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Innovations

From Forest to Table: New Packaging from Innovative Companies

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure — but innovative companies are turning one man’s trash into another man’s … food packaging

With the dangers of global warming threatening to jeopardize our very existence, more and more consumers are becoming environmentally aware. We recycle, we compost, and we pay attention to the packaging on our purchases (this means no more Styrofoam take-out containers and avoiding plastic straws at your local bar). Some innovative companies recognize this demand for new ways to approach packaging and are working on turning food waste into new forms of food packaging.

Innovative Companies say Buh-bye to Plastic Packaging

Forget plastics. Non-recyclable, non-biodegradable products not only pollute our environment, they also potentially contaminate foods with harmful chemicals and even fail to keep your food adequately fresh. The newest solution? Food packaging made from natural materials like mushrooms, milk proteins, wood, kelp, and tomato peels. Not only are these products biodegradable, waste eliminators, and better for the environment, but they’re oftentimes edible. Really! Here are a few not quite market-ready concepts we have our eye on.

Wood-Based Bottles

In an attempt to reduce waste, Nestlé Waters and Danone have launched a joint product in alliance with a California startup, Origin Materials, to develop 100% bio-based bottles. Made from sustainable and renewable resources, these bottles will take biomass feed stocks (like recycled cardboard and sawdust) to create an entirely new product. These wood-based bottles are scheduled to hit store shelves in 2020.

Milk-Protein Packaging

Did your mother always tell you to drink your milk? Well now you can package your food with it, too, with edible milk-based packaging that reduces food spoilage and waste. This biodegradable, sustainable, and super-thin packaging will make the regular thin plastic film that wraps your cheese and meats obsolete. The US Department of Agriculture, whose team of researchers pioneered the technology, discovered that casein, also known as the protein in dairy milk, can be used to create edible packaging that actually protects your food better than plastic. The proteins work to form a tight network around the food, sealing it 500 times better than plastic.

Mushroom Material

Your favorite fungi are being turned into eco-friendly containers for wine bottles and furniture as well as products like coolers. Ecovative Design developed Mushroom Packaging to reduce waste and replace polystyrene in packaging materials. This product could theoretically replace Styrofoam across the globe. Ikea has already planned to replace their usual polystyrene packaging with Ecovative’s biodegradable mushroom roots. They’ve also licensed their packaging technology to Sealed Air, a $7.6 billion packaging company that makes Bubble Wrap.

Tomato Tin Cans

When you crack open a can of olives or dig into your favorite canned soup on a rainy day, you’ll usually find the packaging coated with chemicals like BPA (Bisphenol-A). While the levels found inside your cans are low enough to purportedly pose no threat to your health, more customers are looking for chemical-free, and thus BPA-free, packaging. The solution? To replace the chemical lacquer with natural ingredients, like processed tomatoes. BIOCOPAC is taking the skins from tomatoes and using them to treat metal food cans. So, the next time you pop open a can of tomatoes for your evening pasta sauce, you might be consuming more tomatoes than you think.

Seaweed Saran

Unlike other recyclable materials like glass and metal, plastic wrap cannot be recycled. So it’s more important than ever to cut down on our use of harmful plastic when packaging our foods. Japanese design company, AMAM, has developed Agar Plasticity to replace our usual Saran wrap. Made from agar, a material found in red marine algae, Agar Plasticity could soon replace the environmentally harmful but very thin and flexible plastics we’re currently using to wrap food. Even if the Agar Plasticity ends up in the ocean after you’ve finished your sandwich, it’ll just be heading right back home. Now that’s a product life cycle we can get behind!

Paper Water Bottle

Paper Water Bottle is purported to be the 1st of its kind in the world. the technology behind the Paper Water Bottle Technology is based on 16 global patents. Production began in December 2017.

·       An eco-friendly, direct replacement for plastic water/beverage bottles on the market today

·       Shell made of 100% compostable pulp

·       Barrier made with 100% recycled resin

·       Twist-off cap secures content with its Pulp Gripper™ technology

·       Can be customized to fit a brand’s needs through design and graphic communications

·       500ml Natural stock bottle

From Forest to Table: New Packaging from Innovative Companies

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure — but innovative companies are turning one man’s trash into another man’s … food packaging?

