Make way for the herd: the 18 European FoodTech ‘Soonicorns’ to watch

Make way for the herd: the 18 European FoodTech ‘Soonicorns’ to watch

By
Louise Burfitt
November 30, 2021

🦄 What is it? 

  • A ‘unicorn’ company is defined as a privately held startup company with a value of over $1 billion. And while the US has been the epicentre of the unicorn flock, Europe’s foodtech scene is starting to heat up with a number of startups recently getting their horns.
  • In this deep dive, we’ll take a look at tomorrow’s potential $1bn startups - including the ‘soonicorns’ (nearing $1bn in valuation) and the ‘futurecorns’ (up to $50m in funding). For the complete list - see here.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Europe is already home to 15 foodtech unicorns (the same number as Asia), including meal kit company Gousto, kitchen rental company Karma Kitchen, and e-grocery brands Rohlik, Gorillas, Getir and Glovo
  • The year 2020 has been something of a turning point for European foodtech. Funding reached €2.7 billion and investment which had previously focused on delivery and distribution (e.g. Getir), started to be seen across the whole value chain - from alternative protein creation to D2C packaged goods brands and alternative farming, to name just a few.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has been surprisingly good for foodtech. Driven by the closure of restaurants and food shortages, consumer behaviour underwent a sudden, almost overnight change - and this hastened the adoption of several trends that were already in the pipeline, like online groceries, home food delivery, meal kits and the demand for sustainable, ethical and healthier food options.
  • And with every consumer shift there lies a startup looking to fill a gap in the growing market and an investor looking to back the next big thing - leading to a rise in funding and booming valuations across the board. 
  • The relaunch of Atlantic Food as FoodLabs as a dedicated €100m fund for sustainable food startups, the closure of €180m to back European foodtech via Five Seasons Ventures or most recently the exit of Finnish food delivery Wolt at a €7bn valuation is all proof of the growing European foodtech scene. So what does Europe have that others lack?
  • Christoph Jenny, co-founder of Planted (itself a soonicorn) believes a combination of three factors is driving the trend in Europe: a strong tradition of academia in science and technology, capital driven by venture capital funds which have begun to see the value of solving issues in food production, and early evidence showing that consumers are willing to shift their behaviours in line with their values.

📈 The figures

  • According to a report by Five Seasons Ventures, European foodtech unicorns are now worth €92 billion, after a huge increase in value through 2020.
  • The European foodtech scene as a whole raised €2.7bn in 2020 and set to surpass €5bn in 2021.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • In 2020 and 2021, European foodtech deals reached 480 (a new record) and the median deal size grew to €1.2m, a figure that’s doubled since 2017. The UK is currently leading in the field, but France is hot on its heels. And startups across the continent are raising bigger numbers at ever earlier stages - often before they even have a product ready.
  • Sweden has seen a boost: after the €153m pre-IPO round raised by Oatly, foodtech investment in the Nordic country grew to €264m in 2020. Healthier snack brand NICKS looks to be the country's next success story with a recently closed $100m round to further fuel growth, alongside futurecorns Stockeld Dreamery and Hooked Foods (both producers of plant-based foods) reeling in their fair share of capital earlier this year. 
  • Plant-based foods makers have caught major venture interest lately, as Planted (Switzerland) and Allplants (UK) have each closed $50m+ in funding and look set to pass the $1bn mark in the near future, while THIS™ (UK), Umiami (France) and Juicy Marbles (Slovenia) have raked up rounds up of up to $10m each.
  • Similarly, cultivated meat continues to attract support. If you’re looking for Soonicorns in this field, there’s no better place than The Netherlands, where both Meatable and Mosa Meat are based. Or head to the UK to visit cultivated fats maker Hoxton Farms or Oxford-based Ivy Farm who are planning to produce cultured sausages for markets and restaurants by 2023. And despite some push back from the locals, Paris based Gourmey is working on bringing lab-grown foie gras to our plates and has raised $10m along the way.
  • The pandemic also drew investors’ attention to problems in the food supply chain. Berlin’s Infarm is a vertical farming startup growing food closer to consumers and has raised $404.5m in total funding, whilst Italy’s Cortilia and Switzerland's Farmy both raised their fair share to arrange grocery deliveries from local farmers and food producers. As well as local food supply, startups working on farming robotics and supply chain automation have also found their home in Europe with new backers.
  • In a sign of the times, foodtech venture capital firm Five Seasons Ventures recently announced the final closing of a €180 million second fund for fast-growing food startups, having already funded several European soonicorns on our list. And over in Spain, Eatable Adventures recently launched a €50m fund for disruptive food startups in Europe.

🇺🇸 How does Europe compare to the US?

According to Five Season's co-founder Niccolo Manzoni, it all depends on what you choose to look at. US based companies have indeed raised the more funding at the higher valuations, but if you look at the "fundamentals" (revenue, EBITDA, growth, retention) it tells another story.

"Just looking at the public market fillings for recent IPO's like Allbirds and Warbey Parker you'll find these companies are losing money in the double digits. The disconnect in value and valuation in the US remarkable.

More money raised is not the name of the game. More money raised just means more dilution. Instead European startups are focused on the fundamentals - growing without being capital intensive - which they're able to do as talent, user acquisition, marketing, and in the case of D2C brands, delivery and fulfillment are all less expensive here too."

💰 What's still missing in European FoodTech ?

According to Niccolo, Europe could still do with more specialised funds that follow in the likes of Astanor, Anterra Capital, Blue Horizon and Capagro. That and more later stage / growth capital geared towards helping European foodtech startups to scale.

