environmentally conscious connoisseurs, it certainly is. Top chefs have long been promoting the use of every part of a food item to minimize food waste. Inspired by this concept, there are unpackaged stores and food waste apps. One startup, BRüSLi, pursues a similar approach by producing crispy muesli from surplus bread combined with natural fruits, spices, and nuts. The company refers to its product as “muesli for the future” because it combines a unique taste with a simple solution for sustainability. Surplus bread from large bakeries is toasted, mixed with nuts, spices, and other ingredients to create an enhanced breakfast experience. This high-quality bread-based crispy muesli is aimed at our future.

A different approach to resources and food

The vision of BRüSLi is simple: to establish a new approach to resources and food in order to minimize food waste. It should be noted that the city of Graz discards as much bread daily as it consumes. This is where the startup comes in, linking the surplus to its reuse. Another startup, Organic Labs, focuses on zero waste as well. They offer a self-made oat drink that is good for the consumer and the environment. Organic Labs develops highly sustainable consumer goods that aim to provide a new user experience from purchase and preparation to consumption and beyond. Specifically, the oat drink eliminates the need for beverage carton packaging. The powder consists of enzymatically hydrolyzed oat flour, which can be mixed with water to create oat drink. Thanks to a 90% reduction in transport weight, significant transportation emissions are saved. Moreover, the use of paper packaging reduces packaging waste by 94%.

Zero CO2 emissions

Paddies, a savory snack with the dip already incorporated, achieves zero CO2 emissions. It is produced exclusively using renewable energy sources, completely eliminating CO2 emissions. The startup company, Selectum, already produces Paddies without any CO2 emissions, giving it a significant advantage over established snack manufacturers.

Trend 2: Vegourmets

Vegetarian and vegan diets are no longer a unicorn. They have become firmly integrated into our lives and align with the trend against waste and a more conscientious approach to our environment. These dietary choices have even gained momentum due to the COVID-19 crisis. People had more time to experiment with vegetarian and vegan dishes at home. Now, people are returning to restaurants and they expect to find vegan and vegetarian options available, even among omnivores. Major fast-food chains have already embraced this trend by offering meatless alternatives to their traditional burgers in select locations.

Animal welfare in focus

Embracing this groundbreaking development in the food market is the start-up GREENFORCE, which offers plant-based meat for self-mixing. What? Yes, this food tech start-up has even received the international Green Product Award and the PETA Vegan Food Award for its innovative concept. All products from GREENFORCE and the company itself are 100% carbon neutral. It skillfully replaces animal protein sources with plant-based ones. The company aims to demonstrate that meat and fish don’t have to be of animal origin. It can be plant-based and even healthier and more flavorful. The focus is on animal welfare and sustainability. The products are delivered in resealable, sustainable kraft paper packaging, as GREENFORCE also advocates for zero waste. The products are made from local peas and the resulting plant-based proteins. By producing them in Germany, long transportation distances are avoided.

Plants take the lead

Similar to GREENFORCE, feelfood also offers consumers 100% plant-based products. The start-up Plant Based Power GmbH produces wholesome instant meals under the brand name feelfood, providing the body with all essential nutrients. These meals, packed in cups, only require hot water and are ready in six minutes. Unlike typical instant products, these meals are wholesome and sustainable. All ingredients are 100% organic, vegan, and mostly sourced locally. Tasty plant Food also follows this path with its healthy and diverse snacks, offering vegan treats in organic quality. The start-up’s mission is to provide its customers with better nutrition, including delicious and healthy snacks that contain more fiber and less sugar compared to regular bars. In fact, the glycemic index of SpiceBit products is significantly better than that of comparable snacks. In short, it’s a “return to calorie” that makes sense.

Trend 3: Local Exotics

A culinary paradox is emerging: On one hand, consumers desire regional products, which gained importance especially during the strict COVID-19 restrictions. On the other hand, there is a yearning for something new among consumers. These contradictions can be reconciled by rediscovering the past. Whether through forgotten vegetable varieties or old livestock breeds, there are exotic options to be found from the first half of the last century in this country. Another possibility is giving familiar ingredients a new face – naturally, in a sustainable manner and in line with the new dietary choices. Enter the start-up uptea. The company introduces flavorful teas with an extra dose of natural caffeine. Not only is this caffeine said to provide a better awakening than coffee, but it is also more tolerable and healthier. Coffee’s acidity can irritate the stomach and intestines, whereas tea is generally better tolerated. Additionally, tea is attributed with various health-promoting effects. To ensure sustainability, uptea relies on ingredients of natural origin and tea from controlled cultivation.

Non-Dairy Ice Cream

Everyone knows ice cream. Everyone loves ice cream. But can dairy-free ice cream be enjoyed without lactose? Yes, it can, as demonstrated by the start-up Eisbrunnen. They produce a vegan ice cream that is free from lactose, cholesterol, and animal hormones. However, it is designed to taste like regular dairy ice cream. It is available in the form of ice cream cups and ice cream experience boxes. The milk in the lactose-free ice cream is replaced with plants, which is why the start-up refers to it as “Beyond Ice.” The founders aim to show that a vegan diet is not about deprivation but rather a gain. Additionally, this approach would save a significant amount of CO₂ emissions and prevent animal suffering.