With the dangers of global warming threatening to jeopardize our very existence, more and more consumers are becoming environmentally aware. We recycle, we compost, and we pay attention to the packaging on our purchases (this means no more Styrofoam take-out containers and avoiding plastic straws at your local bar). Some innovative companies recognize this demand for new ways to approach packaging and are working on turning food waste into new forms of food packaging.

Innovative Companies say Buh-bye to Plastic Packaging

Forget plastics. Non-recyclable, non-biodegradable products not only pollute our environment, they also potentially contaminate foods with harmful chemicals and even fail to keep your food adequately fresh. The newest solution? Food packaging made from natural materials like mushrooms, milk proteins, wood, kelp, and tomato peels. Not only are these products biodegradable, waste eliminators, and better for the environment, but they’re oftentimes edible. Really! Here are a few not quite market-ready concepts we have our eye on.

Wood-Based Bottles

In an attempt to reduce waste, Nestlé Waters and Danone have launched a joint product in alliance with a California startup, Origin Materials, to develop 100% bio-based bottles. Made from sustainable and renewable resources, these bottles will take biomass feed stocks (like recycled cardboard and sawdust) to create an entirely new product. These wood-based bottles are scheduled to hit store shelves in 2020.

Milk-Protein Packaging

Did your mother always tell you to drink your milk? Well now you can package your food with it, too, with edible milk-based packaging that reduces food spoilage and waste. This biodegradable, sustainable, and super-thin packaging will make the regular thin plastic film that wraps your cheese and meats obsolete. The US Department of Agriculture, whose team of researchers pioneered the technology, discovered that casein, also known as the protein in dairy milk, can be used to create edible packaging that actually protects your food better than plastic. The proteins work to form a tight network around the food, sealing it 500 times better than plastic.

Mushroom Material

Your favorite fungi are being turned into eco-friendly containers for wine bottles and furniture as well as products like coolers. Ecovative Design developed Mushroom Packaging to reduce waste and replace polystyrene in packaging materials. This product could theoretically replace Styrofoam across the globe. Ikea has already planned to replace their usual polystyrene packaging with Ecovative’s biodegradable mushroom roots. They’ve also licensed their packaging technology to Sealed Air, a $7.6 billion packaging company that makes Bubble Wrap.

Tomato Tin Cans

When you crack open a can of olives or dig into your favorite canned soup on a rainy day, you’ll usually find the packaging coated with chemicals like BPA (Bisphenol-A). While the levels found inside your cans are low enough to purportedly pose no threat to your health, more customers are looking for chemical-free, and thus BPA-free, packaging. The solution? To replace the chemical lacquer with natural ingredients, like processed tomatoes. BIOCOPAC is taking the skins from tomatoes and using them to treat metal food cans. So, the next time you pop open a can of tomatoes for your evening pasta sauce, you might be consuming more tomatoes than you think.

Seaweed Saran

Unlike other recyclable materials like glass and metal, plastic wrap cannot be recycled. So it’s more important than ever to cut down on our use of harmful plastic when packaging our foods. Japanese design company, AMAM, has developed Agar Plasticity to replace our usual Saran wrap. Made from agar, a material found in red marine algae, Agar Plasticity could soon replace the environmentally harmful but very thin and flexible plastics we’re currently using to wrap food. Even if the Agar Plasticity ends up in the ocean after you’ve finished your sandwich, it’ll just be heading right back home. Now that’s a product life cycle we can get behind!

 

Burgers: A Revolution in Plant-based Protein

plant based burgers

There are few things more satisfying than biting into a juicy, bloody burger — but what if said burger was made from plant-based protein instead of ground beef? A new revolution in vegan protein has begun, and it’s all about the burger. These plant-based proteins “bleed” and resemble actual beef more than any vegan products before. But why are we calling them “meat?” And why would someone who has eschewed eating meat want a product that so closely resembles the thing they’re trying to avoid?

Why Choose Plant based Protein?

Some health-conscious consumers have removed meat from their daily intake for purely dietary reasons. For them, these imitator products are welcomed with a fervor. Products like Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger so closely approximate a beef patty that herbivores can indulge in the very things they’ve had to give up. High cholesterol? Sink your teeth into a juicy Impossible Burger and you’ll barely know the difference. Suffering from an illness that benefits from a plant-based diet? Grill up a Beyond Burger when a meat craving strikes and feel satiated without the side effects.