👀 Who? (18 Soonicors in this space)

  • Infarm (Germany) Vertical Farming - $404.5m raised
  • Ynsect (France) Insect feed and fertilisers - $399.3m raised
  • Choco (Germany) Digital platform for restaurants - $171.5m raised
  • NICKS (Sweden) Healthy, low-sugar snacks and foods - $160m raised
  • Butternut Box (United Kingdom) D2C pet wellness company - $113.3m raised
  • Mosa Meat (Netherlands) Cultivated Meat Producer - $108m raised
  • Deliverect (Belgium) POS for third-party ordering platforms - $90M raised
  • Matsmart (Sweden) Surplus food eGrocer - $80M raised
  • ENOUGH (United Kingdom) fungi derived alternative proteins - $78.1m raised
  • Air Up (Germany) Scented/flavored water tech - $67.8m raised
  • Meatable (Netherlands) Cultivated meat producer - $60m raised
  • OLIO (United Kingdom) Global food sharing app - $58.9m raised
  • Simple Feast (Denmark) Vegan meal-kit delivery - $58.8m raised
  • Cortilia (Italy) Grocery delivery from farmers.$55.5m raised
  • Planted (Switzerland) Plant-based Meat Producer - $53.7m raised
  • Formo (Germany) Animal-free dairy products - $50m raised
  • All Plants (United Kingdom) Plant-Based D2C Meal Delivery - £52.8m raised
  • Taster (England) Food Delivery / Dark Kitchens - $50m raised

🔎 Read: Europe's 50+ Unicorns, Soonicorns and Futurecorns 

🍌 Case study: OLIO

  • Bananas in the fruit bowl turning brown? Pastries about to pass their use-by date? Step in OLIO, a food-sharing app that connects neighbours, businesses and communities in a fight to cut food waste.
  • The mobile app allows users and food businesses to post surplus food for collection - and 50% of all products posted online are collected within half an hour, according to the startup. 
  • Founded in London in 2015, the startup has raised $53.1 million to date, with its latest Series B funding round in September this year raising $43 million.
  • The most recent round was led by Swedish investment firm VNV Global (the fund that has backed Delivery Hero and Babylon).
  • Olio already has deals in place with Tesco, Pret A Manger and Costa Coffee, and is in active talks with Gorillas, Getir and Weezy about potential partnerships.
  • The app has garnered 5 million users in the UK, with 25 million portions of food redistributed as a result.
  • With the latest injection of cash, OLIO plans to expand internationally (in fact, the app just launched in Ireland) and continue partnering with restaurants and food businesses to help them reduce their waste through their Food Waste Heroes programme.

🐄 Case study: Meatable

  • Meet Meatable, a Dutch cultivated meat startup. The company, founded in 2018, has developed a proprietary technology that can turn animal stem cells into any cell type you can dream of - whether that’s juicy pork belly or a succulent fillet steak. 
  • Lower emissions, less water usage, no animal exploitation and zero destructive agricultural practices are just some of the advantages of its cultivated meat. 
  • And Meatable’s pork prototype is genetically identical to the real thing, and tastes just as delicious (which is more than you can say for some alternatives). 
  • In March this year the startup raised $47m in Series A funding, accelerating their total investment to $60m
  • Investors may have been attracted to Meatable’s standout trait: unlike most other cultivated meat companies, the Dutch brand has found a way to make real meat in the lab without fetal bovine serum, derived from the blood of unborn calves. 
  • The startup is already using its latest funding to ramp up its small-scale production.

👍 The good

  • European foodtech startups no longer need to head stateside to secure the best funding deals and attract the attention of investors. The continent is becoming a foodtech destination in its own right.  
  • Similarly, more US investors are starting to invest in European startups where they’re finding better early stage valuations than the sometimes ‘overhyped’ Silicon Valley startups. 
  • Europe offers clear financial advantages too. Talent is on the whole cheaper in Europe than in America – particularly in countries where cost of living is lower, like Portugal. One biotech founder in Switzerland disclosed that American foodtech engineers are paid around $130k per year, whereas those in Switzerland can expect an annual salary of around $80k. 
  • Europe is also attracting investor attention due to its location-specific advantages - the continent is home to several large FMCG companies (Nestlé, Unilever, Givaudan and more), fantastic universities nurturing relevant talent, and accelerators like Start Life, ProVeg and Masschallenge, which are fueling startup growth. This means, for startups in Europe, there are many potential partners and talented future employees - all of which help add to investor enthusiasm. 
  • Lastly, Europeans are more receptive to the environmental and health benefits of plant-based foods and are willing to pay a higher price for novel and healthy food. This makes it a great place for startups to launch products in these segments, and is perhaps a reason why backers are now more willing to fund innovative concepts in Europe.

👎 The bad

  • Christoph Jenny, co-founder of Planted, sees the current regulatory market in Europe as a hindrance. ‘We need a smart regulatory environment that promotes innovation rather than blocking it. Mostly in respect to approvals for novel food and taxation that is much worse than for the traditional animal meat industry,’ he said.
  • Europe is a more variable market than, say, the US - given the melting pot of languages, cultures, culinary tastes, cuisines and consumers. This can make expanding internationally within Europe difficult, given changing consumer preferences beyond borders and regulatory issues. 
  • There’s also a chasm between the unicorns that have been around for years, and those that are just hitting the threshold. Many of the original foodtech startups - particularly in the delivery sector - have bought up emerging companies, creating a handful of large companies and leaving less room for smaller players to make waves of their own. 
  • And let’s not get started on the bureaucratic hurdles European startups need to jump through - from forming a company to opening a bank account, hiring overseas staff or unfavourable tax on capital gains - European countries still have a long way to go to match the US when it comes to favourable conditions to foster entrepreneurship on their home turf.

 💡 The bottom line

  • While once firmly in the shadow of Silicon Valley, European foodtech unicorns are now starting to find their footing, giving their counterparts across the pond a serious run for their money. 
  • While the food delivery category has delivered most of the current European foodtech unicorns, investors are diversifying away from this to now back emerging niches - like cultivated meat, alternative proteins and agritech. 
  • As technology and science converge, progressive startups in Europe are working on everything from robotic farming to fungi proteins - and investors are pulling out their cheque books en masse and signing on the dotted line.
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🦄 What is it? 

