FoodTech: What Trends for Food and Tech in 2021?

Published on 20 July 2021

Reading time 9 minutes

To celebrate the reopening of the restaurants, we chose to talk about the food of the future! What if we told you that Food and Tech are a perfect match? Discover the world of FoodTech, its challenges, its trends, the players on the market, and much more...

Many actors are mobilizing this year to create the tomorrow's restaurant industry: a simplified, digitalized, and innovative sector on the horizon—and you haven't seen the last surprise!


After going through a challenging crisis that forced them to shutter for months on end—much to the despair of food lovers—the restaurant industry is at last starting to rise from its ashes. But before we dig any deeper into this topic, let's explain what FoodTech is.


So what's FoodTech?


FoodTech: definition


FoodTech brings together all restaurants, startups, entrepreneurs, and other actors wishing to connect technology with cuisine. According to DigitalFoodLab, FoodTech can be divided into six distinct categories:

  • AgTech (Agricultural Technology) combines technology and agriculture to help create farms for the future: connected farms that can reduce their environmental footprint, and urban farms to bring fresh food to cities.
  • FoodScience imagines and produces the food of tomorrow through research and creation of new and healthier food products.
  • FoodService gathers all the startups that want to reinvent restaurant management: from reservation platforms to cash register software, including foodservice management (online presence, cash register management, and more).
  • Coaching and other advising services guide and accompany end consumers during their purchases and throughout the food cycle, including personalized nutritional needs, dietary recommendations, culinary recipes, and transparency on product quality.
  • Delivery can include ready-to-eat meals, groceries, and meal kits (delivery of ingredients to be able to cook one's own meal to measure).
  • Retail or food distribution ranges from supply chain data to automatic and intelligent distribution of meals, groceries, etc. 

Thus, the FoodTech umbrella covers all stages of digital and technological activities related to food: production, processing, distribution, and consumption.


In short, this fast-growing sector will never have been as solicited and dynamic as in 2021. COVID-19 has totally shaken up our consumption habits, magnifying some and creating still others:

  • Ordering food from your couch 
  • Reducing food waste
  • Strengthening product traceability 
  • And much more!

The progress of technology has allowed us to adapt to sanitary restrictions and the closing of restaurants, cafés and bars to be able to enjoy ourselves from home, but also to be interested in healthier food and food consumption that limits waste and contributes to the health of our planet. 


FoodTech's next goal: to feed 10 billion people in a healthy way by 2050


The FoodTech market


First of all, it's important to remember that the FoodTech market could reach a total turnover of $294 billion in 2022!

With more than 4,000 startups worldwide, these startups have already raised a whopping $20 billion in 2019.


Who are the FoodTech players?


Among the best known, we can cite:

  • Tripadvisor: the American travel platform that allows you to consult millions of reviews on accommodations, restaurants, experiences, airlines, or even cruises—all to help you make the best choice by comparing prices and services.
  • TheFork (formerly La Fourchette, renamed TheFork after its acquisition by TripAdvisor): this French restaurant reservation platform is number 1 in Europe and boasts 80,000 partnering restaurants. Along the same lines as TripAdvisor, it allows you to compare restaurants according to reviews, menus, and prices.
  • Frichti: the French web and mobile application that prepares and delivers your meal to your home or office. This service is currently available in several cities in France (Paris and outlying suburbs, as well as Lyon, Lille, and Bordeaux). It plans to expand abroad soon.
  • Deliveroo and Uber Eats: express delivery platforms for ready-made meals from restaurants that you can follow live on your phone.
  • Le Fooding: a 100% digital catalog to find the best addresses in terms of hotels and restaurants throughout France.

But if we look now at startups, about 50 are attached to FoodTech, and most are in the delivery sector—more specifically, prepared meals. However, there is a gradual movement towards the delivery of food products from supermarkets, but also in the fight against food waste. For this last point, we can mention Too Good to Go, an application that allows you to buy reasonably priced unsold food.


We'll see it later in this article, but it's important to note that not all FoodTech startups are based in the US! They also come from Asia and Europe. In its report "2021 STATE OF THE EUROPEAN FOODTECH ECOSYSTEM" DigitalFoodLabs put Europe's share of investment in the global FoodTech market at over 12%. Lately, more and more investors have started to invest in startups that offer home delivery like Deliveroo and Ubereats, for example. And now they are investing in companies that can become the next FoodTech unicorns. To name a few examples: 


Gousto


This British startup offers "meal kits"—all ingredients consumers need to cook the meal they desire are delivered to their door.


Gorillas:



This German startup offers an on-demand multifaceted delivery service: everything from food to beauty care.