But should those who have chosen the vegan lifestyle and do so for political reasons be seeking a product that acts like meat? Vegan protein in the form of beans is great — but a burger that “bleeds” seems like it’s copying a product that animal activist’s should be steering clear of. These burgers mimic the very thing that some vegans are adamantly opposed to — so is it better to stick to quinoa bowls and cauliflower cutlets than to attempt to consume a product that resembles all that they are opposed to?

Vegan Protein is the Food Revolution

Health issues aside, the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger are revolutionizing the way we eat. It’s no secret that the meat industry is bad for the environment. Raising livestock for consumption requires a staggering amount of land, food, energy, and water and produces a significant amount of our greenhouse-gas emissions. And red meat is even worse. Beef and lamb are responsible for 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as most vegetables and grains, according to Scientific American.

So a burger that approximates meat without the detrimental side effects should be welcome on any restaurant’s menu and on the shelves of every grocery store. Take the Impossible Burger. Scientists, farmers, and chefs collaborated for five years to recreate the perfect beef burger without harming a single cow. By shunning cows in favor of all-natural ingredients like wheat, coconut oil, and potatoes, the Impossible Burger uses a fraction of the Earth’s natural resources. “Compared to cows, the Impossible Burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s 100% free of hormones, antibiotics, and artificial ingredients,” according to Impossible Foods’ website. And the secret ingredient that makes the Impossible Burger stand out from its plant-based peers is a little things called heme. Heme, an iron-containing compound, makes meat smell, sizzle, bleed, and is the “magic ingredient” that makes this burger stand up to its carnivorous competition.

Impossible Burgers can be found at several restaurants around the country, but if you’re hankering for a home-cooked patty, look no further than the Beyond Burger. This revolutionary burger was the first plant-based product that looks, cooks, and satisfies like beef without the harmful repercussions, and at a fraction of the price of the Impossible Burger. This patty is made primarily from pea protein, with a “bleeding” element from beet juice.

So how do you feel about lab-made, realistic vegetarian burgers? Would you go veg for them or not?

Food Apps that Deliver are the Future of Food Delivery

food apps that deliver, pizza delivery near me

The golden arches of McDonald’s used to represent the epitome of cheap, fast, convenient food. But while the drive-thru model in many ways revolutionized how we consume, more change in “fast food” is afoot. As the tech world and food world increasingly overlap, there’s an exploding number of food apps that deliver deliciousness right to your door.

According to The Toast, 74% of millennials report a preference for food delivery, and the market’s potential is estimated at around $210 billion. Naturally, the most demand is for pizza that delivers “near me.” Unsurprisingly, pizza currently accounts for about 60% of the food delivery market. But we’re quickly moving beyond the days of the classic pizza boy. Pizza delivery is increasingly high-tech, too, while the number of services that facilitate food delivery continues to grow.

Take Zume, a California-based pizza delivery company. Behind the scenes, it’s not just humans making each pie. Instead, the company has robots that measure and spread the pizza sauce, and put the pie into the oven. (Humans do all steps in between.) According to the company, this decreases the amount of time it takes for each order, making things even faster and more convenient.

Food Apps that Deliver are on the Rise

Domino’s pizza tracker, available online and as an app, was one of the earliest disruptions in the world of food delivery. Not only can customers easily pick their toppings without having to actually call a restaurant, but they can see step-by-step when the food is prepared and “shipped.” Now, numerous apps also let customers quickly order food to be dropped at their doors—and not just for pizza. GrubHub, Door Dash, Just Deliveries, Uber Eats, Amazon Prime Now, Delivery Hero, and Food Panda are just a few players in the growing food delivery market and many also offer the same easy ordering and tracking features that Domino’s mainstreamed.

GrubHub, for instance, is a food delivery aggregator, meaning it simply acts as a middleman in the meal process. It puts restaurant menus and reviews in one place and lets users order their meals through the GrubHub app. Then, GrubHub routes the order to the chosen restaurant and that restaurant both fulfills and delivers the food. A company like Just Deliveries, on the other hand, facilitates delivery for restaurants—many higher-end—that don’t offer the service. They don’t just take the order, but actually have their own logistics networks for delivery.

There’s More to it than just Prepared Meals

When it comes to food apps that deliver, though, it’s not just about prepared meals. Blue Apron, which went public in June, 2017, is perhaps the best testament to a broadening concept of food delivery. Blue Apron delivers meal ingredients and recipes on a subscription basis—a more niche version of the growing grocery delivery markets (led by Amazon and Instacart).