  • A ‘unicorn’ company is defined as a privately held startup company with a value of over $1 billion. And while the US has been the epicentre of the unicorn flock, Europe’s foodtech scene is starting to heat up with a number of startups recently getting their horns.
  • In this deep dive, we’ll take a look at tomorrow’s potential $1bn startups - including the ‘soonicorns’ (nearing $1bn in valuation) and the ‘futurecorns’ (up to $50m in funding). For the complete list - see here.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Europe is already home to 15 foodtech unicorns (the same number as Asia), including meal kit company Gousto, kitchen rental company Karma Kitchen, and e-grocery brands Rohlik, Gorillas, Getir and Glovo
  • The year 2020 has been something of a turning point for European foodtech. Funding reached €2.7 billion and investment which had previously focused on delivery and distribution (e.g. Getir), started to be seen across the whole value chain - from alternative protein creation to D2C packaged goods brands and alternative farming, to name just a few.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has been surprisingly good for foodtech. Driven by the closure of restaurants and food shortages, consumer behaviour underwent a sudden, almost overnight change - and this hastened the adoption of several trends that were already in the pipeline, like online groceries, home food delivery, meal kits and the demand for sustainable, ethical and healthier food options.
  • And with every consumer shift there lies a startup looking to fill a gap in the growing market and an investor looking to back the next big thing - leading to a rise in funding and booming valuations across the board. 
  • The relaunch of Atlantic Food as FoodLabs as a dedicated €100m fund for sustainable food startups, the closure of €180m to back European foodtech via Five Seasons Ventures or most recently the exit of Finnish food delivery Wolt at a €7bn valuation is all proof of the growing European foodtech scene. So what does Europe have that others lack?
  • Christoph Jenny, co-founder of Planted (itself a soonicorn) believes a combination of three factors is driving the trend in Europe: a strong tradition of academia in science and technology, capital driven by venture capital funds which have begun to see the value of solving issues in food production, and early evidence showing that consumers are willing to shift their behaviours in line with their values.

📈 The figures

  • According to a report by Five Seasons Ventures, European foodtech unicorns are now worth €92 billion, after a huge increase in value through 2020.
  • The European foodtech scene as a whole raised €2.7bn in 2020 and set to surpass €5bn in 2021.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • In 2020 and 2021, European foodtech deals reached 480 (a new record) and the median deal size grew to €1.2m, a figure that’s doubled since 2017. The UK is currently leading in the field, but France is hot on its heels. And startups across the continent are raising bigger numbers at ever earlier stages - often before they even have a product ready.
  • Sweden has seen a boost: after the €153m pre-IPO round raised by Oatly, foodtech investment in the Nordic country grew to €264m in 2020. Healthier snack brand NICKS looks to be the country's next success story with a recently closed $100m round to further fuel growth, alongside futurecorns Stockeld Dreamery and Hooked Foods (both producers of plant-based foods) reeling in their fair share of capital earlier this year. 
  • Plant-based foods makers have caught major venture interest lately, as Planted (Switzerland) and Allplants (UK) have each closed $50m+ in funding and look set to pass the $1bn mark in the near future, while THIS™ (UK), Umiami (France) and Juicy Marbles (Slovenia) have raked up rounds up of up to $10m each.
  • Similarly, cultivated meat continues to attract support. If you’re looking for Soonicorns in this field, there’s no better place than The Netherlands, where both Meatable and Mosa Meat are based. Or head to the UK to visit cultivated fats maker Hoxton Farms or Oxford-based Ivy Farm who are planning to produce cultured sausages for markets and restaurants by 2023. And despite some push back from the locals, Paris based Gourmey is working on bringing lab-grown foie gras to our plates and has raised $10m along the way.
  • The pandemic also drew investors’ attention to problems in the food supply chain. Berlin’s Infarm is a vertical farming startup growing food closer to consumers and has raised $404.5m in total funding, whilst Italy’s Cortilia and Switzerland's Farmy both raised their fair share to arrange grocery deliveries from local farmers and food producers. As well as local food supply, startups working on farming robotics and supply chain automation have also found their home in Europe with new backers.
  • In a sign of the times, foodtech venture capital firm Five Seasons Ventures recently announced the final closing of a €180 million second fund for fast-growing food startups, having already funded several European soonicorns on our list. And over in Spain, Eatable Adventures recently launched a €50m fund for disruptive food startups in Europe.

🇺🇸 How does Europe compare to the US?

According to Five Season's co-founder Niccolo Manzoni, it all depends on what you choose to look at. US based companies have indeed raised the more funding at the higher valuations, but if you look at the "fundamentals" (revenue, EBITDA, growth, retention) it tells another story.

"Just looking at the public market fillings for recent IPO's like Allbirds and Warbey Parker you'll find these companies are losing money in the double digits. The disconnect in value and valuation in the US remarkable.

More money raised is not the name of the game. More money raised just means more dilution. Instead European startups are focused on the fundamentals - growing without being capital intensive - which they're able to do as talent, user acquisition, marketing, and in the case of D2C brands, delivery and fulfillment are all less expensive here too."

💰 What's still missing in European FoodTech ?

According to Niccolo, Europe could still do with more specialised funds that follow in the likes of Astanor, Anterra Capital, Blue Horizon and Capagro. That and more later stage / growth capital geared towards helping European foodtech startups to scale.

