IFT NEXT’s Start-Up Alley will showcase new solutions to stubborn problems plaguing the food industry

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty
Source: Getty

Related tags IFT show Startup company

At IFT next week in New Orleans, entrepreneurs in the NEXT Start-Up Alley will show how they are combining “science, creativity and new thinking” to offer disruptive new solutions to some of the most persistent problems in the food industry, including food safety, food waste, sustainability and health.

According to the conference host, the 10 companies – all founded within the past five years – will display “some of the most innovative products and solutions in the food science industry.”

Among the many rising challenges that the companies will tackle is food waste reduction.

For example, Renewal Mill, which won the IFT pitch slam last year, will showcase how drying and milling fibrous byproducts can turn what would be waste into products that are “nutritious, high in fiber, and flavorful without using synthetic processing techniques or unnatural fortification,”​ according to IFT.

The young company cut its teeth in 2018 on upcycling tofu byproduct discarded by large food manufacturers, but is now ready to tackle its second upcycled ingredient, which the company recently told FoodNavigator-USA​ would most likely be from almond or oat milk pulp “or something of that nature.”

FreshSurety also is taking on food waste, but from the angle of better predicting spoilage so that manufacturers and retailers can prioritize which products to use or sell first. The company does this by monitoring, measuring and predicting future levels of volatile organic compounds that reflect a product’s freshness.

Closely related to food waste reduction is the perpetual problem of managing food safety – especially among fresh products. Many manufacturers and retailers rely on regularly testing food for contaminants or signs of spoilage using tests that can take days to return results. Yarok Microbio, however, will showoff its new detection system, which promises results in 45 minutes and final results “within the timeframe of a production shift,”​ according to IFT.  

Better for the planet and people

Many of the startups in IFT’s Start-Up Alley also will showcase products that are better for the environment and better for people’s health.

For example, Heliponix wants to “find the most efficient form of agriculture”​ that uses the least amount of space, energy and water so that more people can access nutritious, high quality, perishable food before it goes bad. The company’s GroPods do this by harnessing vertical farming technology and Seed Pod subscriptions to allow users to harvest food at its peak that is produced with substantially fewer resources than conventional farming, according to the company.

Other participants, such as Gabanna Foods which makes gluten-free pasta from green bananas, will demonstrate better-for-you alternatives to standard product categories. Gabanna also is notable because it strives to provide better economic value for smallholder farmers.

Victory Hemp Foods also is focused on creating nutritionally dense foods, beverages and skin care products from hemp, including protein, oils and seeds. The company’s approach also focuses on sustainability and transparency to ensure consumers receive the highest quality ingredients and the land from which they are sourced is well cared for.

While Gabanna and Victory Hemp focuses on better-for-you whole foods, Brightseed Inc. zeros in on naturally occurring compounds with proven clinical benefits that it identifies through machine learning and systems biology as part of its Forager platform. According to IFT, the team is focused on rebalancing human metabolism, easing the consequences of chronic disease and helping people better process excess fat.

Zooming back out to the big picture level, the team behind the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet also will present at the Start-Up Alley. The research team within the Department of Gastroenterology will be on site to share how a smartphone application can provide users with accurate information about which foods could trigger irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and how to manage them. The team also has been gaining traction among manufacturers looking to certify their products as low FODMAP so that users can more easily identify them on shelf.

Tapping technology

Recognizing that the ongoing digital revolution can be a bit daunting, several startups showcasing at IFT will offer solutions to help guide the industry through the digital transition.

iSense wants to do this specifically for the taste industry by using a “data based approach to flavors collection management and the first B2B digital flavor marketplace with thousands of flavors (and their digital profiles),”​ according to the company’s website.

It explains that it will help companies source the right flavors and right industrial recipes with data pulled from five key features: sensory languages, digitization of third party sensory profiling of flavors, a flavor collection management tool, marketplace services and data and intelligence.

If flavor is on one side of a coin, aroma often is on the other. And as such Aroma Bit Inc will offer similar services to iSense but for aromas.

According to its website, it has invented a small sensor that ‘digitizes’ and ‘visualizes’ scents. This allows the company to use technology to improve quality control and automation of scents so that manufacturers can better control the final experience. It also offers a search engine based on preferences that can help with new product development.

Readers hoping to learn more about what each of these companies offer can do so by visiting them at IFT’s Start-Up Alley or by attending pitch sessions on the IFT NEXT stage next Monday and Tuesday from 10-10:45 am.  

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