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2050 China Food Tech Summit: Key Trends

China’s food problems in the past have been centered on feeding a large number of people. In the future, it will be about providing people well.

The PwC Innovation Centre in Shanghai hosted a unique gathering of participants last week, including blockchain startups, venture funds, and chickpea advocates. It was touted as China’s first investment conference for food technology. The 2050 China Food Tech Summit —2050 will be the year when the population of the world is expected to surpass 9.6 billion people– was organized by Bitsx Bites, a food-focused accelerator and venture capital fund.

Vincent Martin, China’s representative for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and a participant at the conference, said: “In the past five years, there has been a shift in thinking from quantity to quality with the introduction of new technologies.” “Whatever we do in China has a ripple effect on the rest of world.”

Participants came from all over China, as well as Germany, Switzerland, and Israel. They also came from the United States, Australia, and Singapore. Many looked at China as both a production and market base, as well as an actual test site for innovative ideas.

But size is not the only issue. In recent years, food safety scandals have led to new regulations and a rethinking of sustainable food supply systems. Consumers–especially those in top-tier cities–are increasingly health-conscious and demanding more nutritious food with traceable origins.

Hazel Zhang, the founder and CEO of VegPlanet in China, a media platform for veganism and sustainable living with over 330,000 WeChat followers, said that “millennials and flexitarians” will drive the market of the future. We already see it happening in the West. In China, the Chinese will also be concerned about the environment and their health. This trend will be a reality if we can produce plant-based proteins that taste great and are cheap. “The tipping point could come in 10 to 15 years.”

Others saw a more diverse market. Rom Kshuk is the CEO of Future Meat Technologies. The company develops cultured meat. “It doesn’t have to be around ideology–vegetarian, flexitarian–people will just move from one to the other.”

The following were the key trends that emerged from the conference.

Future protein

China’s meat consumption continues to rise despite the fact that it has plateaued at home. Raising livestock requires a lot more land and water, resources that China cannot afford.

Scientists have been trying to grow meat cells in laboratories for years. However, the cost is very high. Future Meat Technologies developed a method to dramatically reduce the cost of cultivating meat cells in a laboratory–by combining an artificial liver and kidney with a bioreactor. This version of lab-grown beef includes all the important streaks of fat. These are the pieces that sizzle and smell on the grill, triggering the salivation of even the most ardent vegetarians.

Future Meat Technologies was funded by Bits x Bites in the early stages and received $2.2 million in seed investment from Tyson Ventures, a part of Tyson Foods, a Fortune 100 company, in May. Tyson Ventures and Tyson Foods have invested a total of $2.2 million as seed capital.

Taly Nechushtan, CEO of Israeli startup InnovoPro, says that the company has developed chickpeas to be used as a high-protein ingredient in food products. It is aimed at consumers looking for healthier food labels. Chickpeas can also be used as an emulsifier, and they can replace modified starches or other additives. InnovoPro is developing a line of chickpea products, including yogurts, mayonnaise without eggs, protein bars, and savory snacks. It’s looking for partners in the food industry.

Triton, based in San Diego, is promoting powdered green algae — Chlamydomonas reinhardtii — as a high-protein food ingredient. Triton invited Brian Malarkey, a celebrity chef, to prepare a five-course meal using algae for 120 diners in May of this year. Menu items included nori alga butter, algae bucatini, and pesto. Algae lime cookies were also on the menu.

Freshness is the best.

Thierry Garnier is the President and CEO of Carrefour China. He said that Chinese consumers purchase more than 20% online. This is the highest percentage in the world. The food ecommerce market in Europe and the United States is only in the single digits.

Carrefour opened its first “smart stores” in Shanghai with digital innovations supported by Chinese tech giant Tencent. Tencent is the parent company of WeChat. Tencent has also invested in Carrefour China. Customers can scan and pay online or via self-checkouts. Alibaba, Tencent’s rival in China, has a similar chain of grocery stores under the Hema label.

Garnier said, “You can’t just go into a shop to buy something. You have to enjoy the place you are in.” In France, I enjoy choosing cheese. For you, maybe it’s crabs or fish. It’s still fun to eat something fresh. Stores can also be a place where shoppers discover products they weren’t actively searching for.

The e-commerce startup 321Cooking also places a high priority on freshness. It delivers pre-packaged ingredients that are ready to cook in Chinese homes.

“We remove the boring and complicated parts.” “We buy the ingredients, wash them, and let the consumer do the cooking,” said Xiayue Pan, co-founder of 321Cooking. She said that 75% of the brand’s clients are females between 25 and 35 years old who live in first-tier Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.

Pan explained that consumers want fresh ingredients, and this means shorter shelf lives. They also don’t like preservatives or additives. She said, “It is a two-edged blade.” “An opportunity as well as a challenge.”

Food is medicine

Food companies in Asia are working to combat issues like obesity and diabetes. Singaporean startup AlchemyFoodtech created a glycemic-index-lowering technology for white rice that is on par with brown rice. It has recently received venture capital funding from Bits x Bites.

Loris Li is Mintel’s associate director for food and beverage. She said that selling a healthy product in China requires more than just scientific facts. You can’t just provide statistics. It would be best if you told an engaging story. She said that numbers alone are not enough for Chinese consumers to be convinced, particularly the elderly.

Finally, panelists were asked what they thought the ideal intersection between food, technology, and health would look like in 2050.

Ryan Chaw, the head of technology acquisition at Coca-Cola’s APAC R&D, said that he would be 70 years old in 2050. I’ll wear a belt at home that measures my gut health. I’ll go into my indoor garden, mix my shake, and eat it.

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