Review: The Collider – Reinventing Food

On 6 May, our first collider on the topic of “Reinventing Food” took a look into the future of the food industry. Our guests provided exciting input as experts from the sustainable, innovative food value chain. Not only did we learn a lot about food technology, innovation in times of Corona, insect burgers and compostable chocolate bar packaging, but, above all, we created space for what KENAVO stands for: Networking, creative ideas and relaxed exchange across industries and countries.

You missed the Collider or want to recall the topics of the evening again? Here comes our review!

After a welcome by our fabulous host Bettina Hermes and a musical introduction, we travelled virtually to the heart of California’s Sillicon Valley. Michelle Shi from Plug+Play Ventures gave a talk and told us more about her VC mission to foster an “ecosystem of changemakers”. Together, we discussed the enormous potential for economy that lies dormant in food technology: Alongside green energy, this sector is also setting the course for a world that will still be habitable and liveable in the future. We have realised how much has already happened in recent years. Not so long ago, a single hamburger made from cell-based meat cost several thousand dollars. Today, start-ups around the world are working hard to bring alternatives to conventional meat and dairy products to the market under consumer-friendly conditions.

We have met some of these companies in person! Ecplise Food, a Californian start-up, stands for plant-based dairy, which is indistinguishable in taste, texture and experience from dairy products and is expected to reach mainstream consumers in supermarkets across the US soon. In the Company Pitch, we learned that the perfect vegan ice cream consists of corn, potatoes, cassava, cane sugar and canola. Potatoes and ice cream – that doesn’t go together? We thought so too! But if the Collider has made one thing clear, it’s that the obvious idea is not always the best one.

The presentation by Anderson Santas Silva, the founder of Cashew Bert, also proved this. The Berlin-based start-up specialises in vegan cheese made from cashew nuts. To find out the secret of good cheese, Silva travelled to places where cheese means tradition and national pride. In Switzerland, he learned everything about traditional cheese. To do so, the convinced vegan and former IT expert even dared to experiment on himself and tried all kinds of cheese. What makes cheese so good? Silva is sure that the answer has nothing to do with animal ingredients, but with a good, fatty base of nuts, the right enzymes for flavour and fermentation. The hardest thing for him to crack was the secret of blue cheese, but his pride and joy is his Camembert. We have to try that on our next trip to Berlin!

Leipzig-based the nu company told us how important it is not to stop at the food itself when it comes to sustainability. With their 100% compostable packaging made of cellulose and biodegradable glue, they have made a contribution to solving one of the biggest problems of our time: The pollution and littering of our precious environment. Although the material of their packaging can hardly be distinguished visually from plastic, it decomposes within a few months in the compost at home. By way of comparison, it can easily take 20 years for a plastic bag to completely decompose, and the waste in nature becomes a disastrous problem for entire ecosystems. ”We want to be the perfect example for other companies,” they say.

“Make yourself cosy” was the motto for the next item on our Collider’s agenda. In a FireSide chat, we got to talk to Karina Kaffai, who is responsible for the management of the Marché Mövenpick food department at Hamburg Airport. What fits better in such a fast-paced, change-driven environment than the latest innovations in the food industry? The demand for vegetarian and vegan products is also increasing at the airport, and, according to Kaffai, the right labelling is crucial. The discussion, however, was about what it means to suddenly be able to count on only about 3,000 guests per day instead of 40,000 in a global pandemic. Her philosophy is: Have the courage to experiment, but don’t just rely on your gut feeling. Always keep an eye on market development and customer feedback.

After breakout sessions, where participants could network and get to know each other, our big fishbowl discussion started, where everything revolved around the future of fish, meat and dairy products. Our guests included a wide range of food experts from France, Israel and the USA. The French start-up InnovaFeed focuses on a more sustainable food system based on insects, while Algama told us more about the transformative potential of algae. Even though algae tastes fishy and not very delicious in its raw state, the protein- and vitamin-rich and sustainable algae can be used to conjure up delicious things, such as plant-based alternatives to fish. BlackSheep Foods from San Francisco, pioneering Finless Foods from Berkeley and SuperMeat from Tel Aviv, on the other hand, specialise in producing cultured fish and meat by growing cells in vitro.

What the companies have in common, is their belief that people want to enjoy affordable and delicious food. The goal of all food industry innovations must therefore be to become as good as conventional products in terms of taste and experience, but at the same time to follow an ecologically sustainable path.

We discussed this in the group and asked ourselves how long it will be until ordinary consumers will have in-vitro meat on their plates as well. Ido Savir SuperMeat is sure that in 10 years at the latest, the production of cultured meat will be so advanced that it will be available at low cost in all supermarkets.  The situation is a little different with regard to food made from insects. “We do not think insects will be consumed by all people by day one,” interjects the Algama representative. Although, as he points out, insects are extremely versatile, inexpensive and sustainable, they are also excellent for making soap or other cosmetic products, for example. Would you reach for crispy mealworms instead of that bag of chips in the evening? Like all social developments, innovations in the food industry need time and a legal framework to reach the mainstream. But all participants agree: The potential is incredible. Many people are already open to creative approaches to solving sustainability problems in our food production. It is only important that alternative products and information about them are quickly made more affordable and available, so that they are no longer just luxurious experiments in research but can become part of our daily diet.

When asked who could imagine trying cell-based meat, almost all of the 30 participants in the Fishbowl responded they would. After talking about food for hours, eventually everyone got hungry – but this shows that alternative meat products are no longer just dreams of the future. We are ready and excited to see what is to come in the next few years!

Thanks to Julia Münz for the illustrations!