How mobile technology is changing the way food is consumed and produced

According to US-based research firm CB Insights, startups in the food space raised more than $5.7 billion in 2015. This funding comes from a wide variety of technology companies that are tackling a wide variety of problems in the food industry, from the production side of the business to distribution or delivery.
While Asian startups dominated the ranking of the largest rounds of 2015, more than $1 billion went to European companies, demonstrating that the food industry is as hot as it gets in the old continent.
Some of the biggest forces in the European food tech industry shared the stage on a 4YFN panel on Wednesday morning, featuring Theis Søndergaard (Vivino), Clément Marty (Carrefour), Marius Robles (Reimagine food) and Florian Mesny (ShakeupFactory).
Vivino is a Denmark-based online community focused on wine lovers. The company recently raised $25 million from SCP Neptune International, Balderton Capital, Creandum and SEED Capital. With more than 13 million users all around the world, the company co-founded by Søndergaard has become one of the largest communities in the world in the food space.
Despite its early success, Søndergaard and his team remain ambitious. Asked about whether the company believes it can apply their formula to other drinks or types of food, Søndergaard claimed that they’re not planning to do so.
“There’s three reasons why we’re not thinking about pivoting or moving to a different vertical: we’re startup and focus is very important; we’ve just got started on wine and there’s still a lot to do; and we are nowhere close to where I want us to be in market penetration”, he said.
Carrefour’s innovation strategy
Clément Marty, Group Strategy Director at Carrefour, spoke about the importance of having a strong mobile strategy as a large retail company. “All of our customers carry around a phone at all times, so for us it is very important to have a strong system that connects the offline and online experience of our clients”, he said.
This includes a mobile-first shopping experience as well sophisticated systems that look to narrow the gap between online and offline buying experiences.
Marty also expressed interest in the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which he said can deeply affect the way consumers shop online and receive relevant information. “We strongly believe that with AI we can improve various areas, from the discovery of content and food to providing consumers with the information they need, when they need it”.
Investment trends in the food space
ShakeUpFactory is a France-based accelerator and Venture Capital firm focused on the food industry. Co-founder Florian Mesny was asked on-stage about the main investment trends that he sees in the food space and he mentioned various areas of interest.
  • China’s growth: Asian startups raised more than $3 billion in 2015, including 5 different mega rounds of more than $100 million
  • E-commerce last mile delivery: this is the area that focuses on the delivery of food and prepared meals to consumers
  • New types of food: as technology affects the way food is produced, not just consumed
Mesny defended that he doesn’t believe in an investment bubble in the food space, but did say that certain areas might be over heated, citing the example of Rocket Internet recently selling their less strategic assets in Spain, Italy, Mexico and Brazil.
“There’s a lot of activity in the market”, he said. “It’s our job to differentiate value-added companies and experiences from others that are not”.
Written by Jaime Novoa,