Digitally Native Vertical Brands are a primary investment focus area for our funds. But one offshoot of that segment has unique characteristics that make it particularly intriguing: Food. Next-gen food.
Obviously, few activities are as central to the human experience, in fact, human survival, as the creation, distribution and ingestion of food. And, with a planet that may soon have ten billion humans on it, facing a challenging weather pattern that will impact agriculture and a shifting set of worldwide priorities and attitudes about what we eat, food is ripe (so to speak) for transformation.
We see four areas of investment opportunity related to food:
New forms of food. This is the generation of the Impossible Burger, and we’re sure to see many other revolutionary forms of food. We’re studying many varieties of meatless meat, fat that can feed multitudes with cells from a single pig, and fish that came from no ocean or stream. We’re also seeing radical new forms of hydration that simply put Gatorade to shame. Overall, we’re seeing a gradual but apparently inexorable decoupling of food from the land. Our future foods will be brewed in labs or grown hydroponically. This makes them, potentially, more controllable (no hailstorms or droughts in a lab), more efficient nutritionally, and overall healthier. We are also beginning to see custom-made foods, so that each of us gets exactly the diet our bodies and lifestyles require.
Next-gen ingredients. Each generation finds ingredients to go mad over. Who would have predicted a worldwide outbreak of kale, of all things? Today’s rising generation is no different, but is certain to have a wider array of choice than those who came before. This generation of food ingredients will not only include every plant, rock and beast on the planet, but also new food elements that derive from emerging science. A case in point is rare sugars - a whole raft of sugars has been known by science for decades. Some of these burn more calories than they produce. Others have levels of sweetness that lets them be used sparingly. All have been so rare and impossible to find or manufacture that they have never been practical. Now, new techniques may bring them into widespread use, like today’s Stevia.
New forms of growing food. If happiness comes, in part, from being free of want, and food is the primary driver of that, then agriculture represents a gateway to happiness. In that sense, we are seriously focused on agriculture science and tech. We aren’t interested in traditional ways to grow and harvest food. Rather, we are looking at better ways to manage crops in the field through sensors, AIs and other technologies. We are also deeply interested in new ways and places to grow food: vertical gardens, small bore hydroponics that can make any restaurant or home its own farm. We feel a focus on Ag transformation is, essentially, tracing next-gen food back to its root.
Food distribution, storage and preservation. Creating food is fundamental, but getting food where it needs to go while still fresh and nutritious is a mammoth undertaking. Just think of the worldwide impact frozen food systems have had on society. We see many opportunities related to keeping food fresh and pure. One is new food strains that stay fresh longer. Another is allowing food to be grown closer to where it is eaten, which ties back into next-gen agriculture. And, finally, there are emerging new ways to preserve food that derive from genetic science and state of the art biosystems. We plan to trace all these vectors for investment opportunities.
Food, flexibility, people, possibilities...do you know of any entrepreneurs, science or people we should have on our radar? Contact us – we’d love to hear from you.