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CES: Tech transforms business of food

By ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The launch of Impossible Pork at CES in Las Vegas this week was met with a media frenzy

One of the biggest sensations of the annual CES consumer technology trade show in Las Vegas this week was not a gadget, but a menu option. Impossible Foods, which last year became the first food company to exhibit at the tech expo, on Monday evening served up a duo of plant-based “fake meat” products called Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage.

Impossible Foods joined a wide range of companies launching food and kitchen technologies that promise to transform the way we cook and eat, but the new Impossible products were the only actual food on show.

These joined last year’s CES sensation, Impossible Burger 2.0, which was named by numerous publications as the stand-out product of CES 2019. Its main ingredients are water, soy-protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil and natural flavouring. It gets the meat flavour from a molecule called heme, found in animal muscle tissue as well as in small quantities in legumes. Impossible Foods scientists found a way to produce it in large volume from plant sources. They have received not only approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the USA, but also kosher and halal certification – arguably far stricter tests.

Impossible Foods founder Patrick Brown invites media to try out Impossible Pork during the launch at CES 2020 in Las Vegas this week

Last year’s CES generated 300 media articles on Impossible Foods in the first 12 hours of the show, propelling the company to the forefront of the synthetic meat industry. In the next three months, it raised $300-million in venture capital, adding to an existing $450-million investment and valuing the company at $2-billion.

Its major rival, Beyond Meat, maker of the vegan Beyond Burger, went public just a month later. Its initial public offering on the Nasdaq exchange in May gave it a value of $3.8-million on opening day. It eventually topped $15-billion before settling back to its current market capitalisation of $5.1-billion. 

Beyond uses a mixture comprising mainly pea protein isolates, rice protein, mung bean protein, canola oil and coconut oil. It has been expanding rapidly across the planet, and this week announced a partnership with McDonald’s to test the product in 52 outlets in Ontario, Canada. The Beyond Meat share price jumped 15% following the news.

Beyond Burgers are becoming widely available in South Africa, with outlets ranging from the “wholesome foods” Voodoo Lily Café in Birdhaven, Johannesburg, to the 50-year-old Thundergun steakhouse in Blackheath, Randburg.

“Beyond Burger is doing very, very well, in South Africa; I can’t sell enough of it,” well-known executive chef Josh Simon, who consults to a range of restaurants on new dishes, told Gadget. He said that both non-meat options and food technology were “sweeping the industry”. 

Josh Simon, executive chef

Simon designs dishes for a variety of clients, and says “almost all of them want at least one vegan or vegetarian dish on their menu, and most want more than one. It’s about having a meat replacement for vegetarians and vegans, as well as about sustainability, the greenhouse effect, and animal rights. It’s now common knowledge that eating red meat every day is not good for you and it’s not good for the environment.“

At one of the first restaurants to introduce Beyond Burger, he says, “it did very well from day one”.

“One of the only issues with it is that right now it’s still way more expensive than a beef burger. Vegans will pay for it, because in this country veganism is still a luxury lifestyle, and it hits your pocket a lot harder than in other countries. The Beyond Burger is very expensive so, because of the price point, we’re not yet getting people who are going, ‘Cool. it’s a sustainable alternative to meat and so I’ll order it’. 

“But as the industry grows, and more products start to come in and maybe we start to produce more locally, the prices will come down and then people will order a meat alternative burger at a good price as well.”

Beyond Burgers are brought into South Africa by Infinite Foods, a 15-month-old start-up describing itself as “Africa’s plant-based protein products leader. It also imports Miyoko’s Butter, Nature & Moi cheeses, and Oatly milk – all of which are plant-based.

“We have successfully launched the Beyond Burger in over 700 locations nationwide,” says Kevin Coetzee, account manager at Infinite Foods. “Since we started just over a year ago, we have seen the volumes we’re bringing in increase exponentially.

“A number of the locations that stock the burgers also carry the Nature & Moi cheese and, with Miyoko’s arriving imminently, we expect to see a great uptake in the coming weeks. The majority of the customers that keep coming back, are not even the plant-based ones! The main appeal is that the Beyond patty is so familiar to the tastebuds, that the overall experience of eating the burger is nothing short of the real thing.”

It is not only food itself that is being revolutionized by technology. At CES, tech giants like Samsung and LG competed intensively with start-ups for leadership in cutting-edge food-making appliances.

Zimplistic, founded by wife-and-husband team Pranoti Nagarkar and Rishi Israni, demonstrated the Rotimatic, claimed to be “the world’s first automatic flatbread making robot”. It uses artificial intelligence and robotics to automate baking a wide variety of flatbreads, from tortillas to pizza-base.

Pranoti Nagarkar, co-inventor of the Rotimatic

Nagarkar, co-inventor of the Rotimatic, told Gadget: “Technology is completely changing the business side of food, from alternate sustainable food sources to delivery-enabled cloud kitchens. The food-delivery market alone is estimated to be worth $400-billion to $800-billion by 2030.”

She warned that there were many downsides, “including harsh environmental impact and lack of affordability for most families”.

