Every month, for now, we are sharing what we found interesting to know in terms of investments, trends, M&A, startups, tech in China, Asia, and in the rest of the World for everything related to Food, F&B and Restaurant Tech, because it's kind of the only thing we do at NextStepStudio.co.
This list is in no way exhaustive and the original purpose was for our team to remain on top of everything that is happening in our industry in link with our existing portfolio companies, and the area we are exploring for future projects.
WHAT'S NEW IN CHINA ?
1 - Rural brain drain: China appeals to urban tech talent to move to the countryside
"The country aims to establish a comprehensive policy and regulatory framework by 2025 to ensure a steady flow of talent in farming, business operations, public service and governance to rural areas. And Beijing now wants to use the state’s power to redirect skilled workers, especially those in technology, to help the countryside catch up."
2 - Chinese-Western breakfast sets proving to be a hit among locals
"[...] the most popular breakfast set at the moment is the steamed vegetable bun paired with black coffee. "The calories that one gets from a meal featuring Chinese dim sum and coffee are less than those of a Western breakfast. Since a steamed bun has nearly 200 calories and a cup of Americano barely has any, this combination can be considered healthy and delicious," said Shen, [...]. Even the smaller players in the food scene are jumping on the East-West breakfast bandwagon. Many smaller shops, especially those [...] where many universities and colleges are located, have started introducing sets such as drip bag coffee with baked barbecued pork puff and sandwiches with soybean milk. Western food establishments, too, have been rolling out Chinese breakfast options. Pizza Hut, for instance, now offers hot dry noodles, or re gan mian, a traditional dish of Wuhan of Hubei province, while KFC and McDonalds have a rice set meal and a Shaanxi-style bun respectively."
3 - Report: 85% of users paid by scanning QR codes in 2020
"The survey found 98 percent of respondents considered mobile payment as the most commonly used payment method, up 5 percentage points from a year earlier. The proportion of people who paid by scanning QR codes reached 85 percent, [...]. Chinese people used mobile payment three times a day on average, the report said. The ratio of those using it more than three times a day rose 11 percent from 2019, while 25 percent of respondents paid via mobile phone more than five times a day."
4 - Ready Meals, Dim Sum & Snacks: 7-Eleven Expands Plant-Based Range Across 700 Stores In Hong Kong With Green Monday
"The chain’s plant-based options for beverages and ambient snacks will also be expanded across 150 of its stores, with Green Common vegan soups and porridges, Califia Farms oat milk drinks, Bite Society vegan chocolate, Eat’s Better protein-rich cookies and Simply 7 crisps among the over 30 items expected to land on shelves. There will also be vegan-friendly instant noodles – a staple for many Hongkongers – coming in various flavours like mapo tofu, tom yum, shiitake mushroom and soybean."
5 - Supply and Demand in China’s Supercharged Delivery Economy
Getting delivery can actually be more affordable than cooking at home.
That might seem absurd, but there’s a reason prices are so low: food delivery is a battleground between two of China’s biggest tech giants: Tencent, which has a majority stake in the Meituan delivery app, and Alibaba, which owns the food app Ele.me. Together, these two cover 98% of the delivery market share in the country, and compete by offering sizeablE discounts in the hopes of winning the most customers.
WHAT'S NEW IN ASIA ?
6 - Warung Pintar acquires B2B ecommerce firm Bizzy Digital in $45m deal
"The deal will bring together two firms that work with a total of 600 brands and serve 230,000 retailers in 65 cities across Indonesia, according to the statement. Bizzy was established in 2015 as an e-procurement platform, which was then merged with bigger and older companies of Sinar Mas Group, one of the country’s largest conglomerates. In July 2018, it raised US$8 million in its pre-series B funding round."
7 - Singapore Unveils New US$45.2M Agritech Fund To Empower Farmers Through Food Tech Innovation
"The Green Plan 2030 that showcases a range of 10-year sustainability goals such as planting 1 million trees across the city, a 30% reduction in per capita landfill waste, along with the creation of a ‘carbon services’ sector.[...] The plan is taking these initiatives to classrooms aiming for at least 20% of schools to be carbon neutral by 2030, [...] in an effort to reduce two-thirds of net carbon emissions from the school sector.
In addition, Singapore wants to produce 30% of its nutritional needs through locally farmed food by 2030 an with respect to the new agritech fund."
8 - Foodpanda opens 150th Pandamart cloud grocery store
"Stores have now been opened in 40 cities across eight markets in Asia – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines."
9 - Asia's cloud kitchens expect delivery boom to outlast COVID
"Cloud kitchens and food deliveries have not only become wildly popular during the pandemic but they have also negated the need for prime locations.[...] Before the pandemic, restaurants could easily entice customers by locating themselves in office districts or crowded downtowns. But people's new normal -- working from home and avoiding crowds -- has shifted "the main battlefield of the restaurant business,"[...]
Cloud kitchens are nothing new. But while takeout-only pizza joints have been around for decades, Asia's cloud kitchen boom did not explode until recently as food delivery services became uber-popular."
WHAT'S NEW IN THE REST OF THE WORLD ?
10 - Innovation post-pandemic will play on familiar trends
"With annual CPG sales up 10% in February, IRI sees continued opportunity for large brands and private labels to innovate — particularly with plant-based, premium and health and wellness products. At the same time, they will be shaped by the "new normal" of consumer behavior, including more at-home cooking, the elevation of on-the-go convenience and frictionless shopping."
11 - DoorDash Acquires Chowbotics in Step Toward Restaurant Automation
"[DoorDash,] The top delivery platform that went public in December announced the Chowbotics acquisition in a blog post. It noted that the “proven” model with more than 100 “Sally” machines on campuses, hospitals and grocery stores is truly incremental for merchants that want to put one of the machines in their facility." “When Sally is full, she can make 60 large entrée salads,” said Smith in 2018. “If you think about a restaurant that makes burritos, you’re doing 89 percent burritos and its 11 percent salads. If you have a robot-like Sally there, you can get that salad quickly while the rest of the workers can focus on the other 89 percent of the business.”
12 - Record-breaking $31B Invested in Agrifood Tech in 2020 by AgFunder
"AgFunder also found that alt-protein/novel ingredient/functional food companies raised $2.3 billion across 26 deals, and that e-grocery was the most funded downstream category, raising $5.1 billion across 119 deals. AgFunder noted that the agrifood tech sector is maturing, with startups at both growth and late stage raising larger deals than ever before."
13 - Indoor farmer unveils latest high-yield concept
"Infarm has launched new Growing Centres which it says will help tackle the high costs often associated with the sector."
14 - 91% of US Restaurants Will Invest in Kitchen Automation in 2021
As far as those formats go, Square’s report found that restaurants plan to offer the following in 2021: curbside pickup (66 percent); drive-thru service (52 percent); drive-in service (48 percent); and drive-through dining (46 percent).
Loyalty programs, digital menus, in-house delivery, and digital ordering and payments are all technologies we can expect to drive these formats as well as the dining room experience in the future.