Each year, for our Foodʼs Future Summit, we select a global partner that we feel we can learn an immense amount from, one that will help to develop our city with the knowledge we gain and help to push it forward in terms of innovation and sustainability.
This year, we teamed up with GlobalSF, a global not-for-profit platform committed to bringing together key stakeholders in the public and private sectors in order to create sustainable economic growth. They brought over an extraordinary delegation from San Francisco for an intensive two-day information exchange between Hong Kong and the Bay Area.
We had a tremendous master of ceremonies, Natasha D’Souza, an international technology and innovation strategist, journalist and presenter, to guide us through our intense agenda.
As a journalist focused on the Asia success story, I’m a big believer in the opportunity this continent holds for unlocking viable solutions for the #futureoffood and excited to be a part of moving the needle for change.
– Natasha D’Souza
From the high-tech farmers, alternative protein pioneers and food industry investors to the dynamic chefs, businesses and consumers doing the day-to-day work, here’s a long read – yet, in reality, just a tiny glimpse – into the deep dive we took into the future of food.
Opening remarks and introductions were made by Lily Ng, CEO of Foodie, Jimmy Chiang, Associate Director-General of Inves HK and Darlene Chiu, Founder and Executive Directorof GlobalSF.
The Food Revolution and The Next Gamble
Day 1 started off with a primer by Jon Gordon, a cross-asset strategist with the UBS Chief Investment Office in Hong Kong. His role focuses on researching and writing on thematic and regional investment ideas for the CIO’s global flagship House View suite of products.
Gordon entranced the audience with a powerful presentation questioning whether there is space at the table for another two billion people as the population grows, with global food demand jumping by 60 per cent, according to UN forecasts. All this has to occur on the same amount of land we already have, putting the onus on productivity increases.
Traditional agriculture models are unsustainable, but, Gordon said, they are also ripe for change. With agriculture being the least-digitised industry, investment in agritech is soaring, with investors increasingly integrating food, technology, sustainability and responsibility into their investment decision-making.
Natasha D’Souza, Manuel Gonzales, Manav Gupta, Dan Pathomvanich and Jon Gordon on The Next Gamble panel
We scored a weighty first panel to find out what the investors and venture capitalists are placing their bets and funding on and why these products and platforms will be the next big food-related innovations. The panel included Jon Gordon alongside Dan Pathomvanich, CEO, NR Instant Produce Ltd, a company betting on the future of the plant-based industry and growing it together with leading venture capital funds from around the world. They are supporting several initiatives, from launching the largest plant-based accelerator in the world to building plant-based facilities in the United States.
The CEO of Global RIFF, Manuel Gonzales, also spoke. Gonzales has created the Food & Agriculture Startup Innovation Group and impactful brands like FoodBytes! and TERRA, born with a simple but ambitious goal in mind: to help to feed the world in a sustainable way. In his newest venture, the Revolution in Food Fund, Gonzales is continuing his mission to discover, invest and develop founders leading the revolution in food through food tech, agritech, biohacking, food management technology and new food CPG.
Another panellist was Manav Gupta, the founder and CEO of Brinc, a global venture accelerator that invests in founders around the world, including one programme focused on building plant- and clean-meat-based alternatives to dairy, meat and seafood, with over 10 investments in this space already.
Restart 2030: From Menu to Manifesto
Larry Tang of FAMA Group was spurred by being named our Foodie Forks 2019 Food Hero into wanting to seek out other food heroes and to help to nurture their own journeys contributing to conscious consumption. He used the Food’s Future Summit as his platform to unveil his revolutionaryFama’s Kitchen, a new cloud-based virtual restaurant concept that gives aspiring health-focused chefs a way to get their food to market without all the risk.
Larry Tang launches Fama’s Kitchen
With six new virtual restaurants now available on foodpanda, all adhering to FAMA Group’s four pillars - “sustainable, local, organic and wellness”, Fama’s Kitchen opens the door to a huge host of health-focused chefs to get their food out to local homes and for Hong Kongers to access better food for their bodies at reasonable prices.
