What is the Future of Food?
I sat down with a founder in the food space this past week and we lightly touched upon the future of food. That includes everything from restaurants to kitchen appliances to what we consume. Who would have thought that food would have been such a tremendous disruption point. There has been a lot of capital put into new consumer products, delivery services, new fast casual restaurants, bio-science of protein products and more. When major shifts are happening in verticals, there is always the first round of companies that push us in new directions but most of them fail. It is the second round of companies that are usually the most interesting and have a higher rate of success.
Let’s start with delivery. Kozmo proved that people want delivery back in the 90’s. Unfortunately it was a different time and the amount of capital that had to deployed to make it work outside of NYC (where it was making money) was extremely difficult. Fast forward to the last few years, we have seen the rise of food delivery services that are still struggling to make ends meet yet the demand is insanely high and will continue to grow. Where this all lands, is up for discussion, but no doubt that food delivery (and any delivery) is here to stay.
People are starting to care more about what they put in their bodies. The rise of new consumer products on your grocery shelves are gluten-free, vegan and short shelf-lives because of the fresh ingredients and from new food entrepreneurs vs. large enterprise companies such as Nestles and General Mills. Generation Z is going to want those products more than anything else. It is still insanely difficult to build a brand inside grocery when grocery chains still operate from something out of 1960. From trucking to stocking the shelf to constant discounts, it is not a way to manage a business in 2018. There are opportunities in this arena and many of these young companies are figuring out how to sell directly to the consumer so they can own that consumer although remember that 97% of the people still walk into the grocery store for their products.
The amount of new fast casual concepts grow daily. Will we see those rise to the top and destroy the market share of McDonalds and TacoBell? Time will tell but my gut tells me yes. It will probably take awhile for many of these places to take over in the midwest but it is only a matter of time and of course capital to make that happen. The customers in those regions read about all these places but nobody is serving them and they should.
How about the meat and fish products that are being recreated as plant based products. Shrimp that tastes like shrimp, looks like shrimp but isn’t shrimp. Is the future a T-bone that looks like a T-bone, tastes like a T-bone and actually has the texture of a T-bone? There are certainly more than a few companies working on this. My fear is if we get there, our country will be overrun by cattle. If you ever driven across the US, it is unbelievable how many cows live here.
Smart appliances are evolving. Soon your refrigerator will realize that you are out of butter based on how much you generally keep in your fridge and tell Suri or Alexa to order it and your robotic housekeeper, Rosie, will take the package when it comes and replace it in the fridge. The only thing you will see is the bill unless of course you just use online checking and pay little attention to the funds that go in and out of your account. Ovens are able to do everything from steam cooking to convection to just plain old baking. What’s next?
The craziest thing I saw was the robot that is programmed to cook gourmet meals by simulating top chefs (ab0ve). When will the cost come down to the price where everyone will have their own personal computerized chef that comes with a toque monogrammed with the family name.
The food space is changing. Ten years from now we will all be eating, shopping and consuming everything in the food space in a completely different way….or perhaps not. Only time will tell.