Celebrating the recent surge of innovation in plant-based food tech, sf.citi partnered with Facebook and WeWork to host The Future of Food 2.0: Plant-Based Investing. A continuation of our premier Future of Food event in 2018, this year’s edition honed in on the business side of plant-based food tech. With 300 attendees and over a hundred people on the waitlist, The Future of Food has certainly become one of sf.citi’s most popular events.
Opening Discussion with HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed and Suzy Amis Cameron
Aside from being a mecca of plant-based food and drink, the obvious appeal of The Future of Food 2.0 was our lineup of top tier thought leaders in plant-based food innovation. To begin the speaking portion of the evening, sf.citi Executive Director Jennifer Stojkovic sat down with two individuals revolutionizing the plant-based food space: Founder and CEO of KBW Ventures, HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, and author and environmental advocate, Suzy Amis Cameron.
Colloquially known as “The Vegan Prince,” HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed highlighted the shifting narrative around plant-based products and companies, observing, “You wouldn’t think a room like this would be filled two years ago.” He also noted that the growing demand for plant-based food—helped largely by the success of companies like Beyond Meat—is happening globally and not just in San Francisco, or what he calls the “plant-based hub of the world.”
We have to have a realistic approach to how we expect the world to be 2050, and 2060, and 2100 … We do have a realistic approach in that we can end suffering through technology. Technology is the key.
– HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, Founder and CEO of KBW Ventures
Cameron has likewise witnessed increasing willingness among people to adjust their eating habits toward plant-based alternatives, even if just for one meal a day. She has transformed this “one meal a day” (OMD) approach for environmental and health-focused change into a global movement. It is also the inspiration behind her recent book, OMD: The Simple, Plant-Based Program to Save Your Health, Save Your Waistline, and Save the Planet.
One person changing one of their meals a day to a plant-based meal for a year, saves 200,000 gallons of water and the carbon equivalent of driving from Los Angeles to New York . . . If we don’t do something about our environment, it won’t matter if we have technology; it won’t matter if we are healthy; it won’t matter if we’ve got electric cars if we don’t have a planet to live on.
– Suzy Amis Cameron, Environmental Advocate and Author
When asked about the “next big thing” in plant-based food tech, both Alwaleed and Cameron said they would like to see more plant-based dairy alternatives. They were candid about the fact that becoming one hundred percent plant-based is hard. Delicious plant-based milk and cheese would certainly ease the transition!
What You Need to Know About Investing in Food Tech
After the fireside chat, HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed stayed on stage as the conversation continued with Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Good Food Institute, Bruce Friedrich, moderating a panel with the Prince and two other venture capitalists specializing in plant-based food tech: Dan Altschuler Malek of New Crop Capital and Johnny Ream of Stray Dog Capital.
Each of the speakers offered practical advice for plant-based food entrepreneurs. Dan Altschuler Malek, a Senior Venture Partner at New Crop Capital, emphasized the importance of developing products that not only taste great, but can be made in mass and at a reasonable price point. To reinforce this point, Dan mentioned that one of the biggest challenges facing plant-based food companies has been the ability to keep up with surging demand. He acknowledged, however, that growing demand is “not a bad problem to have.”
Johnny Ream, an early stage venture investor at Stray Dog Capital, noted that “founders are a cornerstone of all of our investments.” In that sense, he continued, investing in food tech is similar to other tech investments, in which investors emphasize the importance of having a strong founder.
Plant-Based Food and Drink of the Future
No one left The Future of Food 2.0 hungry. Throughout the evening, attendees sampled plant-based products from more than twenty vendors in our two-floor Meatless Marketplace. Of the companies represented, over fifty percent of the vendors were female-owned and operated.
Our plant-based and “plant-curious” attendees alike delighted in philly-cheesesteak burritos from Alpha Foods, creamy soft-serve ice cream from Eclipse Foods, bite-sized quiches from JUST, gourmet butter and cheese from Miyoko’s, fancy pizzas from Pizza Plant, and fried “chicken” and “steak” courtesy of Chef Chew at Something Better Foods.
On the bottom floor of the Meatless Marketplace we brought back two favorites from last year: tomato-based sushi from Ocean Hugger Foods and delicious American-style pizza from NUMU Vegan Cheese. We also had plenty of novelties, including queso-covered nachos from Loca Food, chicken nuggets from Rebellyous, and cheese-stuffed mushrooms and dates from Spero Foods.
The plant-based drinks were also flowing. Guests sipped hard kombucha courtesy of Nova Easy Kombucha, non-alcoholic kombucha from Brew DR Kombucha, Gowan’s Heirloom Cider, subtly flavored sparkling water from Good Idea Drinks, and so much more.
Watch the Event
Guests left The Future of Food 2.0 with a quenched appetite and a surprise gift bag stuffed with two dozen plant-based treats. As the voice of San Francisco’s tech community, we hope they also left feeling inspired about the fast-growing, plant-based food space within the tech industry. Future of Food 3.0, here we come!