Fama’s Kitchen, despite what the name suggests, is not simply a shared cooking space. This groundbreaking cloud kitchen provides branding, design, social media and technological development, all designed to give aspiring chefs and entrepreneurs a leg up in this incredibly difficult industry. They use a team of experts that range from Chinese medicine practitioners to Western dieticians, personal trainers and yoga instructors to co- create the menus and have even built a database that tracks the nutritional values of the ingredients used, which are guaranteed to be free of growth hormones, MSG and GMO and are all pesticide free.
With a 1,700-square-foot brick-and-mortar kitchen in Sai Ying Pun equipped with six state-of-the- art cooking stations, Fama’s Kitchen provides the tools and space for future food heroes to get their own food out there without the high overheads and tight margins of the traditional restaurant archetype. They have plans to open more cloud kitchens across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories.
Read more about the Fama’s Kitchen announcement here.
Chi Tran, CEO of Restart, explaining how Fama’s Kitchen teams can learn to “growth hack” their way into food’s future
Dining in 2030: From SF to HK
Our signature panel this year spanned from the Far East to the Wild West, with award-winning chefs from both Hong Kong and San Francisco sharing the influences and experiences that are shaping our future dinner plates.
Moderated by Foodie’s Editor-in-Chief, Alicia Walker, Walker was joined by Tanya Holland, the chef-founder of famed soul food eatery Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, California; Hong Kong resident celebrity chef Shane Osborn of Arcane and Cornerstone; Chef David Lai, who himself cooked his way across the West Coast before returning to Hong Kong to open Neighborhood; and native San Franciscan Brandon Jew, chef-founder of Mister Jiu’s, Moongate Lounge and Mamahuhu.
Alicia Walker, Shane Osborn, David Lai, Tanya Holland and Brandon Jew on the Dining in 2030 panel
Holland hadn’t originally set out to change her community through her work as a chef, saying, “I’m sort of like an accidental activist... I guess I’ve always been outspoken and just fought for diversity and equality and inclusion and ended up opening up a restaurant in a neighbourhood that was clearly marginalised. And I myself was marginalised because they wouldn’t lease to me in the other neighbourhoods that I wanted to be in.
And so I just have always seen the table as a place that can be very democratic and equalising and where everybody finds a common denominator. But then the reality is that there’s just such a disparity between social and economic access. So I just use the platform I have to just keep the conversation going to support the organisations that I know that are trying to bridge the gap.
The unfortunate part is, people think restaurants are printing money. And we have really small margins. And I think we need to test some of the tech companies that are building these big platforms and making millions and billions of dollars to really take a good chunk of their money and reinvest in the community.”
When asked if it should be down to the chefs to relay the importance of eating responsibly sourced foods, Osborn said, “I think as chefs we have a responsibility to show other people and industries, especially the young, up-and-coming chefs, that they have to start really planning more sustainable menus and championing vegetarian cuisine. You know, a Jerusalem artichoke is just as good as a piece of Wagyu in my mind, and it’s our responsibility to highlight that and show people the possibilities of vegetables. We can’t keep consuming the amount of beef that we are at the moment. Everybody knows that; the data is there.
It’s about choosing products and meat, and particularly farmers that aren’t using antibiotics to increase the appetite of the animals so that they’re gorging themselves and growing into full size. Like chickens, for instance. The ones that we use take 80 to 90 days to grow. But a supermarket chicken takes 25 days because these intensive farming practices put lots of antibiotics in the feed and increase the appetite of the chickens. So they just eat 24/7, and they grow to a two-kilo chicken within four weeks, which is not normal. So it’s just finding the right supply chain.”
When asked bout the new alternative proteins, Jew said, “As a chef, I choose, all the time, what I’m going to serve. So I think, as far as GMO stuff, we’re not going to serve this kind of stuff. I’m just not impressed with the product. I kind of think that... the mission is very admirable, but I’m in love with vegetables. So that's where I would like to see people spend their energy on, finding more vegetables they love.
I think as a chef all I try to get towards is back to understanding more with what’s happened in nature... like learning more about how this plant grows and the attributes of this plant, how it changes within the season, how I can change the flavour of it as as the season goes on.”
