A Candid Conversation with Lauren Abda from Branchfood & Branch Venture Group
April 5, 2022
We were able to catch the founder of Branchfood before she hosts Food Edge, an event bringing together the food industry's largest brands, dynamic startups, disruptive leaders and top researchers to discuss the future of food. This year's theme is "Sustainably Feeding our Growing Population".
How does Branchfood foster innovation in the food space?
The food and agricultural industries are at a critical inflection point. It is a time of enormous innovation and excitement, but also significant food insecurity and uncertainty. To support innovators building the future of food, Branchfood, a launchpad for food innovation, was created. By bringing together all corners of the industry through curated events, investments, shared workspaces, and advisory support, Branchfood connects innovators and fosters growth to transform the food industry. Since 2015, we’ve worked with over 800 startup founders, industry experts, and corporate leaders across the food supply chain, invested in 14 food-related startup companies through Branch Venture Group, and hosted over 200 educational and networking events to facilitate connection and collaboration between industry representatives.
To further raise the profile of innovation in the industry, we launched a food industry conference, Food Edge, which has become a leading food summit with participants from around the world, designed to spark conversation and catalyze strategic connections to shape the future of food. The curated gathering brings together the industry’s leading minds across the food supply chain to discuss the latest trends and technological innovations that are shaping a sustainable future of food. Food Edge will take place May 3-5 virtually and also includes in-person networking activities in Boston hosted by The Boston Beer Company, and Silicon Valley Bank, among others. To learn more, or to register for this year’s summit, visit the Food Edge event page.
Following the pandemic, how has food innovation changed or been impacted?
In the wake of the pandemic, there has never been a greater opportunity for food system change and uptake of innovation. Over the last two years, weaknesses in our food supply chain became abundantly clear and opportunities for innovation and the implementation of new products, technology, and services are moving forward at a rapid pace around the world. We’re seeing controlled environment agriculture facilities being built to support greater food autonomy and ensure a safe food supply in countries largely dependent on agriculture and food imports. Efforts to produce more protein for our growing world population through the cultivation of alternative proteins and precision fermentation are advancing and countries are paving the way for regulation to support such products and production infrastructure. Additionally, sources of capital from venture financing to sovereign wealth funds are increasingly focused on opportunities in food and agriculture to support industry change. The pandemic has been detrimental to the food system, but many of the changes brought forth as a result of it will have a positive impact.
Looking broadly across the segments, where do you see the most innovation occurring right now?
Consumer demand for higher quality food and the need for increased food production to support our growing population are contributing to most of the innovation we’re seeing today. Whether it’s novel ingredients to enhance nutrition or create clean-label products, plant-based alternatives and meat analogs, or preservation technology to keep food fresher for longer, there is no shortage of improving food for consumers who are trying to eat healthier and prolong the onset of diet-related diseases. Additionally, while consumers want to eat healthier and cleaner, the number of people who eat is growing. It is estimated that our planet will be home to 10 billion people by 2050. Feeding our growing population will require new ways of producing food far and beyond yield optimization from the current land under cultivation or reducing food waste and improving distribution. At Branchfood we’re inspired by the innovation we’re seeing across the food supply chain and look forward to continuing our work supporting collaboration and facilitating the necessary connections between leading entrepreneurs, industry experts, and corporates from around the world to build a healthier, more sustainable, and environmentally friendly food system for future generations.
Annette is skilled at identifying growth opportunities and successfully guiding products from concept to launch. At Compass, she advises leading brands and category disruptors in the health & beauty, personal care and home appliance sectors.