Start-ups and innovators are rising to the challenge of developing new solutions in personal health and nutrition security.
With food brands looking for scalable technologies that improve the nutritional profile of their products, the organisers at Future Food-Tech spoke to 17 active investors to uncover the most exciting emerging technologies in the health and nutrition space.
“Pre- and probiotics (and the combination of both) that go beyond the traditional gut health indication are moving into areas including cognitive health and acute inflammation. Through rapid advances in microbiome analysis, new nutritional products and services will become far more individualised and, as a result, more efficacious,” shares Yoni Glickman, Managing Director, FOODSPARKS BY PEAKBRIDGE
“Personalised functional food for optimal health, was a dominant thesis five years ago. It didn’t really take off because the science behind it was too preliminary. Well, now the science is there, for micronutrients, metabolites, functional proteins and glycans, and even the small RNA we get from specific vegetables. We will see this sector explode,” predicts Po Bronson, GP, SOSV and Managing Director, INDIEBIO
“I am excited that we are at a tipping point, moving to healthier habits and eating patterns due to Covid-19, where immunity and general health has taken front stage. The trend of healthier and tastier plant-based meats will perpetuate, creating more demand. New sources of superfoods that have health benefits and immunity boosting properties will accelerate. Tackling our food waste by valorisation to produce functional foods will grow as we see the effects of food security,” details John Cheng, Director, INNOVATE 360
“Recently, ADM has made significant investments to further research and technology on the microbiome, including plans to construct a state-of-the-art probiotics production facility in Valencia, Spain. We’re excited about emerging technologies like artificial intelligence that help advance understanding of the complex microbiome ecosystem so we can develop new novel functional ingredients and personalized nutrition solutions to the human and animal nutrition markets,” shares Darren Streiler, Managing Director, ADM VENTURES
“The intersection of the microbiome and nutrition is a huge opportunity that is waiting for a breakout winner. We are learning more about how the microbiome is, in essence, an organ in our bodies that impact everything from diabetes to bowel diseases to neurodegenerative diseases to cancer. We can uniquely influence our microbiome through our diets making this the most important vector for health through what we eat on a daily basis,” notes Arvind Gupta, Partner, MAYFIELD
“We’ve still not cracked the code on reduced or zero sugar sweeteners that match the functional properties of sugar, specifically in food applications (vis-a-vis beverages). But a host of start-ups are tackling this challenge and making real progress across dimensions like bulking, mouthfeel, etc. I’m excited to see these technologies scale up production and break through to the market,” shares Dan Philips, Managing Director, CULTIVIAN SANDBOX VENTURES
Health and Nutrition Benefits
“A key driver of physical and mental health is access to high quality nutrition, including proteins. We’re most excited by the pace of innovation in the food supply chain, from analytics to automation, that enables the delivery of food, sustainably and affordably, to our growing global population,“ shares Rahul Ray, Senior Director, TYSON VENTURES
“I’m excited about the emergence of techniques like biomass fermentation to develop plant-based foods that taste better but also have more customizable nutritional profiles. These products can be higher in digestible protein, fibre, probiotics and vitamins than conventionally grown or raised meat/seafood with fewer environmental impacts,” notes Jonathan Hua, Investor, SCRUM VENTURES
“We’re excited by the entire re-making of the food production stack driven by improvements in synthetic biology, demand for plant-based alternatives, and a deeper, physics-based understanding of food production. This is bringing to market healthier, more sustainable food products to replace unhealthy, unsustainable alternatives at every point along the food processing supply chain,” shares Alex Teng, Chief of Staff, FIFTY YEARS
“We at Lever VC continue to see exciting developments around new plant-based protein ingredients with health and nutrition benefits. This includes both the identification of novel proteins (plant proteins not used today, or not commonly used today), and interesting uses of those proteins as ingredients in a range of products,” details Nick Cooney, Managing Partner, LEVER VC
“At Synthesis Capital, we are most excited about new upstream technologies in alternative proteins, which will deliver products offering improved health and nutrition.The most innovative companies are developing new ingredients and processing techniques, which will play an important role in enabling products which meet consumer expectations on nutritional profile. This is key to mainstream adoption, given one of the most important drivers for consumers to shift to alternative proteins is the perceived health benefits of these products,” explains Rosie Wardle, Co-Founder and Partner, SYNTHESIS CAPITAL
“Emerging science has huge potential to revolutionize the health and nutrition space. With our aim of supporting companies focused on increasing individual health and happiness, we’re especially intrigued by the potential of innovation in lab-grown and plant-based meats, alcohol replacement beverages, new/novel ingredients with direct health effects, and food robotics & AI,” notes Holly Jacobus, Investment Partner, JOYANCE PARTNERS
“Animal-free cheese. Cheese has an enormous carbon footprint, and consumers are looking for alternatives. Whoever can have a product that melts, stretches, smells, and gets the golden-brown color like the conventional cheese we all love will see huge consumer demand, after all, 39% of households in the US already buy plant-based milk,” details Maria Buitron, Investor, PIVA CAPITAL
“WHO has classified processed meat as a stage 1 carcinogen. One of the greatest things consumers can do for their health is replace processed meat with alternative proteins. At PowerPlant, we’re amazed by the innovation focused on solving this problem for consumers. I’m most excited about fermentation because this technology has the ability to produce extremely clean label, nutrient dense proteins that promote human health,” details Julianne Hummelberg, Vice President, POWERPLANT VC
“I am most excited about animal-free seafood. Consumers are more aware than ever of the impact that our seafood eating habits are having on our oceans and planet, and are hungry for a product with which they don’t have to compromise on taste, texture or even experience- no one wants to give up on pokebowls or sushi! I’m excited to taste all the plant-based and cell-based alternatives that we may start to see in restaurants as early as later this year,” shares Bennett Cohen, Partner, PIVA CAPITAL
Glucose Monitoring Sensors
“We are excited about the rise of continuous glucose monitoring sensors. It’s not a breakthrough technology as it has been long used for diabetic monitoring for a long time, but the democratization of it is really interesting as glucose monitoring can help with weight control, metabolism improvement and more broadly general wellbeing,” notes Eléonore Lafonta, Senior Analyst, FIVE SEASONS VENTURES
“The most exciting aspect on the technology front in the nutrition and health area is actually the confluence of multiple trends and amazing scientific progress. The emergence of enabling technologies and capabilities in ingredient development, the progress in understanding biological pathways and the microbiota/host interplay and how these biological targets could be modulated are particularly of great interest from investor perspective for plant-based space,” shares Sergio Neves, Head of R&D for Protein, ROQUETTE VENTURES
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