👀 Who? (18 Soonicors in this space)

  • Infarm (Germany) Vertical Farming - $404.5m raised
  • Ynsect (France) Insect feed and fertilisers - $399.3m raised
  • Choco (Germany) Digital platform for restaurants - $171.5m raised
  • NICKS (Sweden) Healthy, low-sugar snacks and foods - $160m raised
  • Butternut Box (United Kingdom) D2C pet wellness company - $113.3m raised
  • Mosa Meat (Netherlands) Cultivated Meat Producer - $108m raised
  • Deliverect (Belgium) POS for third-party ordering platforms - $90M raised
  • Matsmart (Sweden) Surplus food eGrocer - $80M raised
  • ENOUGH (United Kingdom) fungi derived alternative proteins - $78.1m raised
  • Air Up (Germany) Scented/flavored water tech - $67.8m raised
  • Meatable (Netherlands) Cultivated meat producer - $60m raised
  • OLIO (United Kingdom) Global food sharing app - $58.9m raised
  • Simple Feast (Denmark) Vegan meal-kit delivery - $58.8m raised
  • Cortilia (Italy) Grocery delivery from farmers.$55.5m raised
  • Planted (Switzerland) Plant-based Meat Producer - $53.7m raised
  • Formo (Germany) Animal-free dairy products - $50m raised
  • All Plants (United Kingdom) Plant-Based D2C Meal Delivery - £52.8m raised
  • Taster (England) Food Delivery / Dark Kitchens - $50m raised

🔎 Read: Europe's 50+ Unicorns, Soonicorns and Futurecorns 

🍌 Case study: OLIO

  • Bananas in the fruit bowl turning brown? Pastries about to pass their use-by date? Step in OLIO, a food-sharing app that connects neighbours, businesses and communities in a fight to cut food waste.
  • The mobile app allows users and food businesses to post surplus food for collection - and 50% of all products posted online are collected within half an hour, according to the startup. 
  • Founded in London in 2015, the startup has raised $53.1 million to date, with its latest Series B funding round in September this year raising $43 million.
  • The most recent round was led by Swedish investment firm VNV Global (the fund that has backed Delivery Hero and Babylon).
  • Olio already has deals in place with Tesco, Pret A Manger and Costa Coffee, and is in active talks with Gorillas, Getir and Weezy about potential partnerships.
  • The app has garnered 5 million users in the UK, with 25 million portions of food redistributed as a result.
  • With the latest injection of cash, OLIO plans to expand internationally (in fact, the app just launched in Ireland) and continue partnering with restaurants and food businesses to help them reduce their waste through their Food Waste Heroes programme.

🐄 Case study: Meatable

  • Meet Meatable, a Dutch cultivated meat startup. The company, founded in 2018, has developed a proprietary technology that can turn animal stem cells into any cell type you can dream of - whether that’s juicy pork belly or a succulent fillet steak. 
  • Lower emissions, less water usage, no animal exploitation and zero destructive agricultural practices are just some of the advantages of its cultivated meat. 
  • And Meatable’s pork prototype is genetically identical to the real thing, and tastes just as delicious (which is more than you can say for some alternatives). 
  • In March this year the startup raised $47m in Series A funding, accelerating their total investment to $60m
  • Investors may have been attracted to Meatable’s standout trait: unlike most other cultivated meat companies, the Dutch brand has found a way to make real meat in the lab without fetal bovine serum, derived from the blood of unborn calves. 
  • The startup is already using its latest funding to ramp up its small-scale production.

👍 The good

  • European foodtech startups no longer need to head stateside to secure the best funding deals and attract the attention of investors. The continent is becoming a foodtech destination in its own right.  
  • Similarly, more US investors are starting to invest in European startups where they’re finding better early stage valuations than the sometimes ‘overhyped’ Silicon Valley startups. 
  • Europe offers clear financial advantages too. Talent is on the whole cheaper in Europe than in America – particularly in countries where cost of living is lower, like Portugal. One biotech founder in Switzerland disclosed that American foodtech engineers are paid around $130k per year, whereas those in Switzerland can expect an annual salary of around $80k. 
  • Europe is also attracting investor attention due to its location-specific advantages - the continent is home to several large FMCG companies (Nestlé, Unilever, Givaudan and more), fantastic universities nurturing relevant talent, and accelerators like Start Life, ProVeg and Masschallenge, which are fueling startup growth. This means, for startups in Europe, there are many potential partners and talented future employees - all of which help add to investor enthusiasm. 
  • Lastly, Europeans are more receptive to the environmental and health benefits of plant-based foods and are willing to pay a higher price for novel and healthy food. This makes it a great place for startups to launch products in these segments, and is perhaps a reason why backers are now more willing to fund innovative concepts in Europe.

👎 The bad

  • Christoph Jenny, co-founder of Planted, sees the current regulatory market in Europe as a hindrance. ‘We need a smart regulatory environment that promotes innovation rather than blocking it. Mostly in respect to approvals for novel food and taxation that is much worse than for the traditional animal meat industry,’ he said.
  • Europe is a more variable market than, say, the US - given the melting pot of languages, cultures, culinary tastes, cuisines and consumers. This can make expanding internationally within Europe difficult, given changing consumer preferences beyond borders and regulatory issues. 
  • There’s also a chasm between the unicorns that have been around for years, and those that are just hitting the threshold. Many of the original foodtech startups - particularly in the delivery sector - have bought up emerging companies, creating a handful of large companies and leaving less room for smaller players to make waves of their own. 
  • And let’s not get started on the bureaucratic hurdles European startups need to jump through - from forming a company to opening a bank account, hiring overseas staff or unfavourable tax on capital gains - European countries still have a long way to go to match the US when it comes to favourable conditions to foster entrepreneurship on their home turf.

 💡 The bottom line

  • While once firmly in the shadow of Silicon Valley, European foodtech unicorns are now starting to find their footing, giving their counterparts across the pond a serious run for their money. 
  • While the food delivery category has delivered most of the current European foodtech unicorns, investors are diversifying away from this to now back emerging niches - like cultivated meat, alternative proteins and agritech. 
  • As technology and science converge, progressive startups in Europe are working on everything from robotic farming to fungi proteins - and investors are pulling out their cheque books en masse and signing on the dotted line.

🦄 What is it? 

