Does foodtech only work in certain countries

You may not realise it, but you’ve probably interacted with foodtech - and it probably didn’t seem very technical. Subscription boxes such as Graze and Naturebox, as well as meal preparation kits like Blue Apron, are all examples of this burgeoning field. This is a world that goes beyond just apps and into the disruption of an industry: from new models of delivery to new means of consumption, and new ways to make and sell food.

As foodtech has become more of a buzzword, however, there have been some suggestions that its opportunities for growth are overblown. The culture around food in many countries is such that disruption seems incredibly difficult, with routines and habits extremely hard to break. While this may be partly true, there are enough examples to show that innovation in the foodtech sector can permeate every country.

Feast, not famine

Foodtech hasn’t quite got the exposure of some other tech niches, but it’s got Silicon Valley and other tech hubs abuzz. 2018 is expected to have flown past last year’s total of $1.5 billion in U.S. venture capital funding, setting a decade-high record for investment in foodtech startups. Notable investments earlier this year included $350 million for grocery delivery firm Instacart, and $535 million for restaurant delivery service DoorDash. European startups meanwhile are expected to have raised between €750 million to €1 billion in the past year.

Related article: How to start a street food business in London

There are a few reasons for this growth. One is the fact that, in comparison to tech sub-sectors like fintech or femtech, foodtech encompasses many different elements of food. ‘Gig economy’ companies like Deliveroo are in the same pot as app developers, vegan burger makers, food scientists and utensils companies, catering to many different needs and audiences. Food is also a more fundamental need than is addressed by some other sectors, and something which both divides and unites us. Tastes vary so wildly that there is room for numerous companies to co-exist within the same space.

The spread of smartphones is another factor, as is the growing importance of personal choice and sustainability for millennials and Generation Z. Technology has the potential to provide greater transparency through the supply chain, cataloguing the journey from farm to fork. Food security is another major factor, particularly in the closely related fields of biotech and agritech. With populations growing worldwide and arable land decreasing due to climate change, new solutions are needed to provide enough food for everyone.

Food fanatics

It’s true that some countries may have an inherent cultural barrier to certain kinds of foodtech. In central European nations such as France, Italy and Spain, food is a fundamentally social experience as well as a traditional one. The enjoyment taken from a slow lunch with friends and the careful preparation of food is naturally at odds with technology which is designed to speed up this process.

Related article: 5 Reasons You Should Start A Food Business In France

Why does foodtech only work in certain countriesAnything which demotes eating and cooking to something that needs to be optimised is not just going to fail; it’s probably going to provoke opposition. When considering the broader climate of opposition towards tech companies at the moment - driven by major players but impacting trust across the tech sector - and a widespread yearning for more traditional experiences, this could be seen as a major hurdle for foodtech in these countries.

A prime example would be the wealth of food apps and digital services conquering the US, and making their way to other Western markets. Where the U.S. is a fairly homogenous market with a broad range of tastes and openness to new ideas, areas like Europe and Asia contain many distinct cultures with differing tastes. Apps designed to regulate our calorie intake, personalise meals and control gadgets face an inevitable clash of cultures in certain countries, where the routine of food preparation and enjoyment is absolutely sacrosanct.

Many people simply won’t stop eating cheese and red meats or drinking wine - as they have done all their lives - just because an algorithm is telling them to. This is equally true of new food inventions such as products made from artificial proteins or insects, which will have to do more than even exceed the quality of existing products, such is the reverence that many people have for the food they currently eat. Habits are hard to break, and more so when they are seen as part of a nation’s cultural identity.

A hunger for change

However, other developments have proved themselves to be absolutely universal, even in the face of apparent opposition. Takeaway apps like Deliveroo and Ubereats have conquered even areas of food snobbery, due to the sheer convenience of the service. Fast food is a universal pleasure, even if it is a guilty one, and it’s increasingly taking hold in even the most food-conscious nations. In 2018, the humble burger reached almost 1.5 billion sales in France last year, appearing on more than 85% of surveyed menus around the country.

Related article: How To Open a Restaurant in France

Other apps and services meanwhile, such as those connecting restaurants with homeless charities and helping to recycle food waste, have an appeal that reaches beyond the culture of eating food, and into its responsible production and disposal. The church of foodtech is now so broad that there is an avenue to explore in every country. France, as an example, is home to a thriving technical manufacturing and engineering sector. Even if convenience apps don’t take off, local startups could soon be world leaders in robotics and advanced food production.

Many foodtech companies are also seeking to disrupt the supply chain rather than the eating experience, making the cultivation and delivery of ingredients more efficient. Some are more agritech aligned, with a focus on improving crop yields and genetically modified foods. Others are seeking to link up small suppliers with manufacturers and restaurateurs, using online platforms to build relationships and source top quality ingredients.

All of these things are potentially compatible with existing food cultures, and can only serve to save businesses money. It only remains for smart entrepreneurs and inventors to tailor their project to the country they’re in - or to find common ground and common issues that unite us all.

If you need more information on company and branch formation for your food or tech business, registering a business address, opening a bank account, tax advice or help in finding a chartered accountant, please click on the links, and either call us directly on 0033 (0)1 53 57 49 10 or email us from our contact page .

Download our free guide on opening a business in France

Learn the ins and outs of company formation in one of the world’s biggest and most prestigious markets

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Download our free guide on opening a business in Ireland

Learn the ins and outs of company formation in one of the world's premier business destinations

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input