There is so much innovation surrounding the food industry these days it is hard to keep up with every single trend and subtle change. Whether it is concerning wholesale, grocery, retail, restaurants, or technology – food is a niche that is necessary and ever expanding. There has been tremendous growth in unique specialty products on local grocery store shelves, such as, non-gmo, gluten free, and vegan products. Supporting the grocery innovation are energy efficient greenhouses on rooftops in Brooklyn growing organic vegetables along with the creation of cheeseburgers and sushi made from plant based protein. With technology as a pervasive presence in our world, it was inevitable that it would touch the food industry in a positive way. When it comes to food and technology, where do we begin? Thankfully New York City hosts its fair share of innovative ideas among diverse industries. When I came across a Food Loves Tech event, sponsored by the magazine Edible Manhattan, and hosted in Industry City, Brooklyn, I knew I would not be disappointed in the presentations and new ideas emerging in the awesome food industry.
A quick 20-minute subway ride from New York City and I arrived in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn. What was once a vibrant shipping terminal, Bush Terminal, in the 1950’s has become a 40 acre, 16 building complex known as Industry City. As with most of Brooklyn, the artists found a home in this former industrial section of NYC and the area became gentrified in the 1980’s. Industry City describes itself as “a microcosm of NYC that combines manufacturing and design, art and architecture, media, film production, fashion and food all in one space.” Old warehouses in the area have been converted to include a 40,000-square foot food hall, innovation lab, outdoor courtyard and a brand new WeWork space. WeWork is the epitome of creativity, with people working together bringing shared expertise, one-on-one sessions, networking events and wellness to rented work space.
At 6.5 million square feet, Industry City is a sprawling complex and it is easy to get distracted especially with the incredible food hall on the property. I tried to follow the signs pointing towards the “Food Loves Tech” event but I was quickly overcome with glorious smells of food from all over the world, including: cookies, meats, breads, bubble teas, tacos, dumplings, and so much more. If I did not register for the event, I would have stopped at multiple food vendors, pulled up a chair with my laptop and indulged all day!
Thankfully I found the willpower to keep going into the convention hall where I spent the better part of my day learning about fascinating food trends, eating some delicious delicacies, and sipping on some fabulous cocktails. Here are some of the highlights from this fantastic event:
- The Impossible Burger hosted by Saxon and Parole was one of my favorite exhibits at the show. This mini ‘burger’ was absolutely delicious and good for the environment. The Impossible Burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions mainly because there is no cow involved. The ‘burger’ is made from all natural ingredients such as wheat, coconut oils and potatoes. The ‘burger’ also includes a crucial ingredient called heme. Heme is an iron-containing molecule in blood that carries oxygen and essentially makes your blood red and meat look pink – food meets science and technology! Full disclosure, I am a vegetarian and never fully enjoyed the taste of meat but this ‘burger’ was awesome. Thankfully, for carnivores and herbivores alike, this delicious pseudo burger can be found at various locations around the USA including select Bareburger locations in New York City. Be sure to check out the website for locations where the product is served.
- Another vendor that was garnering a ton of attention was Selffee: the Edible Photo Booth. Those who approached the vendor were invited to stand in front of a photo booth while a staff member took their picture. Then, poof, magically a picture of your face appeared on the whipped cream on a cup of iced coffee. Can you imagine instead of a barista calling at your name at Starbucks, your face just appears on the coffee? Somewhat frightening at 7am on a Monday morning, but would sure solve the problem of misspellings and unclaimed cups: Jake? Jake? Pumpkin Spice Latte, Jake? Anyone?
- The Real Oyster Cult guys certainly had an interesting concept; fresh oysters delivered direct to your door. Here’s how it works: you browse farm fresh oysters, pick the ones you want from select oyster farms, they pack them up on ice and shipped via FedEx overnight. Now you just need to hire someone to shuck them! Besides offering oysters by mail, they were incredibly informative. Apparently oyster farms are 100% sustainable, they use no antibiotics, and do not deplete the sea stock to feed these little creatures. As an added bonus, oysters are really good for you containing omega 3s, antioxidants, vitamins, and protein, just another reason to get on board those $1 oyster deals!
- The Proud Pour owners presented an admirable concept in the realm of sustainability and restoring the environment. Every purchase of a bottle of their North Coast Sauvignon Blanc will restore 100 oysters to local waters. If white wines aren’t your thing, they also had an excellent Oregon Pinot Noir. When a bottle of their Pinot Noir is sold, 875 wildflowers are planted on farms to provide 90 sq. ft. of bee habitat. All the enjoyment of white and red wine while providing a means to give back to the environment – a great excuse to drink!
Some other great vendors included:
- Sombra Mezcal: a handcrafted spirit made from sustainable production methods. The company also puts a ton of money back into the environment and economy of Oaxaca, Mexico.
- Bonebite NYC, a catering company whose menus are based on seasonal market changes and who support sustainable practices and Beehex, a tech business building robots to print 3D designs and decorations on food such as cookies and cakes. They’re also working on a personalized nutrition bar that optimizes your dietary needs based on your body and lifestyle.
There were countless other vendors as well featuring amazing products and ideas. If you are interested in the future of food, specifically in the areas of sustainability, technology, and innovation, the Food Tech Events are incredible. There is great opportunity to learn, invest, and discover at these amazing events. The consumer is significantly more informed today than at any other time in our history; we, literally, have information at our finger tips and use that information to make great food choices. Spread the word Food Tech and I hope to see more amazing things, and you, at the next event.