  • A ‘unicorn’ company is defined as a privately held startup company with a value of over $1 billion. And while the US has been the epicentre of the unicorn flock, Europe’s foodtech scene is starting to heat up with a number of startups recently getting their horns.
  • In this deep dive, we’ll take a look at tomorrow’s potential $1bn startups - including the ‘soonicorns’ (nearing $1bn in valuation) and the ‘futurecorns’ (up to $50m in funding). For the complete list - see here.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Europe is already home to 15 foodtech unicorns (the same number as Asia), including meal kit company Gousto, kitchen rental company Karma Kitchen, and e-grocery brands Rohlik, Gorillas, Getir and Glovo
  • The year 2020 has been something of a turning point for European foodtech. Funding reached €2.7 billion and investment which had previously focused on delivery and distribution (e.g. Getir), started to be seen across the whole value chain - from alternative protein creation to D2C packaged goods brands and alternative farming, to name just a few.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has been surprisingly good for foodtech. Driven by the closure of restaurants and food shortages, consumer behaviour underwent a sudden, almost overnight change - and this hastened the adoption of several trends that were already in the pipeline, like online groceries, home food delivery, meal kits and the demand for sustainable, ethical and healthier food options.
  • And with every consumer shift there lies a startup looking to fill a gap in the growing market and an investor looking to back the next big thing - leading to a rise in funding and booming valuations across the board. 
  • The relaunch of Atlantic Food as FoodLabs as a dedicated €100m fund for sustainable food startups, the closure of €180m to back European foodtech via Five Seasons Ventures or most recently the exit of Finnish food delivery Wolt at a €7bn valuation is all proof of the growing European foodtech scene. So what does Europe have that others lack?
  • Christoph Jenny, co-founder of Planted (itself a soonicorn) believes a combination of three factors is driving the trend in Europe: a strong tradition of academia in science and technology, capital driven by venture capital funds which have begun to see the value of solving issues in food production, and early evidence showing that consumers are willing to shift their behaviours in line with their values.

📈 The figures

  • According to a report by Five Seasons Ventures, European foodtech unicorns are now worth €92 billion, after a huge increase in value through 2020.
  • The European foodtech scene as a whole raised €2.7bn in 2020 and set to surpass €5bn in 2021.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • In 2020 and 2021, European foodtech deals reached 480 (a new record) and the median deal size grew to €1.2m, a figure that’s doubled since 2017. The UK is currently leading in the field, but France is hot on its heels. And startups across the continent are raising bigger numbers at ever earlier stages - often before they even have a product ready.
  • Sweden has seen a boost: after the €153m pre-IPO round raised by Oatly, foodtech investment in the Nordic country grew to €264m in 2020. Healthier snack brand NICKS looks to be the country's next success story with a recently closed $100m round to further fuel growth, alongside futurecorns Stockeld Dreamery and Hooked Foods (both producers of plant-based foods) reeling in their fair share of capital earlier this year. 
  • Plant-based foods makers have caught major venture interest lately, as Planted (Switzerland) and Allplants (UK) have each closed $50m+ in funding and look set to pass the $1bn mark in the near future, while THIS™ (UK), Umiami (France) and Juicy Marbles (Slovenia) have raked up rounds up of up to $10m each.
  • Similarly, cultivated meat continues to attract support. If you’re looking for Soonicorns in this field, there’s no better place than The Netherlands, where both Meatable and Mosa Meat are based. Or head to the UK to visit cultivated fats maker Hoxton Farms or Oxford-based Ivy Farm who are planning to produce cultured sausages for markets and restaurants by 2023. And despite some push back from the locals, Paris based Gourmey is working on bringing lab-grown foie gras to our plates and has raised $10m along the way.
  • The pandemic also drew investors’ attention to problems in the food supply chain. Berlin’s Infarm is a vertical farming startup growing food closer to consumers and has raised $404.5m in total funding, whilst Italy’s Cortilia and Switzerland's Farmy both raised their fair share to arrange grocery deliveries from local farmers and food producers. As well as local food supply, startups working on farming robotics and supply chain automation have also found their home in Europe with new backers.
  • In a sign of the times, foodtech venture capital firm Five Seasons Ventures recently announced the final closing of a €180 million second fund for fast-growing food startups, having already funded several European soonicorns on our list. And over in Spain, Eatable Adventures recently launched a €50m fund for disruptive food startups in Europe.

🇺🇸 How does Europe compare to the US?

According to Five Season's co-founder Niccolo Manzoni, it all depends on what you choose to look at. US based companies have indeed raised the more funding at the higher valuations, but if you look at the "fundamentals" (revenue, EBITDA, growth, retention) it tells another story.

"Just looking at the public market fillings for recent IPO's like Allbirds and Warbey Parker you'll find these companies are losing money in the double digits. The disconnect in value and valuation in the US remarkable.

More money raised is not the name of the game. More money raised just means more dilution. Instead European startups are focused on the fundamentals - growing without being capital intensive - which they're able to do as talent, user acquisition, marketing, and in the case of D2C brands, delivery and fulfillment are all less expensive here too."

💰 What's still missing in European FoodTech ?

According to Niccolo, Europe could still do with more specialised funds that follow in the likes of Astanor, Anterra Capital, Blue Horizon and Capagro. That and more later stage / growth capital geared towards helping European foodtech startups to scale.