Revival of Mushrooms

Revival, a start-up company, focuses not on ice cream but on ushering in a renaissance of mushrooms and linking them to the superfood hype. To achieve this, the founders give coffee and cocoa an upgrade with “magical ingredients” such as plant-based fibers, adaptogens, and medicinal mushrooms. Just like the ice cream, their hot beverages are always 100% organic, vegan, and healthier than the familiar options. By consciously avoiding the use of water and milk, unnecessary transportation and CO₂ emissions are reduced. Moreover, the start-up donates 1% of its annual revenue to nonprofit partners dedicated to protecting the planet Earth. The company’s philosophy includes the vision of dispelling the fear of mushrooms. According to the company’s statement, medicinal mushrooms, which are individually quite bitter, blend in seamlessly with the bitterness of coffee and cocoa. This makes coffee, cocoa, and medicinal mushrooms a perfect match.

Trend 4: E-Food

To survive the phase of strict COVID-19 restrictions, the gastronomy industry turned to delivery services and takeaway options. For many restaurateurs, this was a zero-sum game, but it kept them in the conversation and ensured their survival. Nonetheless, the rise of delivery services is a significant trend in the food industry. Selling food through digital channels has become part of the new normal. However, reducing digitalization solely to sales would be sacrilege. It also enables new connections between various actors in the food sector, such as food sharing, agricultural marketing communities, and online tastings. Undoubtedly, digitalization fosters a revolutionary connectivity that leads to drastic restructuring in agriculture, food production, and gastronomy. Numerous positive effects can be observed as a result. Guests and consumers are presented with unforeseen opportunities for action that impact their eating and cooking behavior.

Because it’s Easier

Why is E-Food so popular? Because it’s more convenient. People love receiving packages and having their meals prepared for them. They want to focus on their daily activities and save time with E-Food – and sometimes indulge themselves as well. A treat for picnickers is offered by the start-up PicnicPals. It is a family project created by two brothers who combine their passion for food with Greek hospitality. They currently offer picnics at four locations: two in tourist areas in Greece (Rhodes and Chalkidiki) and two in Baden-Württemberg (Stuttgart area and Bruchsal) in Germany. More locations are planned for the future. The brothers aim to establish picnicking as a popular leisure activity in Germany. Their customers purchase a top-quality picnic that is individually curated. Special requests and dietary restrictions are naturally taken into account. Since the weather in Germany is not always favorable, indoor picnics are also available for the home terrace or living room.

Because it is more diverse

The creators of Abonauten are also jumping on the E-Food trend. However, this food start-up from Munich goes one step further by offering E-Food from lesser-known brands. The company’s goal is to “show people that there is much more to discover beyond the big brands with their products, placements, and supermarket listings. Thus, the young company provides a platform for small manufacturers and artisans to promote their high-quality products.” Abonauten currently operates in the categories of gin, whisky, espresso, filter coffee, cheese, champagne, and wine. This is done through a subscription system. The customer receives monthly enjoyment boxes for a desired duration, which are continuously filled with new products. These curated products by Abonauten allow customers to sample them in small quantities. If desired, each product can be subsequently ordered in its original size. This idea seamlessly transitions into another food trend: Real Omnivores.

Trend 5: Real Omnivores

People have an appetite for something new, even in culinary experiences. The true omnivores, or Real Omnivores, indulge in this trend without deprivation but with a focus on a balanced and sustainable diet. They are always open to new things and have no reservations when it comes to food tech innovations. They eagerly try foods with extraordinary ingredients, making them the avant-garde. They examine the current food culture and propel it forward with their curiosity. However, they proceed with consideration, always keeping the well-being of the environment and society in mind. Responsibility and diversity can thus be combined. Eating habits are consciously disrupted to make room for the new. A good example of this is insects as a source of protein. The offerings of Abonauten also appeal to the Real Omnivores. After all, they can discover products that would otherwise remain undiscovered. The Abonauten motto “Try before you buy” aligns perfectly with this mindset.

Ever-changing culinary culture

Culinary culture is in a constant state of flux. This is mainly because culinary culture is rooted in societal megatrends that herald long-term changes in all social and economic domains. These blockbusters include globalization and digitization. Individualization, working from home, gender shifts, and neo-ecology also play a role. Mid-term processes of change that influence our culinary culture should not be overlooked either. What lifestyles exist? What about value orientation? How do the patterns of needs look like? The answers to these questions influence our eating culture. They give rise to sociocultural and consumption trends.

The driving forces

Viewing trends solely as fulfillers of consumer needs, desires, and values is too short-sighted. Instead, they surpass consumer desires. They push the boundaries. The presented start-ups are not mere followers of trends. They expand on food trends and drive them forward. They enable customers to contribute to solving current problems related to the food industry and nutrition. In doing so, start-ups offer solutions and present alternatives to make the future a little better. They serve as an answer to culture-specific wishes, longings, and needs. They are a mirror that also provides guidance for everyday decisions. Perhaps for the first time in human history, the connoisseur assumes an extended role. They consciously participate in shaping the future of the world and desire to do so. This satisfies their desire to give something back to the planet, which is otherwise challenging due to increasingly complex structures in everyday life.

Picture/Source: stock.adobe.com – Boris Stroujko

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