The changes in the food industry

EatingDanielle Gould of Food Tech Connect put on a salon at Ma Peche this week called Food Media Re-imagined: Ecomerce & Digital Strategies.  I was on the panel with Amanda Hesser of Food 52 and Stacey Rivera of Bon Appetit.  It was a really good panel with a lot of interesting conversation.  I also liked the intimacy of the room.

The questions ranged from what are the most significant changes we have seen in the food industry over the past 5 years to how do food content sites make money to what kind of opportunities are there in this industry.  The one question I keep thinking about is; what will food media and food culture look like in 5 years? 

There is no doubt that food has fueld the economy in NYC over the past 5 years and other areas around the country and even the globe.  Start-ups around food that are purely technologiy plays around data like How Good and pure ecommerce plays such as Mouth that is selling all the indy products that are being made around the country to new consumer products with fresh ingredients and low sodium such as Ricks Picks and marketplaces connecting chefs to consumers for their own use such as Kitchensurfing and commodity exchanges with real data on organic and non-gmo products such as Mercaris Company and curated crowd source recipes layered with content and ecommerce such as Food 52 and the explosion of the coffee world like Blue Bottle Coffee and the pure content plays around what is happening in the food industry including events surrounding food such as Eater.  I know because I have invested in all of these companies. 

Where are we going with all this?  Are we going to see mergers and acquisitions to create one big umbrella for all of the companies I listed?  Are we going to see large companies who understand the power of each of these smart agile start-ups that want to integrate them into their large organizations?  We will see but there is one thing certain that the interest in food is here to stay.

The one thing we did not talk about at our panel is our Governments interest on what is going into each of our bodies based on large corporations such as Monsanto using genetically modified organisms to alter the food we are eating.  Those modifications have allowed farms to literally feed all of us.  Those changes in the DNA of products allow the farms to grow more products and sell more products but with that can come health issues.  We have to wonder why there are so many kids being born with life threatening allergies to food or the rise in cancer. 

There is an article this month in Elle written by Caitlin Shetterly who searched for a cure for whatever she had for three years.  She had a collection of weird symptoms that just never went away and would come in waves.  She finally found a doctor through other series of doctors to diagnosis what she had.  She was allergic to GMO corn.  GMO corn is in almost everything even paper coffee cups that we pick up at the local deli when we grab a coffee to go.  Shetterly and her husband got hard core after the diagnosis and cut corn completely out of their diet.  That is very difficult.  What happened?  After three months she began to feel good and after a year all her symptoms had disappeared.  She felt fantastic.

So when we begin to talk about what will the food industry look like in 5 years, to me, this is one of the biggest questions on the list.  How do we produce enough products to feed the world without making us sick or killing us at the same time.  I might be over exaggerating here but if you think about it there are alot of questions that we should be asking about the food we are putting in our mouths. 


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Actually you are not over exaggerating.I’m on the extreme fringe of nutrition and get pushed by friends about what happens if the world gets healthy–how will enough food get made to feed everyone.I think that big change starts at deep beliefs and it finds a way.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I hope that big change comes too.

      1. awaldstein

        We live in one of the most urban, dense areas in the world and it is very strong here.My belief is that we create change by doing it, each in our own way.And this is not a crunchy niche, it is actually quite horizontal and mainstream.I look at Lianna’s clients–they are mom’s with baby’s in TriBeCa, crossfitters, Victoria Secret models (just opened an agency), just people.This is change happening in front of our faces.

        1. Gotham Gal

          It is happening in front of our faces. It needs to trickle down to the whole country.

          1. awaldstein

            Starting at the urban core is a good strategy.NY, Austin, Seattle, SF, LA, Vancouver.It’s a start.If there is a broader coalition of people discussing this, i’m open to be part of it.

  2. Susan

    90-95% of Soy products are GMO too. I stopped eating those, as well. FYI: 70% of the Virgin Olive Oil on store shelves isn’t really Virgin Olive Oil! I switched to Coconut and Grapeseed oil as a result. There’s not enough profit in those oils to swap them out and sell fakes. (the Olive Oil Industry is 1.5 Billion). Buying food locally and knowing the farm or farmer is a good way to go.

  3. pointsnfigures

    for massive change, it isn’t bottom up generally and things of substance like this. It’s top down. First, because only the wealthy can afford the change. Their early adoption allows companies to begin to get traction that commoditize the change. Companies that target the poor, or “food deserts”, or the middle class will fail because those people will have to allocate too much of their income to it and the change will be hard on them.The other adopters are the ones it affects, as you articulated. Any amount of money will be spent if it makes a material change in their life.There is a point out on the curve (seeing around a corner here I think) that food=medicine—>preventive medicine and translate into health care policy/standards.After trading hogs, investing in, and generally talking to a lot of people in the food industry, I have a good sense of this. (the midwest is all about food, growing, processing and distributing!)Early on in this process, we need to have clear labeling and put choice in the hands of consumers and not government. That will help markets form, and change will happen faster.Some of the change will also start with pure and simple taste. I’d much rather pay a little more and eat some pasture raised berkshire pork than a factory farmed duroc hog. But, it’s my choice and I can taste the difference. Others might not worry about that-and just want the protein value.