👀 Who? (18 Soonicors in this space)

  • Infarm (Germany) Vertical Farming - $404.5m raised
  • Ynsect (France) Insect feed and fertilisers - $399.3m raised
  • Choco (Germany) Digital platform for restaurants - $171.5m raised
  • NICKS (Sweden) Healthy, low-sugar snacks and foods - $160m raised
  • Butternut Box (United Kingdom) D2C pet wellness company - $113.3m raised
  • Mosa Meat (Netherlands) Cultivated Meat Producer - $108m raised
  • Deliverect (Belgium) POS for third-party ordering platforms - $90M raised
  • Matsmart (Sweden) Surplus food eGrocer - $80M raised
  • ENOUGH (United Kingdom) fungi derived alternative proteins - $78.1m raised
  • Air Up (Germany) Scented/flavored water tech - $67.8m raised
  • Meatable (Netherlands) Cultivated meat producer - $60m raised
  • OLIO (United Kingdom) Global food sharing app - $58.9m raised
  • Simple Feast (Denmark) Vegan meal-kit delivery - $58.8m raised
  • Cortilia (Italy) Grocery delivery from farmers.$55.5m raised
  • Planted (Switzerland) Plant-based Meat Producer - $53.7m raised
  • Formo (Germany) Animal-free dairy products - $50m raised
  • All Plants (United Kingdom) Plant-Based D2C Meal Delivery - £52.8m raised
  • Taster (England) Food Delivery / Dark Kitchens - $50m raised

🔎 Read: Europe's 50+ Unicorns, Soonicorns and Futurecorns 

🍌 Case study: OLIO

  • Bananas in the fruit bowl turning brown? Pastries about to pass their use-by date? Step in OLIO, a food-sharing app that connects neighbours, businesses and communities in a fight to cut food waste.
  • The mobile app allows users and food businesses to post surplus food for collection - and 50% of all products posted online are collected within half an hour, according to the startup. 
  • Founded in London in 2015, the startup has raised $53.1 million to date, with its latest Series B funding round in September this year raising $43 million.
  • The most recent round was led by Swedish investment firm VNV Global (the fund that has backed Delivery Hero and Babylon).
  • Olio already has deals in place with Tesco, Pret A Manger and Costa Coffee, and is in active talks with Gorillas, Getir and Weezy about potential partnerships.
  • The app has garnered 5 million users in the UK, with 25 million portions of food redistributed as a result.
  • With the latest injection of cash, OLIO plans to expand internationally (in fact, the app just launched in Ireland) and continue partnering with restaurants and food businesses to help them reduce their waste through their Food Waste Heroes programme.

🐄 Case study: Meatable

  • Meet Meatable, a Dutch cultivated meat startup. The company, founded in 2018, has developed a proprietary technology that can turn animal stem cells into any cell type you can dream of - whether that’s juicy pork belly or a succulent fillet steak. 
  • Lower emissions, less water usage, no animal exploitation and zero destructive agricultural practices are just some of the advantages of its cultivated meat. 
  • And Meatable’s pork prototype is genetically identical to the real thing, and tastes just as delicious (which is more than you can say for some alternatives). 
  • In March this year the startup raised $47m in Series A funding, accelerating their total investment to $60m
  • Investors may have been attracted to Meatable’s standout trait: unlike most other cultivated meat companies, the Dutch brand has found a way to make real meat in the lab without fetal bovine serum, derived from the blood of unborn calves. 
  • The startup is already using its latest funding to ramp up its small-scale production.

👍 The good

  • European foodtech startups no longer need to head stateside to secure the best funding deals and attract the attention of investors. The continent is becoming a foodtech destination in its own right.  
  • Similarly, more US investors are starting to invest in European startups where they’re finding better early stage valuations than the sometimes ‘overhyped’ Silicon Valley startups. 
  • Europe offers clear financial advantages too. Talent is on the whole cheaper in Europe than in America – particularly in countries where cost of living is lower, like Portugal. One biotech founder in Switzerland disclosed that American foodtech engineers are paid around $130k per year, whereas those in Switzerland can expect an annual salary of around $80k. 
  • Europe is also attracting investor attention due to its location-specific advantages - the continent is home to several large FMCG companies (Nestlé, Unilever, Givaudan and more), fantastic universities nurturing relevant talent, and accelerators like Start Life, ProVeg and Masschallenge, which are fueling startup growth. This means, for startups in Europe, there are many potential partners and talented future employees - all of which help add to investor enthusiasm. 
  • Lastly, Europeans are more receptive to the environmental and health benefits of plant-based foods and are willing to pay a higher price for novel and healthy food. This makes it a great place for startups to launch products in these segments, and is perhaps a reason why backers are now more willing to fund innovative concepts in Europe.

👎 The bad

  • Christoph Jenny, co-founder of Planted, sees the current regulatory market in Europe as a hindrance. ‘We need a smart regulatory environment that promotes innovation rather than blocking it. Mostly in respect to approvals for novel food and taxation that is much worse than for the traditional animal meat industry,’ he said.
  • Europe is a more variable market than, say, the US - given the melting pot of languages, cultures, culinary tastes, cuisines and consumers. This can make expanding internationally within Europe difficult, given changing consumer preferences beyond borders and regulatory issues. 
  • There’s also a chasm between the unicorns that have been around for years, and those that are just hitting the threshold. Many of the original foodtech startups - particularly in the delivery sector - have bought up emerging companies, creating a handful of large companies and leaving less room for smaller players to make waves of their own. 
  • And let’s not get started on the bureaucratic hurdles European startups need to jump through - from forming a company to opening a bank account, hiring overseas staff or unfavourable tax on capital gains - European countries still have a long way to go to match the US when it comes to favourable conditions to foster entrepreneurship on their home turf.

 💡 The bottom line

  • While once firmly in the shadow of Silicon Valley, European foodtech unicorns are now starting to find their footing, giving their counterparts across the pond a serious run for their money. 
  • While the food delivery category has delivered most of the current European foodtech unicorns, investors are diversifying away from this to now back emerging niches - like cultivated meat, alternative proteins and agritech. 
  • As technology and science converge, progressive startups in Europe are working on everything from robotic farming to fungi proteins - and investors are pulling out their cheque books en masse and signing on the dotted line.

🦄 What is it? 