Lai has some ideas on where he would like to see support for independent restaurants progressing, explaining, “Now, when the rent is so expensive, people have to be in safe investments, and usually they resort to one size fits all by default. So you have these chains that have the economy of scale. And that really cuts away a lot of the good ideas that comes from small businesses.
For high-rent places like the Bay Area and Hong Kong, I think the government nowadays should come to their senses and have a more balanced approach. I think with rent control, it makes sense relative to small businesses. So I think for the city to be vibrant, they really need small businesses. And then the young people, they have the chance to express themselves as well and to do the work they want, rather than listen to what would make money or what's going to survive.”
Spotlight on San Francisco: Unicorn Thinking
Joined by three fascinating personalities from the Bay Area, we were enthralled learning about some of the latest updates in the industry from such an innovative region. The panel was moderated by the MD and founder of GlobalSF, Darlene Chiu, who dug into what makes a successful food business.
Alejandra Espinoza, founder of contemporary Ecuadorian restaurant SOMOS, introduced us to the food of her heritage, where it is built into the culture to use every bit of a food. “In Ecuadorean food, we use every part of the watermelon. We cook with banana peel. We have over 20 different types of ceviches, from sweet, to salty, to savoury. We would like to bring these flavours to the world.”
Belinda Leong, chef and owner of the renowned b. Patisserie, said of the success of her business, “We have a very happy staff. Thirty-five out of forty-five are women! When you come into the bakery, you can feel the energy, and it’s like you’re coming into our home.”
We met Alec Lee, CEO of Endless West, which has created the world’s first molecular whisky, Glyph. Lee has entered a very traditional market with no diversity, which Lee calls the domain of the “old white dude”.
Lee said, “There are a lot of people not buying this product, and it inspired us to open the doors to a market that isn’t traditionally interested in whisky. We take an open approach to who we speak to, a gender-balanced community, not specific to a certain demographic. We had traditionalists and academic researchers telling us it would never work – to six months later, we have a product. It helps to put a bunch of very different people together in the same room to work on the same problem.”
Wraps from SaladStop! at the Food’s Future Summit
After the Unicorn Thinking panel, Summit attendees broke for lunch, and the Innovation Showcase opened, with over 15 companies displaying their latest future-friendly efforts.
Read more about our Innovation Showcase companies here.
The New Protein Pioneers
Moderated by Radio Television Hong Kong’s Saadia Usmani, we heard from a groundbreaking panel of pioneers in new protein, be it plant based, lab grown or gas fermented.
The panellists included Carrie Chan, the founder of Avant Meats, which has creating the world’s first cell-cultured fish product; Elaine Siu, Managing Director, The Good Food Institute; Celine Schiff-Deb, Senior Director, Product Innovation, Calysta, the world leader in creating sustainable alternative proteins for food and feed ingredients by fermenting natural gas with naturally occurring bacteria; and Vince Lu, co-founder and CEO of Zhen Meat (Zhen Rou), which is trying to make an impact by tempting Chinese meat lovers to trying a plant-based diet.
Siu showed us the exponential growth occurring in this sector. “In 2015, we saw the first four cultivated-meat companies. The landscape grew quite quickly, approaching 40 companies around the world now doing cultivated meat.”
The panel rolled through provoking question after question about the protein products of our future, ending with an important debate about the regulatory aspects of cultured meats and alternative proteins, with Lu saying, “Within half a year, we will have regulations about what can be put in plant-based meat and what cannot.”
Enlightened Edibles: Putting the “Super” in Food
Sonalie Figueiras, the founder of Green Queen, moderated our panel about the next generation of food products tackling nutritional and health challenges without compromising on taste or convenience.
We were treated to an inspiring surplus of new ingredients that will be beneficial to the body from the founder of the milk alternative that took the world by storm, Oatly’s Rickard Öste, as well as Verleen Goh, Chief Food Fighter, Alchemy Foodtech, a company creating new functional foods to combat chronic diseases like diabetes by lowering the GI of staple foods; James Chang, Managing Director, Geb Impact Technology, who calls himself a “high-tech farmer”, growing microalgae to incorporate into everyday food products; and Tommy Leung, the founder and CEO of HakkoBako, a start-up building a connected fermentation chamber for professional chefs.