Altogether, fast food arguably isn’t fast enough anymore, as it still means shoppers have to go somewhere. The younger generation especially is drawn towards food delivered to wherever they are, and technology is increasingly making such a level of speed and convenience possible. Whether it’s groceries, a pizza, or your favorite restaurant’s best meal, there’s a good chance it can easily be dropped on your doorstep.

Building StartUp Food Companies is Hard

startup food companies | buying innovation group |

Startup food companies aren’t always small. Recently, Amazon made headlines by purchasing Whole Foods Market for a whopping $13.7 billion. The acquisition marked Amazon’s biggest step into the brick-and-mortar game, notable due to the company’s dominance in e-commerce, and reiterated how serious Amazon is about the grocery business. Amazon began its push into groceries years ago with its in-house AmazonFresh efforts, but the strategy of bringing innovative startup food companies into the fold is hardly unusual in the food world.

This is especially true for giants like Unilever and General Mills, which don’t have the same innovative reputation as a tech-first name like Amazon. Not long after Unilever declined a $143 billion takeover proposal from Kraft, the company made an acquisition—albeit a dramatically smaller one—of its own. The target? A high-end mustard maker. Sir Kensington makes mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup (some avocado oil mayo, some vegan mayo, and so on). $140 million later, is part of the Unilever portfolio.

Why do food giants like Unilever and General Mills purchase innovation instead of building it in-house?

Such a niche purchase is an especially useful example of the benefits of purchasing innovation instead of bringing it in-house. You can almost imagine an internal pitch meeting at a conglomerate like Unilever where someone has a vision for a line of fancy condiments. At any publicly traded company, there’s far less tolerance for risk and far more of a focus on steady profits. One can almost imagine board members laughing as a dreamer goes through slides about high-end ketchup. Buh-bye start-up, alternative mayo idea!

On the flip side, smaller, startup food companies need to have risky, cutting-edge ideas to get off the ground at all. Investors in that world are looking for vision and a niche. There’s more room for error in the startup world. In fact, error is to some extent expected. And private companies do not have to please Wall Street investors quarter after quarter.

Startup Challenges

That’s not to say the startup world doesn’t have its challenges. A company like Sir Kensington doesn’t have the same access to shelf space or sales relationships as the giants, so it can be far more difficult to get onto shelves. That’s why acquisitions are often a very logical end game. Unilever gets a proven yet innovative brand without having to trial-and-errors its way towards a trendy product in-house. And after the buyout, Sir Kensington gets a dramatically larger network.

General Mills also has a long history of acquisitions for the same reason. In 2016, it bought Epic Provisions—makers of paleo-friendly, gluten-free snack bars, which basically covers every buzzword on shoppers’ lips right now. In 2014, GM bought Annie’s, the organic and natural maker of mac and cheese, snacks, frozen foods, and more. This was when healthy and organic eating was a more nascent area, too, so GM was indeed adding innovation to its brand umbrella.

As more startup food companies come onto the scene, you can bet there will be more big names going shopping. Food tech startups raised $5.7 billion in 275 deals last year, according to Forbes, making for plenty of targets.

A Taste of Sonoma’s Food and Beverage Scene

Sonoma food and beverage

Sonoma County often plays second fiddle to nearby Napa and its fabled wines.  But the depth of Sonoma’s food and beverage scene pushes it past Napa for the sheer diversity of food and beverage businesses that call Sonoma home. True, Napa and Sonoma (and Sonoma’s more suburban neighbor, Marin) both got their start as agricultural suppliers for the big cities to the south. While Napa tilts ever more deeply into wine as its primary value-added agricultural offering, Sonoma has expanded beyond grapes, pushing into diversified products and their next gen counterparts, packaged goods.

WHAT IS SONOMA KNOWN FOR?

DAIRY and CHEESE

Sonoma has a centuries-long history of dairying and its winding roads are are dotted with family farms. Through land trust arrangements organized through Sonoma and Marin Land Trusts, the green pastures and fog-swept coastal cliffs are protected, helping to ensure a steady supply of  the raw materials needed for cheese, cider and other value-added foods.  That makes for some happy cows. And goats. And sheep.  Businesses like Bellwether Farms, Clover Sonoma, Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery, and Sonoma Creamery are just a few of the family farms producing organic milk, award-winning, internationally recognized cheeses and fresh, innovative products. (We will look at each of these business’s products later this month.)