  • A ‘unicorn’ company is defined as a privately held startup company with a value of over $1 billion. And while the US has been the epicentre of the unicorn flock, Europe’s foodtech scene is starting to heat up with a number of startups recently getting their horns.
  • In this deep dive, we’ll take a look at tomorrow’s potential $1bn startups - including the ‘soonicorns’ (nearing $1bn in valuation) and the ‘futurecorns’ (up to $50m in funding). For the complete list - see here.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Europe is already home to 15 foodtech unicorns (the same number as Asia), including meal kit company Gousto, kitchen rental company Karma Kitchen, and e-grocery brands Rohlik, Gorillas, Getir and Glovo
  • The year 2020 has been something of a turning point for European foodtech. Funding reached €2.7 billion and investment which had previously focused on delivery and distribution (e.g. Getir), started to be seen across the whole value chain - from alternative protein creation to D2C packaged goods brands and alternative farming, to name just a few.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has been surprisingly good for foodtech. Driven by the closure of restaurants and food shortages, consumer behaviour underwent a sudden, almost overnight change - and this hastened the adoption of several trends that were already in the pipeline, like online groceries, home food delivery, meal kits and the demand for sustainable, ethical and healthier food options.
  • And with every consumer shift there lies a startup looking to fill a gap in the growing market and an investor looking to back the next big thing - leading to a rise in funding and booming valuations across the board. 
  • The relaunch of Atlantic Food as FoodLabs as a dedicated €100m fund for sustainable food startups, the closure of €180m to back European foodtech via Five Seasons Ventures or most recently the exit of Finnish food delivery Wolt at a €7bn valuation is all proof of the growing European foodtech scene. So what does Europe have that others lack?
  • Christoph Jenny, co-founder of Planted (itself a soonicorn) believes a combination of three factors is driving the trend in Europe: a strong tradition of academia in science and technology, capital driven by venture capital funds which have begun to see the value of solving issues in food production, and early evidence showing that consumers are willing to shift their behaviours in line with their values.

📈 The figures

  • According to a report by Five Seasons Ventures, European foodtech unicorns are now worth €92 billion, after a huge increase in value through 2020.
  • The European foodtech scene as a whole raised €2.7bn in 2020 and set to surpass €5bn in 2021.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • In 2020 and 2021, European foodtech deals reached 480 (a new record) and the median deal size grew to €1.2m, a figure that’s doubled since 2017. The UK is currently leading in the field, but France is hot on its heels. And startups across the continent are raising bigger numbers at ever earlier stages - often before they even have a product ready.
  • Sweden has seen a boost: after the €153m pre-IPO round raised by Oatly, foodtech investment in the Nordic country grew to €264m in 2020. Healthier snack brand NICKS looks to be the country's next success story with a recently closed $100m round to further fuel growth, alongside futurecorns Stockeld Dreamery and Hooked Foods (both producers of plant-based foods) reeling in their fair share of capital earlier this year. 
  • Plant-based foods makers have caught major venture interest lately, as Planted (Switzerland) and Allplants (UK) have each closed $50m+ in funding and look set to pass the $1bn mark in the near future, while THIS™ (UK), Umiami (France) and Juicy Marbles (Slovenia) have raked up rounds up of up to $10m each.
  • Similarly, cultivated meat continues to attract support. If you’re looking for Soonicorns in this field, there’s no better place than The Netherlands, where both Meatable and Mosa Meat are based. Or head to the UK to visit cultivated fats maker Hoxton Farms or Oxford-based Ivy Farm who are planning to produce cultured sausages for markets and restaurants by 2023. And despite some push back from the locals, Paris based Gourmey is working on bringing lab-grown foie gras to our plates and has raised $10m along the way.
  • The pandemic also drew investors’ attention to problems in the food supply chain. Berlin’s Infarm is a vertical farming startup growing food closer to consumers and has raised $404.5m in total funding, whilst Italy’s Cortilia and Switzerland's Farmy both raised their fair share to arrange grocery deliveries from local farmers and food producers. As well as local food supply, startups working on farming robotics and supply chain automation have also found their home in Europe with new backers.
  • In a sign of the times, foodtech venture capital firm Five Seasons Ventures recently announced the final closing of a €180 million second fund for fast-growing food startups, having already funded several European soonicorns on our list. And over in Spain, Eatable Adventures recently launched a €50m fund for disruptive food startups in Europe.

🇺🇸 How does Europe compare to the US?

According to Five Season's co-founder Niccolo Manzoni, it all depends on what you choose to look at. US based companies have indeed raised the more funding at the higher valuations, but if you look at the "fundamentals" (revenue, EBITDA, growth, retention) it tells another story.

"Just looking at the public market fillings for recent IPO's like Allbirds and Warbey Parker you'll find these companies are losing money in the double digits. The disconnect in value and valuation in the US remarkable.

More money raised is not the name of the game. More money raised just means more dilution. Instead European startups are focused on the fundamentals - growing without being capital intensive - which they're able to do as talent, user acquisition, marketing, and in the case of D2C brands, delivery and fulfillment are all less expensive here too."

💰 What's still missing in European FoodTech ?

According to Niccolo, Europe could still do with more specialised funds that follow in the likes of Astanor, Anterra Capital, Blue Horizon and Capagro. That and more later stage / growth capital geared towards helping European foodtech startups to scale.

👀 Who? (18 Soonicors in this space)

  • Infarm (Germany) Vertical Farming - $404.5m raised
  • Ynsect (France) Insect feed and fertilisers - $399.3m raised
  • Choco (Germany) Digital platform for restaurants - $171.5m raised
  • NICKS (Sweden) Healthy, low-sugar snacks and foods - $160m raised
  • Butternut Box (United Kingdom) D2C pet wellness company - $113.3m raised
  • Mosa Meat (Netherlands) Cultivated Meat Producer - $108m raised
  • Deliverect (Belgium) POS for third-party ordering platforms - $90M raised
  • Matsmart (Sweden) Surplus food eGrocer - $80M raised
  • ENOUGH (United Kingdom) fungi derived alternative proteins - $78.1m raised
  • Air Up (Germany) Scented/flavored water tech - $67.8m raised
  • Meatable (Netherlands) Cultivated meat producer - $60m raised
  • OLIO (United Kingdom) Global food sharing app - $58.9m raised
  • Simple Feast (Denmark) Vegan meal-kit delivery - $58.8m raised
  • Cortilia (Italy) Grocery delivery from farmers.$55.5m raised
  • Planted (Switzerland) Plant-based Meat Producer - $53.7m raised
  • Formo (Germany) Animal-free dairy products - $50m raised
  • All Plants (United Kingdom) Plant-Based D2C Meal Delivery - £52.8m raised
  • Taster (England) Food Delivery / Dark Kitchens - $50m raised

