Untapped Potential: European B2B FoodTech Investments
Crunching the numbers on this rapidly-growing, multi-billion-Euro market.
A Brief Market Overview
FoodTech is a complex web of startups and entrepreneurs working to innovate the industry in the following fields: supply chain, AgTech, food science, foodservice, delivery and consumer tech. By definition, this emergent sector seeks to leverage technologies to create a more efficient and sustainable food system for all. Forward Fooding features a comprehensive list of the industry’s top 500 startups and scaleups from around the globe.
According to data published in early 2021, by 2027 the global FoodTech market size is expected to continue to grow from its 2019 estimated value of 220.32 billion USD to 342.52 billion USD. Technological advancements and implementations throughout the sector driven by trends, changes in demand and environmental parameters are cited as the key driver for this growth.
Within the B2B market, we are seeing a rising number of companies developing so-called enabling technologies that are applicable in multiple sectors and categories within the FoodTech sphere. By working to solve relevant industry-wide problems, technology-driven B2B startups are carving the way for a more robust food system.
Geographically, we are witnessing interesting shifts in investments around the globe. Europe and Asia continue to gain traction and are steadily catching up to the US, which currently still spearheads the number of FoodTech startups and levels of investments globally. Similarly, leading FoodTech hubs, like Silicon Valley and London, are seeing rapidly developing counterparts in the EU and Asia, like Berlin and Paris or Singapore, closing in. While the majority of VC still goes to the UK (€3.4 billion since 2015), the DACH region (€2.4 billion since 2015) and France (€1.4 billion since 2015) trail closely behind.
The rapid emergence of FoodTech has also seen a steady increase in industry-specific investors and venture capitalist firms, carving the way for heaps of new opportunities to build a business.
Examples of investment companies committed to shaping the future of food and building a healthier and more sustainable food ecosystem include Astanor, Be8, Blue Horizon Ventures, Five Seasons Ventures, and Tet Ventures. Branching out further into broader environmental topics, anterra capital is amongst those at the forefront of sustainable agriculture and animal welfare while Capagro, for example, propels companies forward in both AgTech and FoodTech. At the same time, tech investors with cross-sector portfolios like Target Global and Vorwerk Ventures are also showing a rising interest in the FoodTech space. And then there are firms opting for an even narrower regionalised approach, such as Nordic FoodTech Venture Capital which exclusively provides financing to Nordic-based future food companies.
Bear in mind that these are merely examples, and this list is by no means exhaustive. A comprehensive overview can also be found on foodhack.global.
When we look at the industry we’re trying to uproot, the numbers speak for themselves:
In 2019, Five Seasons Ventures registered a total of 9 new European FoodTech unicorns, amounting to a total of 45 globally.
In 2020, €2.4 billion were invested in European food startups, resulting in a twelve-fold increase since 2013.
From 2019 to 2020, FoodTech startup valuations increased 156%.
2020 was also a record year for AgTech and FoodTech: VC investments increased by 35% compared to 2019.
Between 2010 and 2020, Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) in the industry registered a CAGR of 152%.
As a result, startups in all areas of the food tech industry can now rely on finding dedicated investors at all investment stages, from Pre-Seed all the way through to series C. Since 2015, most VC money went into the delivery, e-commerce, alternative proteins and groceries markets, while only a tiny small fraction went toward B2B models and innovation. Interestingly, the food delivery sector only accounts for <1% of disruptions in the total food retail market, leaving a whopping 99% open for next-generation innovation along the entire value chain. The first year of the pandemic gave a strong push to technology-backed companies while traditional food industry manufacturing giants watched their sales decline.
Today, the majority of FoodTech unicorns are still consumer-facing. However, while B2B food companies may take longer than B2C to tap into growth, there is the possibility that the long-term potential is higher, with €1.7 billion in capital investment recorded in 2020.
Analysts are noting a shift from the former focus on investments in the downstream area (e.g. in-store restaurants and retail, eGroceries, restaurant marketplaces, home & cooking) where the focus geared towards consumers to an uptick in upstream investments (e.g. agbiotech, farming management & robotics, bioenergy & biomaterials, agribusiness marketplaces, innovative food)—another beacon of light for B2B.
Lingering supply chain inefficiencies also pose great opportunities for B2B food tech startups looking to devise tech solutions for the industry. Many of the industry’s pain points were revealed at the start of the pandemic and have continued to unfold or intensify since, triggering more interest in innovation and investments in a sector that was long lagging behind other significantly more tech-savvy industries. Be it novel processing and packaging technologies, transparency and traceability or sustainability and food waste, B2B innovators are tackling elements of the procurement process from all angles.
The race for the first early adopters in B2B production, distribution, automation is on!
Imagery: (1) Samson, (4) Annie Spratt & (5) Agefis via unsplash.com; (2) & (3) via foodcircle.com