Investors developed quite an appetite for food (or at least food tech) in 2015. According to CB Insights:
US-based, VC-backed food tech companies pulled in over $750M in equity funding in the first half of 2015. Specifically, Q2'15 reached a 10-quarter high in funding, with $549M raised across 20 deals, including large rounds to Blue Apron ($135M Series D), Munchery ($85M Series C), and Postmates ($80M Series D).
Over on Kickstarter, Misen, a $65 high-quality chef's knife, raised $1,083,344M from 13,116 backers to become the fourth most funded food project ever on Kickstarter.
The investment trends align with American's dining habits. According to the The Evolution of Eating report released by Acosta:
- Nine out of 10 shoppers surveyed said they prefer eating at home (including cooking, bringing prepared items home or having food delivered). Of those, 61% cited comfort, 60% cited cost and 59% cited convenience as the reasons for their preference.
- Nearly half (46%) of total U.S. diners said they prepared meals at home over the past year. Millennials edge out slightly higher at 48%.
- Eating habits vary across generations. All generations prefer to eat at home, no matter the meal type. However, Millennials reported enjoying cooking the most and Gen Xers did the most dinner planning.
- Health and wellness has a transformative impact on eating. Consumers are becoming even more educated about the connection between diet and wellness. The majority of shoppers (61%) ranked reading food labels as very important to their health and wellness concerns when they grocery shop.
When considering what the trends of food, DIY home cooking and health will serve up next, who better to turn to for insights than a celebrity cook, author and entrepreneur who embraces organic and sustainability? Annabel Langbein is the author of 18 cookbooks and has fronted her own TV series, Annabel Langbein; The Free Range Cook. Not bad for someone with a Diploma of Horticulture from Lincoln University in New Zealand and no formal training as a chef.
"In the hurry of everyday life, cooking is one thing that brings us back to today. Living is about now."--Annabel Langbein
Here's Annabel's list of the food delivery, apps and organic to pay attention to (or plant in your garden) in 2016:
All hail roasted steaks of cauliflower and Charles Phan's addictive combination of brussels sprouts and mushrooms. Plant-centred cooking is the new gastro boom. It's egalitarian, it's good for the planet, it tastes great and your body will love you for it.
DIY Wine Guru
Sitting in a restaurant looking at a list of wines you have never tasted and have no idea about? Fire up your free Delectable Wine app, scan the label and up comes all the info on the wine, price point (the mark-up can be an eye-opener!) and detailed tasting notes and reviews from a community of wine lovers and professionals including sommelier Raj Parr, writer Jon Bonn and winemaker Cathy Corison.
New Flour Flavors
With so many people now identifying as gluten intolerant, a raft of new flours made from ancient grains and nuts bring new flavors and nutrition to the baker's kitchen. But their varying properties mean that baking without gluten can be challenging, so arm yourself with Alice Medrich's well-researched, clever book Flavor Flours.
Do Those Fries Come With Ketchup?
Whether you call it a "pota-tom" or a "tom-tato" it's a single plant that produces potatoes under the ground and tomatoes above. No GMOs here, just a conventional grafting process so you save garden space and get two-for-one harvests!
Are Fermented Foods The New Prozac?
Research increasingly suggests the bacteria in fermented foods and drinks like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and yogurt change the makeup of gut microbes, leading to the production of compounds that modify brain chemistry and affect mood. How appealing to think that a bottle of active yoghurt twice a day could reduce anxiety.
The natural glutamates in foods are known as umami--a word borrowed from Japanese that roughly translates as savoury deliciousness. The trend for chefs to layer up umami-rich ingredients, such as parmesan, fish, shellfish, miso, pork, chicken and beef, seaweed, oyster and soy sauces, eggs, tomato paste, green tea and mushrooms, to create deeply flavored 'umami bomb' dishes means they don't need to add fat to deliver lip-smacking satisfaction.
Back To Our Roots
Heirloom and heritage fruit and vegetables are on the rise--not just for their superior flavor but for their denser nutrition and the fact that they ensure DNA diversity in the food chain. Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers all over the globe have abandoned multiple local varieties for high-yielding, uniform crops that withstand global transportation and supermarket shelf-life. Now 75 percent of the world's food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species. Farmers can grow two or three times as much as they could 50 years ago, but according to the journal HortScience some varieties of vegetables and fruit have lost up to 40 percent of their nutrient content. Welcome back the flavors of old-fashioned fruit and vegetables and the power punch of good health they provide.
You Don't Have To Be A Chef To Cook Like One
If you're a fan of Ren Redzepi's A Work in Progress, The French Laundry Cookbook, Modernist Cuisine, Momofuku or Peter Gilmore's Quay and enjoy all the culinary backflips of spherification, sous-vide and fancy-pants cheffy techniques, then chefsteps.com and its free companion app are your one-stop-shop, combining fabulous production values with hipster style to bring you all the low-down on on-trend recipes and methods.
Beeswax Food Wrap
Take organic cotton muslin, coat in melted beeswax and you have a very clever combination that equals plastic wrap for keeping food fresh and stopping it from drying out. No petrochemicals involved, and it's reusable--we just have to make sure we look after the bees properly. You can make your own or buy it from a few artisan producers.
Cities Going Green
Food scraps make up 40 percent of the garbage going into landfills and contribute not insignificantly to greenhouse gases. In 2015 both the City of Vancouver and Metro Vancouver regional district banned food scraps from disposal as garbage--instead they're making fabulous organic compost to create wonderful gardens and landscapes. More please!
Commerce With A Conscience
In their battle for the $5 billion American dinner plate, online meal kits including Blue Apron, Plated, Chef'd, Chefday, HelloFresh, Din, Marley Spoon, The Purple Carrot, Just Add Cooking, PeachDish and grocery/meal delivery services such as FreshDirect, Instacart, Munchery, Peapod and UberEats are revolutionizing the way Americans eat dinner. Amidst this dollar growing line-up, a new player on the block, Oooby (short for Out Of Our Back Yards), has just launched its first outpost, in Fresno. Oooby is a social company (a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective) originally launched in New Zealand, with a mission to make local food convenient, affordable and fair everywhere. The company reinvests all profits into developing local food production and ensures that all participants in the supply chain are rewarded fairly. Consumers get the benefits of the freshest local organic food and growers get properly paid. Win win.