“This is where robotics holds promise. Redesigned kitchens can allow robots to function seamlessly with little human labour, with a combination of collaborative robots taking over individual aspects of meal preparation. Rotimatic is one major step in this evolution, and we envision other single-purpose robotic innovations shaping the future of kitchens worldwide.”

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Second-hand smartphone market booms

The worldwide market for used smartphones is forecast to grow to 332.9 million units, with a market value of $67 billion, in 2023, according to IDC

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International Data Corporation (IDC) expects worldwide shipments of used smartphones, inclusive of both officially refurbished and used smartphones, to reach a total of 206.7 million units in 2019. This represents an increase of 17.6% over the 175.8 million units shipped in 2018. A new IDC forecast projects used smartphone shipments will reach 332.9 million units in 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% from 2018 to 2023.

This growth can be attributed to an uptick in demand for used smartphones that offer considerable savings compared with new models. Moreover, OEMs have struggled to produce new models that strike a balance between desirable new features and a price that is seen as reasonable. Looking ahead, IDC expects the deployment of 5G networks and smartphones to impact the used market as smartphone owners begin to trade in their 4G smartphones for the promise of high-performing 5G devices.

Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, says: “In contrast to the recent declines in the new smartphone market, as well as the forecast for minimal growth in new shipments over the next few years, the used market for smartphones shows no signs of slowing down across all parts of the globe. Refurbished and used devices continue to provide cost-effective alternatives to both consumers and businesses that are looking to save money when purchasing a smartphone. Moreover, the ability for vendors to push more affordable refurbished devices in markets in which they normally would not have a presence is helping these players grow their brand as well as their ecosystem of apps, services, and accessories.”

Worldwide Used Smartphone Shipments (shipments in millions of units)

Region2018
Shipments
2018 Market
Share
2023
Shipments*
2023 Market
Share*
2018-2023
CAGR*
North America39.022.2%87.226.2%17.4%
Rest of World136.877.8%245.773.8%12.4%
Total175.8100.0%332.9100.0%13.6%

Source: IDC, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023, Dec 2019.

Table Notes: Data is subject to change.
* Forecast projections.

Says Will Stofega, program director, Mobile Phones: “Although drivers such as regulatory compliance and environmental initiatives are still positively impacting the growth in the used market, the importance of cost-saving for new devices will continue to drive growth. Overall, we feel that the ability to use a previously owned device to fund the purchase of either a new or used device will play the most crucial role in the growth of the refurbished phone market. Trade-in combined with the increase in financing plans (EIP) will ultimately be the two main drivers of the refurbished phone market moving forward.”

According to IDC’s taxonomy, a refurbished smartphone is a device that has been used and disposed of at a collection point by its owner. Once the device has been examined and classified as suitable for refurbishment, it is sent off to a facility for reconditioning and is eventually sold via a secondary market channel. A refurbished smartphone is not a “hand me down” or gained as the result of a person-to-person sale or trade.

The IDC report, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023 (Doc #US45726219), provides an overview and five-year forecast of the worldwide refurbished phone market and its expansion and growth by 2023. This study also provides a look at key players and the impact they will have on vendors, carriers, and consumers.

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Customers and ‘super apps’ will shape travel in 2020s

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Customers will take far more control of their travel experience in the 2020s, according to a 2020 Trends report released this week by Travelport, a leading technology company serving the global travel industry.

Through independent research with thousands of global travellers – including 500 in South Africa – hundreds of travel professionals and interviews with leaders of some of the world’s biggest travel brands, Travelport uncovered the major forces that will become the technology enablers of travel over the next decade. These include:

Customers in control

Several trends highlight the finding that customers are moving towards self-service options, with 61% of the travellers surveyed in South Africa preferring to hear about travel disruption via digital communications, such as push notifications on an app, mobile chatbots, or instant messaging apps, rather than speaking with a person on the phone. This is especially important when it comes to young travellers under 25, seen as the future business traveler, and managing their high expectations through technology.

Mobile takeover

With the threat of super app domination, online travel agencies must disrupt or risk being disrupted. Contextual messaging across the journey will help. Super app tech giants like WeChat give their users a one-stop shop to communicate, shop online, book travel, bank, find a date, get food delivery, and pay for anything within a single, unified smartphone app. Travel brands that want to deliver holistic mobile customer experiences need to think about how they engage travellers within these super apps as well as in their own mobile channels.

Retail accelerated

In the next year, research shows, we will see an accelerated rate of change in the way travel is retailed and purchased online. This includes wider and more complex multi-content reach, more enriched and comparable offerings, more focus on relevance than magnitude, and an increase in automation that enables customer self-service.

“How customers engage with their travel experience – for instance by interacting with digital ‘bots’ and expecting offers better personalised to their needs – is changing rapidly,” says Adrian Roodt, country manager for Southern Africa at Travelport. “We in the travel industry need to understand and keep pace with these forces to make sure we’re continuing to make the experience of buying and managing travel continually better, for everyone.”

Read the full 2020 Trends report here: 2020 Trends hub.

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