A Food Revolution Has Begun
In the late summer of 2010, I took what would become a transformational trip to Spain.
In Valencia there is a beautiful Central Market with 100 or so vendors each selling food, each with their own specialty such as tomatoes, peppers, jamon, spices. I ate a peach from a local farmer named Paulo and it was an epiphany. I realized I had never eaten a peach before. The peaches I had eaten back home were just mere shadows of the real thing and I wondered why. As I dug into it deeper I discovered that our food system here in the US was just designed to do something different. And for the most part, it does exactly what we as consumers told it to do. Give us lots of meat, fruit and vegetables on demand, regardless of seasonality, make it convenient and cheap. Fill up our bellies with lots of calories, we don’t care where those calories really come from, how they are produced and what their impacts are.
For a generation or two, the consequences of meeting those demands, the demands we as a society had ordered, were not entirely known, and even when known were not fully absorbed. And even when known, habits are hard to change, especially with the hooks of salt, fat, sugar, convenience are so addictive.
But those days are coming to an end. Primarily by millenials who both figuratively and literally just don’t buy it. And it’s spreading. There is a food revolution that has begun driven by a desire for food that is healthy, sustainable and inspiring. We’re seeing tectonic shifts in the food industry that consumers are driving. People want better tasting, more nutritious, healthy and sustainable food Yes, affordability and convenience still are important but so is real and authentic food, bold flavors connected to culinary traditions or new inventive fusions and mash-ups, and food that will provide confidence and security that what is going into our bodies is good for us.
As I was working in Chicago with folks very focused on food and food system transformation mostly from a non profit perspective we realized that one of the true barriers to scaling up is the lack of venture capital focused on it. We felt we needed new and bold ideas, ground-breaking technologies and innovative companies. There wasn’t enough capital, creativity and strategy focused on this problem. We decided to change that.
So I am thrilled to officially share the details of our fund, Seed 2 Growth Ventures (S2G) which I have been immersed in building for the last two years
With $125 million in capital, we believe S2G is the largest fund of its kind in the U.S. Our mission is to catalyze innovation to meet growing consumer demands for healthy, sustainable and local food, and we’ll do this by investing in world-class companies whose products and services are shaping the future of food.
Our investing strategy – what we call “soil 2 shelf” – means we’re as interested in everything across the system from biological farming to functional ingredients, healthy food brands and new restaurants and retail platforms. Lora Kolodny of the Wall Street Journal captured our mission, strategy and portfolio well in her article published on Tuesday http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2015/10/20/new-food-and-agriculture-fund-s2g-ventures-launches-with-125-million/.
On Wednesday, we had the honor to present our fund to many innovators, stakeholders and thought leaders as part of the New York Times Food For Tomorrow event at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. I, along with my partner Sanjeev Krishnan, S2G managing director and career venture capitalist presented S2G’s mission and portfolio, moderated a panel discussion alongside four of our innovative portfolio company executives, and shared thoughts about entrepreneurism and food trends. At FFT, we had the pleasure to announce our new partner and Managing Director of S2G, Chuck Templeton. Chuck’s experience as an entrepreneur — as founder and former CEO of OpenTable, Chairman of GrubHub and leader at Impact Engine — brings amazing experience empowering entrepreneurs to build great companies. We had a great showcase of our portfolio companies — Beyond Meat, MidWestern BioAg, Mercaris, ShopWell, sweetgreen, Maple Hill Creamery, Shenandoah Growers, MycoTechnology — who are on the front lines of system change in food and agriculture.
You can watch the full video of the announcement and panel discussion at Food for Tomorrow here.
There is no doubt that there is already a lot of momentum to this food revolution but this revolution has not gone mainstream. We need more real food and we need it faster. The impacts on human and animal health and the environment are profound and the clock is ticking.
To quote William Gibson: “The future is already here it’s just not evenly distributed.”
We endeavor to change this. So if you’re working on something cool that you think has the potential to create a better food system or know anyone who does. Send them our way.
We’ll be posting stories, events and innovators from the front line of change in food and agriculture going forward.