🔎 Read: Europe's 50+ Unicorns, Soonicorns and Futurecorns 

🍌 Case study: OLIO

  • Bananas in the fruit bowl turning brown? Pastries about to pass their use-by date? Step in OLIO, a food-sharing app that connects neighbours, businesses and communities in a fight to cut food waste.
  • The mobile app allows users and food businesses to post surplus food for collection - and 50% of all products posted online are collected within half an hour, according to the startup. 
  • Founded in London in 2015, the startup has raised $53.1 million to date, with its latest Series B funding round in September this year raising $43 million.
  • The most recent round was led by Swedish investment firm VNV Global (the fund that has backed Delivery Hero and Babylon).
  • Olio already has deals in place with Tesco, Pret A Manger and Costa Coffee, and is in active talks with Gorillas, Getir and Weezy about potential partnerships.
  • The app has garnered 5 million users in the UK, with 25 million portions of food redistributed as a result.
  • With the latest injection of cash, OLIO plans to expand internationally (in fact, the app just launched in Ireland) and continue partnering with restaurants and food businesses to help them reduce their waste through their Food Waste Heroes programme.

🐄 Case study: Meatable

  • Meet Meatable, a Dutch cultivated meat startup. The company, founded in 2018, has developed a proprietary technology that can turn animal stem cells into any cell type you can dream of - whether that’s juicy pork belly or a succulent fillet steak. 
  • Lower emissions, less water usage, no animal exploitation and zero destructive agricultural practices are just some of the advantages of its cultivated meat. 
  • And Meatable’s pork prototype is genetically identical to the real thing, and tastes just as delicious (which is more than you can say for some alternatives). 
  • In March this year the startup raised $47m in Series A funding, accelerating their total investment to $60m
  • Investors may have been attracted to Meatable’s standout trait: unlike most other cultivated meat companies, the Dutch brand has found a way to make real meat in the lab without fetal bovine serum, derived from the blood of unborn calves. 
  • The startup is already using its latest funding to ramp up its small-scale production.

👍 The good

  • European foodtech startups no longer need to head stateside to secure the best funding deals and attract the attention of investors. The continent is becoming a foodtech destination in its own right.  
  • Similarly, more US investors are starting to invest in European startups where they’re finding better early stage valuations than the sometimes ‘overhyped’ Silicon Valley startups. 
  • Europe offers clear financial advantages too. Talent is on the whole cheaper in Europe than in America – particularly in countries where cost of living is lower, like Portugal. One biotech founder in Switzerland disclosed that American foodtech engineers are paid around $130k per year, whereas those in Switzerland can expect an annual salary of around $80k. 
  • Europe is also attracting investor attention due to its location-specific advantages - the continent is home to several large FMCG companies (Nestlé, Unilever, Givaudan and more), fantastic universities nurturing relevant talent, and accelerators like Start Life, ProVeg and Masschallenge, which are fueling startup growth. This means, for startups in Europe, there are many potential partners and talented future employees - all of which help add to investor enthusiasm. 
  • Lastly, Europeans are more receptive to the environmental and health benefits of plant-based foods and are willing to pay a higher price for novel and healthy food. This makes it a great place for startups to launch products in these segments, and is perhaps a reason why backers are now more willing to fund innovative concepts in Europe.

👎 The bad

  • Christoph Jenny, co-founder of Planted, sees the current regulatory market in Europe as a hindrance. ‘We need a smart regulatory environment that promotes innovation rather than blocking it. Mostly in respect to approvals for novel food and taxation that is much worse than for the traditional animal meat industry,’ he said.
  • Europe is a more variable market than, say, the US - given the melting pot of languages, cultures, culinary tastes, cuisines and consumers. This can make expanding internationally within Europe difficult, given changing consumer preferences beyond borders and regulatory issues. 
  • There’s also a chasm between the unicorns that have been around for years, and those that are just hitting the threshold. Many of the original foodtech startups - particularly in the delivery sector - have bought up emerging companies, creating a handful of large companies and leaving less room for smaller players to make waves of their own. 
  • And let’s not get started on the bureaucratic hurdles European startups need to jump through - from forming a company to opening a bank account, hiring overseas staff or unfavourable tax on capital gains - European countries still have a long way to go to match the US when it comes to favourable conditions to foster entrepreneurship on their home turf.

 💡 The bottom line

  • While once firmly in the shadow of Silicon Valley, European foodtech unicorns are now starting to find their footing, giving their counterparts across the pond a serious run for their money. 
  • While the food delivery category has delivered most of the current European foodtech unicorns, investors are diversifying away from this to now back emerging niches - like cultivated meat, alternative proteins and agritech. 
  • As technology and science converge, progressive startups in Europe are working on everything from robotic farming to fungi proteins - and investors are pulling out their cheque books en masse and signing on the dotted line.
Weekly FoodTech Insights

Reports

Bringing home the (Alt) Bacon: the 20+ startups competing to make the best imitation rashers
FBS Alternatives: The 20+ companies racing to replace foetal bovine serum
Cracked it: the 65+ brands hatching new innovations in plant-based eggs
The Proof Is In The Pudding: The 30+ Startups Whipping Up Plant-Based Desserts
Period power: The 30+ startups supporting feminine wellness with food
Make way for the herd: the 18 European FoodTech ‘Soonicorns’ to watch
The spice of life: 20+ seasoning startups taking on the Big Spice Industry
Crop Genetics: the 15 companies working on genetically edited crops that could transform farming and food