- Impossible Foods
Americans consume more meat than they used to. They drink less milk, but eat much more cheese. Grain products, like cereals and baked goods, have skyrocketed in popularity. And while the average American eats about 2% more fruits today than in the early ’70s, they also consume 2% fewer vegetables.
That’s according to a recent Pew Research report, which looked at how the average American diet has changed from 1970 to today.
The typical American meal will probably continue to change. And a growing number of food-tech startups are trying to be a part of whatever comes next.
They’re coming up with new ways to produce meat, dairy, and veggies – from growing vegetables in warehouses under LEDs to engineering meat in labs. Most are focused on the consumption of less meat and more plants, and away from traditional modes of agriculture.
Here are some of the companies leading the transformation of the food industry:
Memphis Meats — Lab-grown chicken, duck, and meatballs
- Memphis Meats
The company, which has raised $3.05 million, produces the meat by cultivating animal muscle tissue in a sterile environment. The team hopes to reduce production costs over the next few years, and begin offering its products to the public in 2021.
Memphis Meats claims it can make beef and poultry much more efficiently than traditional farms (by doing it indoors without killing animals). However, as Business Insider’s Ariel Schwartz previously reported, lab-grown meat still requires fetal serum, which comes from unborn calves and chicks, to start the cultivation process. Memphis Meats told The Wall Street Journal in 2016 that it expects to replace the serum with something plant-based soon.
Apeel Sciences — Fruit and vegetables that last longer
A Santa Barbara-based startup called Apeel Sciences says it has invented edible coatings that can extend a fruit or vegetable’s shelf life by as much as five times. That means, if you spray it on a ripe strawberry that’s starting to wither it will last about a week longer than normal.
Made of leftover plant skins and stems, the coatings act as barriers that slow down the decay process. You can apply it to produce anytime during its lifespan. Apeel could even make a bunch of bananas grown at the same time each ripen on different days.
Six farms in Southern California, Kenya, and Nigeria are using Apeel’s products, CEO James Rogers previously told Business Insider.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved Apeel’s first products, Edipeel and Invisipeel, as “generally recognized as safe,” meaning they’re fine to eat and sell.
AeroFarms: Greens grown indoors
- Leanna Garfield/Tech Insider
The vertical farming startup AeroFarms works inside a 69,000-square-foot warehouse in Newark, New Jersey.
The company, which has raised $95.8 million since its 2004 launch, grows greens on trays stacked 30 feet from the floor to the ceiling. Instead of natural sunlight and soil, the crops rely on LEDs and nutrient-dense water.
To get to mass production, workers are using data to monitor and learn about the plants. AeroFarms’ growing trays collect 30,000 data points on things like temperature, humidity, CO2, and oxygen levels. AeroFarms’ data scientists then mine the data to predict how future crops will grow.
Critics of vertical farming worry about how much energy the technique wastes, since LEDs need to shine 24-7 to produce a high volume of plants. And since energy costs are so high, it’s uncertain whether vertical farmers can grow greens at an affordable price long-term.
The greatest promise of vertical farming, however, is that it will bring fresher produce closer to urban areas.
“Cities have a lot of mouths to feed. We have population growth, urbanization, and we need better ways to feed humanity that are sensitive to the environment,” AeroFarms’ CEO and founder David Rosenberg told Business Insider. “Vertical farms are one of many solutions.”
Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods: Meatless beef and chicken
- Melia Robinson
Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are two food startups that make burgers – made mostly from coconut oil and pea, wheat, or potato protein – from plants. The ultimate goal is to have the meat taste like the real thing.
Impossible Foods currently supplies its signature patty to eight restaurants in New York and California. In March 2017, the startup – which has raised $182 million – announced its first large-scale production factoryon the West Coast. The facility will churn out at least one million pounds of meatless “meat” per month, or four million burgers, once the site is up and running later in 2017. Earlier this year, Impossible also said it was in conversation with McDonald’s to supply the fast-food giant with its burger.
Beyond Meat’s burgers are available in eight of BurgerFi’s locations, as well as in certain Whole Foods and at the small West Coast vegetarian chain Veggie Grill. Beyond has a long list of backers, including Bill Gates, who have invested $17 million in the startup to date.
Hampton Creek: Egg-less mayo
- Hampton Creek
Best known for its egg-less mayo, Hampton Creek produces a variety of vegan products, like mixes, dressings, cookies, pasta, and cookie dough. In June, the San Francisco-based company also announced that its scientists are working on meat grown in a lab (like Memphis Meats).
Hampton Creek, which has raised more than $120 million, has dealt with plenty of controversy. Leading up to a venture capital funding round in 2014, the startup also paid contractors to buy its vegan mayo to appear like there was more interest from shoppers, Bloomberg reported in 2016. Hampton Creek claimed that the buyout program was for quality control purposes.
Finless Foods and New Wave Foods — Slaughter-free seafood
These two startups aim to produce slaughter-free yet realistic versions of seafood, like bluefin tuna and shrimp.
While Brooklyn-based Finless Foods is looking to make cultured tuna from fish cells, San Francisco’s New Wave is taking a plant-based approach. The latter startup has made steamed “shrimp” from algae oil and pea protein, and has raised $250,000 in funding.
Finless, which has raised an undisclosed amount and launched in early 2017, has not announced when its first product will become available to the public. New Wave currently sells to some colleges and restaurants, and has said it will launch its shrimp in “select US markets,” including California and Nevada, by the end of 2018.