Sonalie Figueiras, Rickard Öste, Verleen Goh, James Chang and Tommy Leung on the Enlightened Edibles panel
Leung attended the 2018 Food’s Future Summit, where he met Manav Gupta, the founder of Brinc, who was launching Brinc’s food-tech accelerator programme at the event. He was inspired to join Brinc’s first cohort and has since launched his new HakkoBako smart fermentation device. Leung returned to the 2019 Summit, where he has just found a new investor for HakkoBako in fellow panellist Rickard Öste.
The Next Alternative Meats Beyond Burgers
Green Monday’s co-founder and CEO, David Yeung, took the stage to introduce us to the next generation of plant-based meat just launched.
Heura is a product that really needs to be tasted to be believed. The incredible texture will make you question your sanity that it’s not actually chicken.
Alpha Nuggets and Beyond Sausage are two more of the latest future-forward products making our plant-based buying that much easier.
The Next Byte
Wilson Lee, GM of Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin, moderated this fascinating panel on how data and technology are reshaping our dining and hospitality experiences.
Wilson Lee, Adrien Desbaillets, Pierre Stanghellini and Paul Measor on The Next Byte panel
The knowledgeable minds included Adrien Desbaillets, co-founder of SaladStop!; Pierre Stanghellini, CEO and founder of HARi, a hospitality solution to boost traffic, revenues and profits; and Paul Measor, Commercial Director, foodpanda. The panellists offered a strong debate, with plenty of questions from the audience on how artificial intelligence is used in the F&B industry and how data can be ethically utilised.
World’s first tasting of cultivated fish maw
Carrie Chan of Avant Meats supplied the fish maw, grown here in Hong Kong at their Science and Technology Parks laboratory. Tom Burney, founder of Invisible Kitchen, was trusted to prepare this precious ingredient for the first public tasting.
Chef Burney turned the lab-grown ingredient into a type of ultra-modern fish ball, using a potato puff exterior for a crunchy first bite, leaving the fish maw as the star of the show with its glutinous centre.
Elaine Siu of Good Food Institute was the first one to “mmmmmm!” the moment everyone took a bite of the crunchy fish maw ball. How did it taste?
The cultivated fish maw tasted exactly like it should – like fish maw. I did not expect anything else. It’s from the same cells after all!
– Elaine Siu
Chef Tom Burney, Natasha D’Souza, Carrie Chan, Elaine Siu, Scarlett Ho, Ulric Leung, George Tee and Mario Chin
Food’s Future Cocktails & Conversations
After a day filled with intriguing dialogue, we were still ready for more in the evening at Asia Society.
We placed the spotlight on three world-class chefs from the Bay Area – Tanya Holland, Brandon Jew and Belinda Leong – to share their visions on the future of food. They cooked and served up creative sweet and savoury canapés using an array of future-forward ingredients and fresh local produce.
Canapés at the Food’s Future Summit Cocktails & Conversations event
We also sampled 3D printed chocolate by Ryan L Foote and the world’s first molecular whisky, Glyph.
Day 2Pancakes by Classified at the Food’s Future Summit
Summit attendees began the day with more exceptional coffee from Redback Coffee and irresistible pancakes from Classified.
How to Be the Next Big Food Disrupter
The first panel of Day 2 was a hit of inspiration for aspiring food-tech entrepreneurs, with discussions on what the next big things in the food space will be.
With an impressive panel of advisers, Brinc’s Program Manager, Natalie Lung, guided us through how accelerators and incubators are nurturing the next generation of food disrupters and innovators.
These included Ilaria Chan, Group Adviser on Social Impact Investments, Grab, Southeast Asia’s unicorn technology start-up, which provides ride hailing, food delivery and more via its integrated tech platform; Dalal Alghawas, Food Technology Program Manager, Brinc, which is responsible for developing the first food technology accelerator in Hong Kong; and Susan Evans, founder and CEO of Melee, which is focused on the creation of new regenerative ecosystems that can drive next-economy business and society.
Artificially Intelligent Food
Amice Wong, head of R&D at ReHealthier, introduced us to this company’s technology, which aims to understand consumer health profiles and intervenes in our food preferences.
Then we were rapt as we learned all about prediction and innovation from Ryan Ahn, the founder of Gastrograph.
