WHY A FOODTECH COMPANY?
In a nutshell, we get to do what we love while working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges at the same time. The Mediterranean Food Lab founders and our employees are passionate about even obsessed with food on pretty much every scale. On both the very visceral level, deriving pleasure from eating great food and on a more ephemeral level being desirous to find ways to mitigate problems the food system creates. When you think about the necessary changes for the global community, you instantly think of food. Food has an enormous impact on some of the most significant challenges facing humanity today that include climate change, environmental degradation, the health and nutrition crisis, and the massive increase of modern non-communicable diseases. All are deeply entwined with food. Food and the food industry have a unique capacity to contribute to impactful and positive change.
WHAT ARE THE TRENDS YOU BELIEVE WILL BE EVOLVING IN FOODTECH IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
One important trend in our work from my biased viewpoint is the urgent need for more delicious products in the alternative protein space. Impossible Foods’ CEO, Pat Brown, famously claimed recently that the most important scientific question in the world today is, “What makes meat delicious?” The consumer experience of current alternatives is not good enough to address problems on a mass scale. Consumers are becoming much wiser about their experience, and they will demand new products that have greater deliciousness than what is out there right now. This demand cannot be met by adding salt, sugar, and fat, which the industry regularly does in many areas. We need deep, interesting, satisfying sensorial profiles. Products that are pleasing in the way that consuming meat is satisfying — not just at first bite, but five and 10 minutes later, and even an hour or two after we have eaten them.
There is some very interesting research showing a correlation between this kind of deliciousness and nutritional value. Foods we find really delicious actually turn out to be more nutritious. This is precisely what we are working towards at The Mediterranean Food Lab.
HOW DID YOU ADJUST YOUR STRATEGY IN 2021?
As our products are not yet on the market, we were not heavily impacted by the pandemic. Of course, the pandemic reaffirmed our thoughts and beliefs regarding what the market wants in nutrition and sensorial experience. One thing that affected us positively was that our lab is on the second floor of a building that houses a celebrated Tel Aviv restaurant owned by Yair and Omer, my two partners at The Mediterranean Food Lab. During lockdowns, the restaurant shuttered, and we found ourselves with a ton of space and immediate tripled capacity for research at both the large kitchens and the lab. When things began opening up, and the restaurant reopened, we had a series of MVP prototypes to test with potential customers, diners, and strategic partners.
WHAT IS A LESSON YOU LEARNED FROM LEADING A COMPANY DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC?
The most important lesson has to do with agility, which is anyway something startups often have as a built-in trait. But the pandemic taught us the power of balancing between being quite agile and taking advantage of opportunities in the short term while at the same time holding a longer-term vision which means sticking to our game plan and long-term goals.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A FOODTECH STARTUP FOUNDER TODAY?
Trivial yet critical: Spend a lot of time talking to your customers or users. It is incredible how many people forget to do that. You need to be spending most of your time developing products and talking to users, improving and refining. I also recommend that founders evaluate if a given investor is the right fit for them — it is crucial to choose your investors well. This can be very frightening because it means saying no to funds that have been offered if you are not at all sure that there is a better deal around the corner. We at MFL knew we wanted smart money. We preferred funds run by people who had a great deal of experience in the food business in general, a commitment to building a better food system, knowledge of the space, and a network critical to our scale and growth. We found all of those in FoodSparks® by PeakBridge. The fund is literally working for us on a daily basis helping us solve challenges, keeping us focused on our strategy, and supporting us with industry knowledge and network connections.
The MFL is a FoodSparks® by PeakBridge portfolio company. The startup develops affordable, natural, healthy flavour bases, using modalities based on traditional, multi-stage, multispecies, solid-state fermentation of plant protein. Learn more at www.med-food-lab.com