APPLES and CIDER

With help from the Slow Food movement, the area’s local apple, the Gravenstein, has found a secure future as a heritage crop. Placed on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, a “living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction,” the Gravenstein also has its own fair. A few farmers (six, according to Slow Food) work to preserve their Gravenstein orchards by selling the fruit to local cider houses, including Tilted Shed. Manzana Products, the parent company of North Coast, runs an historic apple cannery. And the Barlow, a former apple cannery in the heart of Sonoma, now plays host to a diverse array of food and beverage businesses ranging from kombucha and yerba mate to coffee and vodka.

POULTRY and EGGS

Less recognized is Sonoma’s role as a home for heritage chicken farming. But companies like Rosie and Rocky thrive here as innovators in sustainable poultry farming and egg production. Honoring both the region’s agricultural heritage and its role as innovators is Petaluma’s Butter and Egg Days, a festival highlighting the city’s entrepreneurial and artisan spirit.  Hip Chick Farms, a new producer of chicken nuggets, fingers and meatballs, is a chicken-based extension of Sonoma’s deep commitment to supporting a future for local agricultural.

Of course you can visit most of these farms as part of a Farm Trails experience or stop in at Healdsburg’s SHED to purchase these and other locally-sourced packaged goods.

As northern California gets ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, which, in 1967, kicked off at the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival on Marin’s Mount Tamalpais, it is worth remembering the agricultural past that helped nourish and inspire what has become northern California’s thriving food scene. Say what you will about hippies and communes, but from Vermont to Wisconsin to California, they had a profound impact on America’s food scene. Thank a hippie for organic produce, granola, fermented foods, handmade cheese and fresh cider. Their counter-cultural spirit took root here in northern California and continues to inspire the area’s food and beverage producers.

Our Favorite Food-Tech Brands of 2016 – Part 2

The Bay Area is known for its revolutionary approach to businesses. A food revolution got started here in the ‘60s (hello, California Cuisine!) and hasn’t stopped for breath since. Culinary innovation happens here, where the Pacific Ocean meets the San Francisco Bay and trendsetters flock to the region – from wine country to the Silicon Valley – to launch a name for themselves and for their pioneering products. In our first post wrapping up 2016, we looked at companies that are at the bleeding edge of food and technology. Here, we want to share a few of our favorite businesses that are mixing up old school and new school techniques to build revolutionary, modern food businesses. With trailblazers like these causing a stir in 2016, we can only imagine what is in store for 2017. More on that coming up!

2016 food tech innovators, Bay Area food start-ups

Innovators Come in all Shapes & Sizes

  1. Kite Hill Foods – Old-School Cheesemaking for the Modern Vegan

Vegan cheese is as old as the Hippies that created it but delicious dairy-free cheese that actually, well, tastes like cheese, is what helped put Hayward’s Kite Hill on the map. Using a proprietary almond milk formula and traditional cheese-making techniques to craft fresh milk products such as yogurt, ricotta and cream style cheese as well as aged cheeses, Kite Hill has altered the landscape for plant-based cheeses by going old-school. Transforming almond milk into curds and whey takes keen effort and a nod to French cheese-making traditions which are fine-tuned to maximize flavor from the plant-based milks. Using cutting edge manufacturing processes and aging the cheeses in a modern facility helps, too. In May, Kite Hill received a stamp of approval from the food industry, receiving $18 million in funding from 301 Inc., the business development and venturing unit of General Mills, and CAVU Ventures. Seems hippies want their cheese and to eat it, too.

  1. Sonoma Brands – Züpa Noma and Smashmallow launch Sonoma far beyond Wine

Bucolic, sleepy Sonoma is about to become a hot hub of food entrepreneurship and culinary innovation. That is, if John Sebastiani has anything to say about it. Named for Sebastiani’s hometown, Sonoma Brands was launched to develop new packaged food brands. A lover of innovation and category disruption (his KRAVE Jerky reinvigorated the moribund category), Sebastiani is off to a roaring start, creating an entirely new food category with the gourmet, snackable marshmallow company, Smashmallow. Züpa Noma, a line of chilled soups also launched in 2016, with flavors like organic beet and orange basil that honor the culinary traditions of Sonoma. “Smaller, more innovative brands are going to drive the change in what and how we eat,” said Sebastiani. Either way, it is all snackable and, dare we say, Krave-worthy.