The emergence of new technologies, including mobile app-based services, is transforming the way that the food industry operates, and giving rise to a new digital industry, known as foodtech. Innovations that meet growing consumer demands for convenience, product freshness and environmental sustainability are set to define the future of this sector.
Cook My Grub
The idea for Cook My Grub was conceived in December 2019 by entrepreneurs, Shabbir Mookhtiar and Dinesh Patil when they spotted a gap in the market for home-cooked food that could easily be delivered to people’s homes via a mobile app.
Customers can choose from a wide selection of cuisines from home chefs who have set up their own ‘virtual restaurants’ and have peace of mind knowing that their food meets Food Standard Authority standards.
Previously, both cofounders worked in senior management roles in the corporate world. Both had young families and led busy lives and as a result, faced challenges preparing fresh meals at home.
Mookhtiar says: “At a party on Christmas Eve 2019 we were talking about some of the local home chefs who cooked and sold food in the neighborhood. They were highly rated by many of our friends and also made very authentic ethnic cuisine, only available in specific regions of India.”
That was their Eureka moment. After securing initial angel investment from friends they spent nine months in product development and trials before launching their service. As sales began to soar, they launched a crowdfunding campaign that exceeded its target by 250% and raised £750,000.
The app has 10,000 users and over 400 chefs trading on the platform or in the onboarding program. Mookhtiar says: “As part of our Hygiene Promise, every new chef is trained in allergy awareness and Hygiene Level 2, and supported with local council registration.”
German startup HIER provides an app that enables grocers and stores to handle procurement from all their local suppliers in one place instead of having to individually call or email them. Founded in 2019 by Lara Hämmerle and Mark Jäger, the business connects food suppliers and retailers on the same platform.
“Not only are we putting local food trade on par with the efficiency of global procurement, we are also enabling a more resilient supply chain, which is crucial, given the increasingly frequent shocks we’re facing to global agriculture and logistics,” says CEO Hämmerle.
The two founders realized early on that many foodtech firms are B2C businesses that focus on delivering food to a small percentage of people who live in metropolitan areas and can afford pricey delivery options. “That’s not a scalable market,” says Hämmerle. “Around 95% of people buy their food from brick and mortar food retail. We realized the best way to deliver results was to bring fresh, local food to them.”
The business was pre-seed financed by VCs Pale Blue Dot, Speedinvest, Entrepreneur First, and Yes VC. On the demand side HIER is working with independent grocers within large German cooperatives as well as specialized grocers such as bakeries and butchers, and on the supply side with a diverse range of suppliers, including fruit and veg, dairy, meat, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Founded in 2020, Gardin’s remote sensing technology aims to empower food producers by monitoring and delivering insights on plant health versus the growth environment to reduce waste and make growing food more sustainable.
The company’s full-stack solution is engineered to measure plant crop physiological traits such as photosynthetic activity, biotic and abiotic stress and nutritional density, while driving correlations between the physiology of the plants and crops and the growth environment, enabling food producers to make meaningful interventions exactly when needed.
The business was founded by entrepreneur Sumanta Talukdar. A self-confessed foodie, he had tried to grow his own produce, but with dismal results. He became frustrated at his inability to grow great vegetables at home, while NASA could grow fresh produce in space.
He approached some academics in the field to learn more about the that was technology out there and discovered that the problem was one shared not just by amateur growers, but throughout the food industry. This became Gardin’s mission, delivering remote plant phenotyping for the food supply chain.
Gardin has received pre-seed funding from LDV Capital, Seedcamp & MMC Ventures along with Angel investors and is one of the 32 climate tech companies selected and supported by Tech Nation’s Net Zero Growth program.
Launched in 2019, ShelfNow is a B2B online marketplace that bridges the gap between smaller, high-quality food and beverage producers and independent buyers in the hospitality and retail sectors.
The business was founded by CEO Philip Linardos and COO Sajid Ghani. “The U.K. wholesale F&B sector is huge, and the EU alone, has a turnover of over €100 billion, with smaller businesses accounting for around 50% of this revenue,” says Linardos.
Following discussions with hundreds of businesses, it became clear that both SME food brands and buyers lacked the time and resources to research and do direct sales and procurement. “Instead they relied on traditional incumbent middlemen who are expensive, inefficient and lack transparency,” says Linardos.
The cofounders created an intelligent B2B platform that would harness data-science technologies and the efficiencies of marketplace trading to help producers and buyers trade as directly as possible while lowering costs and enabling buyer and seller relationships to become established. The company handles all payment, billing and fulfillment, further reducing the time spent on admin.
Initially self-funded by the founders, they later acquired angel investor funding, raising from several small strategic angels three times. A larger seed round is currently in progress.