We hear so much about how technology is changing industries, and the food sector is no different. Worth US$6.4 trillion globally, food would be the biggest economy in the world, and by 2050, we’ll need to be able to feed 9.6 billion people - 2.4 billion people more than we are currently trying to feed today.
Food technology picture from Shutterstock
Food tech itself is a US$50 billion global market growing at 16 to 20 per cent year-on-year - there's a real appetite for food tech startups, and it’s getting stronger. If you can come up with an innovative solution to a real problem - for B2C or better still, B2B, you’ll have investors chomping at the bit.
For those looking to start their own food tech business (or any kind of grassroots business), here are five vital things you need to know.
Do Your Research
Get to know the industry. And I don’t mean doing a quick Google. There are seriously big opportunities in the food industry that are waiting to be tapped into, with potentially world-changing consequences. Take sustainability as an example. According to McKinsey, food waste is the third biggest unexplored economic opportunity, while UK department store, Marks & Spencer’s saved £625 million (just under A$1.4 billion) since the inception of 'Plan A' in 2007, its plan to invest in holistic sustainability measures. Food security needs disruption.
Transparency is a huge buzzword for corporates at the moment. Understanding the entire process will help you learn about kinks in the system and gaps in the market, allowing you to refine your idea. You can create a solution that can have not just a local but even a global impact, made possible through the scalability of a technology product.
Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. To do this, you need to get on the food tech circuit and the startup circuit. There are startup events all over the Australia such as IBM's Smart Camp, which will be held in Melbourne later this month. There are also events exclusively focused on food technology such as FoodTech in Queensland.
What makes your idea stand out? How can you position your startup in the market? Differentiating your tech from competitors is key. When people compare your startup to another similar business, there should always be a “yes, but this idea is different because…” The best thing is to focus on one key feature that makes you really stand out, and focus on that in your communication. Be careful about how you liken yourself to other disruptive startups, though: there are a million and one "Tinder for..." apps out there, but ideally, you want your idea to stand on its own two feet.
Be Strong Online
It goes without saying that your tech startup should be visible online. But there’s a difference between having a website and having a strong online presence. Using a web-hosting company – we’ve always used GoDaddy in the past, but there are plenty of options – is a simple and cost-effective first step to creating a great website. You want your visitors - potential clients, investors, future team members or hires, partners, and journalists to see you as a professional company, and a kickass website will help your business look bigger and more established than it might be. Also, make sure you invest a few minutes into your meta tags of your HTML, or the SEO tool of your website builder. It will take some time to catch on, but will certainly make a difference in the long run.
Social media channels are an easy yet effective way to strengthen your brand online. Send updates of your business and find out who’s interested, via Twitter, Facebook and your mailing list. Put links to your channels in your email footer. If you offer great content, people will tweet and retweet you and you can grow your audience in no time. And the best part is, most of it is free! See if you can latch on to existing hashtags for trends in your niche - that’s also a great way to grow your network and become an influencer. To start things off, #foodtech has quite a few interesting top tweeters to follow, retweet and connect with. The innovation of your business should seep through all channels, so get creative and get disruptive!
This article originally appeared on Lifehacker UK.