Oatly:


This Swedish startup produces its own plant-based milk from oats, in various formats: milk cartons, yoghurts, ice creams... In addition to being a FoodTech startup, it ranks number 1 among FoodScience startups thanks to its $235 million fundraising in 2020.


But with changing food trends and consumption patterns, FoodTech companies have had to adapt and find innovative solutions to meet emerging needs: fast, simplified, and digitalized catering. For example, the autonomous vehicle Nuro was designed to make deliveries. It was in Texas that the first Domino's and Nuro partnership was created. Customers living near a Domino's pizzeria can now have their order delivered!


FoodTech and the pandemic: how does the food industry benefit from technology?


While the pandemic impacted the large majority of restaurants, not all kitchens had to close their doors entirely. On the contrary, as we saw earlier, some remained open for online orders and home deliveries thanks to services such as Deliveroo or UberEats. That's money in the pocket for all those who would have otherwise lost income due to the pandemic! 


To give you an idea of the effect of the health crisis on the e-commerce market and the share of online food worldwide, the former has risen by 45.5% while the latter weighs 6.5%.


FoodScience also seems to stand out among the emerging trends: there is a growing concern about the food of the future. The way we produce, consume, and preserve what we eat has become central to our society. 


The startup Tetramos makes it possible to keep an eye on the refrigerator and freezer temperatures and consult them in real time from any PC, tablet, or smartphone. In case of elevated temperatures or power failures, Tetramos alerts its customers by SMS or email.


What are the trends in 2021 for the FoodTech sector?


In their annual report on the state of the art of European FoodTech, DigitalFoodLab highlights 5 main points:


1. Investment in European FoodTech was as high in 2019 as in 2020


Contrary to what one might think, the pandemic will not have slowed down investment in European FoodTech. In 2019 and 2020, investors would have placed the same amount of money in this sector: €2.7 billion.


2. Key investment sources are shifting from AgTech and delivery to "cloud" or "ghost" kitchens and food science


There is a movement of major sources of investment from the beginning of the food value chain right through to the end.


Between 2018 and 2019, investments were mostly focused on AgTech. In contrast, investments in the years 2021 and 2022 will be directed toward:

  • Delivery of groceries or meals
  • Cloud kitchens: commercial kitchens that provide food businesses with the facilities and services to prepare food for delivery or takeout
  • The development of food products, proteins, legumes, etc. (e.g.: soy steak, almond milk...) that are healthier for the environment—but also for human beings

3. The third generation of FoodTech startups is emerging and shaking up trends


There are now 3 generations of FoodTech startups:

  • First generation: startups focused on delivery like Deliveroo, Ocado, HelloFresh
  • Second generation: startups that deliver not only meals from restaurants, but also everyday food for instance. One example is Oda, Norway's first online supermarket offering a wide range of high-quality groceries and fresh produce at affordable prices 
  • Third generation: considered as the future of food, it gathers startups that think about tomorrow's food products, and future consumer trends. For example, the Dutch company  Mosa Meat, which has raised $85 million to industrialize the production of artificial meat, or the French company Ÿnsect, which transforms insects into ecological, healthy, sustainable, and high value-added ingredients for animals, fish and plants, and plans to extend these food products to humans. Notably, this startup has raised over €300 million in 2020.

The first two generations have one thing in common: they're startups in the middle of their development phase. As for the third generation, these are startups that are raising large amounts of money—which is why investors are so keen on them!


4. European FoodTech: Europe divided into five major hubs


Wondering how the FoodTech ecosystem is broken down? 

  • Great Britain has been a leader throughout the last few years;
  • France is in the starting blocks to become number 1;
  • Then come Germany, the Benelux countries and the Nordic countries.

5. Investors are snapping up rising startups and unicorns


As cited earlier, investments in FoodTech were as high in 2019 as they were in 2020. But if we take a closer look at the trends, we see a significant increase in the overall amount of investment in FoodTech startups globally. Investors are now opting for riskier—but still more innovative—projects. 


The actors of these investments are mainly in Europe, the United States, China, and India. What's more, these investors are snapping up rising startups in the making: they prefer to invest in an early-stage startup and participate in its growth. For example, Gorillas raised over €52 million before it could be counted among the FoodTech unicorns. 


To learn more


FoodTech is a promising sector that is attracting growing interest from investors, and investments are focusing on the "transformation" axis. Innovation and technology will play a growing role in tomorrow's food.


Meanwhile, many of our Wilders from the food sector have also turned to digital technology! Read our interview with Paul-Emmanuel and Martin—both web developers in the making.


And if your passion lies in web development, we invite you to visit our web developer training page.