According to a recent survey, nearly one in twelve people considered setting up a business during the pandemic, with many of them actually following through. Far from being a disaster for private enterprise, it seems that furlough and time allowed budding entrepreneurs to experiment with business ideas that had been on the back burner. Who would have thought?
Pandemic food startups are on the way up right now. There are lots of people out there looking for solutions to our culinary problems. And they’re trying to disrupt an established industry that has mostly failed people.
Think about what modern food has become. Humans no longer eat their natural diet – food as it comes out of the ground. Instead, we daily chow down on food-like substances that provide calories but very little nutrition. It’s a disaster for our bodies and entire nations. Lack of good food is causing all kinds of problems in our society, from top to bottom.
Startups, though, have a once in a generation opportunity to correct this sorry state of affairs. Savvy entrepreneurs are getting into the food industry, disrupting the industrial landscape, and creating something that is altogether more focused on promoting our collective wellbeing.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that we see developments like these in the middle of a pandemic. Suddenly, we’re all learning about the fragility of life. And we want to protect it however we can. No wonder many of the world’s brightest minds are focusing their efforts on changing the food landscape once and for all.
Before we delve into the startup scene, it’s worth asking ourselves how we ever managed to get into such a dreadful food situation in the first place. Why are we so unhealthy? And why are our shopping carts packed to the brim with processed food?
The reason for this comes down to incentives.
On the consumer side, there is the obvious rationale that people want to get their dopamine fix every time they eat. Salt, sugar and fat light up the brain and produce feel-good chemicals. It’s addictive and the reason why delicious food is one of the best things in life. It’s something that makes everything else worthwhile. It compensates people for their dreadful relationships, taxes, and their boss who they don’t get on with.
On the producer side, there are incentives too. It just so happens that the very food-like substances that are bad for us are also the most lucrative for manufacturers. Pack something with lots of salt and sugar and refine the natural substances out of it, and it’ll last much longer on shop shelves, boosting margins.
The whole system is conspiring against health. But it’s not anybody’s fault individually. It’s just the way that the incentives have played out. Now it’s perfectly normal to go entire weeks without eating any natural food, as it comes out of the ground. That’s not how we’ve set up our society.
On the plus side, though, we now have more tools than ever to concoct food startups that push back against the system.
One of the ways we see this play out is through distribution channels. Ecommerce changed the world of mail. Humanity built a massive infrastructure to send parcels around the planet. And now food startups are using that to their advantage
Here’s the crucial point: if you want delicious, healthy food delivered to your door, you can get it. You don’t have to go to the shops or find the rare take-out in your area that has something good for you on the menu. There is now a range of private companies that will deliver delicious food to your door, complete with instructions, in just the right quantities. That’s a massive change from only a few years ago.
One of the reasons the legacy food production industry took the goodness out of food was because the packaging was still very basic. You either had cardboard boxes or plastic bags. There wasn’t much else.
Today, though, custom mylar bags are available. And these tend to be much better at preventing whole food from perishing.
Startups are using them in two ways. Firstly, they’re benefiting from the fact that they create a perfect seal around the food, stopping it from going bad. And secondly, they’re combining them with silica packs to absorb any additional moisture or reactive compounds that remain in the bag. The result is a product that can contain all of the regular goodness of traditional food and still be convenient for customers.
Improved Understanding Of Nutrition
There’s a widespread belief out there that nutrition is complicated and people don’t understand it. But that’s more of an artefact of the way the science has been done, not the food itself.
We know what constitutes a healthy diet: plenty of fruits and vegetables, and less junk and meat. It’s really not hard. Yes – there may still be room to tinker around the edge. But practically no nutritionist would deny those basic facts unless they have a specific agenda they want to push.
Startups are also beginning to understand what constitutes proper nutrition too. The days of diet shakes and pills seem to be behind us. There’s a growing awareness that the only route to good health is to eat foods in their natural form. And that is leading to a new wave of food companies looking for innovative ways to get more plants into the diet.
If you’re thinking about setting a pandemic food business, you need to think along these lines. “Health bro” startup Huel has already changed its formula to correspond more closely to natural foods. And it is only a matter of time before other players in the industry follow suit.
The question is how to get it to consumers conveniently and affordably. There are many options out there. One is to send people frozen meals through existing distribution channels. Another is to freeze dry food, put it in bags, and then get the consumer to rehydrate it.