Traditional food enterprises are coming under fire from new competitors, as some of the world’s most successful venture capitalists make big bets on the food industry.
Leading the way in the US are Silicon Valley venture capitalists, investing riches from the internet’s largest companies in new food startups.
In the last year, they have put about $350 million into food projects.
The most worrying aspect of this trend for established food companies is that this newest wave of start-ups is seeking to use technology to completely change the way people buy food, and in some cases to invent entirely new foods.
Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel and Microsoft’s Bill Gates are among those giving financial backing to Hampton Creek Foods, based in San Francisco, which uses about a dozen vegetables and other plant sources — including peas, beans and sorghum — to make an egg substitute.
Their marketing strategy includes highlighting poor animal welfare in conventional egg production.
Founder Josh Tetrick’s stated mission is to replace eggs and other agricultural products with plant-based alternatives.
“Emulsifying plant product cuts out the need for grain to be transported, fed to birds for them to then produce eggs, and thereby reduces carbon and waste,” he says.
“We want to create a whole new model that makes the old egg production system obsolete.”
He says the Hampton Creek artificial egg costs 18% less than real eggs.
Already, the company sells an egg-free mayonnaise and a powdered egg product for baking.
The firm is developing a scrambled egg substitute, almost indistinguishable from real eggs in both taste and texture, according to testers.
The new wave of high-tech food start-ups includes Lyrical Foods, which makes cheese from almond milk and macadamia milk under the Kite Hill name, the first non-dairy cheese to be sold by Whole Foods in the US.
The Nu-Tek Salt company uses potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride, to lower sodium intake.
Beyond Meat and Sand Hill Foods are making vegetable burgers, and claim they taste and grill more like beef than others on the market.
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