Even though the very tumultuous 2020 is finally behind us the pandemic and its influence on consumer behavior is far from over. Having altered the ways in which consumers source their food, we’ve seen a strong shift in the food tech industry, with consumers becoming more aware than ever of what they are ingesting.

From makeup and beauty products to the food and beverages we consume, the major theme that has been reinforced following the pandemic is health and well-being. This holistic approach to health has impacted many industries, among them the food tech industry that has become one of the fastest-growing industries having raised a total of $18.1 billion in venture capital in 2020.

 

Changing the Way We Eat

With the pandemic causing food tech companies to come up with innovative ways to introduce the origins of their products to consumers, we’ve seen a major change in the food retail world. The online food delivery segment’s global revenue has nearly doubled since 2017 and predictions expect the figure to reach almost 96,864.4 million dollars worldwide by 2024.

Increasing concern regarding consumers’ food safety as well as worker’s safety, supply chain resilience, sustainability, and an 840% increase in weekly sales via online ordering, have changed the way people eat. This goes hand in hand with the growth of the food tech industry which is going through a surge of new development that will guarantee consumers receive and gain the confidence they need in their food. Here are the major trends in the foodtech world.

 

Consumption Shift Towards Flexitarianism

With consumer attitudes towards meat changing, there is a rise in the number of flexitarians — people with a primarily vegetarian diet that occasionally eat meat or fish. Motivated by their concerns over our environmental footprint and animal welfare as well as by a desire to eat healthier foods, they prefer meat substitutes that do not consist of high levels of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance. In fact, almost a third of all Europeans no longer consider themselves full meat-eaters anymore. The proportion of American vegans rose from 1%-6%, a 600% increase, between 2014-2017 with China expected to grow to become the fastest-growing vegan market.

 

Alternative Proteins and Vegan Substitutes

The desire to switch to an alternative protein and nut-based diet, including soy, seitan, legumes and oat milk has even caused two major players in the US dairy industry, Dean Foods and Borden Dairy Co. to file for bankruptcy. The Austria and Schwaben (Germany) cross-border region is well-known for its specialized knowledge in milk and cheese products and protein production while countries such as Israel have watched as the alternate protein market grew 13 times more than traditional protein products, during the coronavirus pandemic. Due to its reduced costs and availability, soy dominates the overall Alternative Proteins market and has been widely used in wafers, snacks, cookies and other food products. In the first quarter of 2020 and prior to the pandemic, alt-protein investment reached about $900 million – the same amount this sector raised in all of 2018.

 

Cultured Meat and Cellular Agriculture

The pandemic caused a meat shortage in several countries, raising a need for the development of alternative solutions. While still in early stages, cultured meat cultivated under lab conditions from animal cells could eventually become the solution during future pandemic-like situations. Unlike plant-based products that attempt to recreate the taste or appearance of meat, cell-cultured products are essentially meat, apart from being cultured outside the animal. Due to consumers’ growing awareness regarding red meat as the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and due to the rise of animal welfare awareness around the world, the switch to cellular agriculture, a.k.a cruelty-free meat produced by in vitro cell culture of animal cells is widely growing.

Leading Europe’s “vegalution”, Germany has one of the largest vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian populations and has produced a total of ‎€272,8 million worth of meat substitutes in 2019, selling 20 thousand tonnes of plant-based alternatives in the beginning of 2020. In the meantime, Israel has opened the world’s first lab-grown meat restaurant and countries including Denmark , Germany and Sweden have already debated a meat tax. Globally, there are over 30 lab-grown meat companies, and the numbers are only rising.

 

Superfoods and Super-Ingredients

Now more than ever, companies are launching food and beverages with immunity-boosting ingredients. These various varieties of food are rich in fibers, vitamins, antioxidants, polyphenols and minerals that strengthen the immune system, improve metabolism, and protect the body and skin. In fact, the cosmetics industry has taken note with an increased use of superfood ingredients in beauty and personal care products and the Global Superfoods Market size is expected to reach $209.1 billion by 2026.

With the world’s population expected to reach around nine billion people by 2050, the growing hunger for food will likely outpace production if we don’t make a change today. There is no wonder then that the aforementioned growing food tech trends are set to become the new norm.