Gastrograph is a new AI platform that’s able to algorithmically map and then predict consumer perceptions. By taking flavour signatures, it’s able to tell which new products will be a hit with consumers and which will fail. The algorithm can even predict consumer shifts – like the sudden explosion of kombucha, an ancient Russian beverage that’s recently come back into vogue – as well as using “computational creativity” to create new trendy flavours.
Impossible sliders and Good Idea drinks for lunch
Blockchain in our Food Chain
Our resident IT specialist at Foodie, Dale Foo, moderated this panel while the experts enlightened us about why and how blockchain applications in food supply can address important food safety and security challenges.
The panel featured Greg Wong, Director of Analytics, CoE Platform & Technology, SAP; Leo Chiu, Chief Technology Partner, Click Ventures; Terence Yeung, Chief Fintech Officer, trustME; and Benjamin So, Founder, 178 Degrees.
Dale Foo, Greg Wong, Leo Chiu, Terence Yeung and Benjamin So on the Blockchain in our Food Chain panel
Yeung said that some nefarious use of blockchain is inevitable. “We want control, we want regulation, but blockchain is a decentralised way of controlling things. It doesn’t mean there are no bad people in blockchain. There are bad people everywhere, and they can make bad records. But it’s traceable, and we will find you. You can buy a knife and you could chop vegetables with it – or you could kill someone with it. It’s how you use it. Blockchain is not a solution; it’s a tool.”
So explained, “At 178 Degrees, we only have two links: we buy from the fisherman and sell to the consumer. Blockchain is for when you don’t have that trusted relationship. We want to prove the source and keep the connection secure. You could have an RFID tag on the gill of the fish, which would be very difficult to fake. But you have to be motivated to do this; that has to come from the consumer. The wet markets – they don’t care – you have to ask them where does this come from? So often it is mislabelled as even the wrong species of fish.”
Reducing our Carbon Foodprint Post-Plastic Straws
Our zero-waste hero, Hannah Chung – also the Hong Kong lead at muuse (by revolv), which is creating a circular cup economy – moderated a smart and varied panel that included Neil Tomes, Group Development Chef, the Greater China Restaurant Company (who were the first to implement Impossible burgers onto their menus in Hong Kong); Heidi Spurrell, CEO at social enterprise Food Made Good, a brand-new company here in the city that helps businesses to operate more sustainably; and Daniel Jongejan, APAC Project Director, PUR Projet, a company that regenerates ecosystems to improve livelihoods and strengthen supply chains.
Hannah Chung, Neil Tomes, Heidi Spurrell and Daniel Jongejan on the Reducing our Carbon Footprint panel
As a result of monocropping and other factors, Spurrell called us all to task. “We only eat between 150 and 200 varieties of vegetables, and there are 30,000 out there.”
Chef Tomes commented on challenges in the industry, which include “projecting how much food you’re going to use”. He explained, “Now, with what’s happening on the streets, you don’t know if you’re going to feed a full restaurant. As a chef, there’s nothing more exciting than finding a new ingredient. It’s depressing that the big corporations like Monsanto are locking down what we have access to.”
Jongejan highlighted difficulties with labelling. “There are companies that are farming organically, but getting a label is completely inaccessible because of the high cost of certification. Actually, blockchain may be able to help us in this area, and we have a project aiming to reduce this cost barrier.”
NamasTaste: The New Age of Conscious Consumers
Rebecca Cairns, Chief Content Officer, Compare Retreats, meandered us through the new landscape of wellness dining, with several inspiring F&B business owners walking the walk: Punam Chopra, CEO & Founder, SpiceBox Organics; Michelle Lau, Founder and Principal Dietician, Nutrilicious; Christian Mongendre, Founder, TREEHOUSE; and Larry Tang, Founder, FAMA Group.
Rebecca Cairns, Punam Chopra, Michelle Lau, Christian Mongendre and Larry Tang on
The New Age of Conscious Consumers panel
Lau alerted us to some alarming statistics. “By 2020, the WHO predicts two-thirds of all diseases will be caused by choices we make. Consumers are demanding healthier products and becoming more health conscious. But consumers can be fickle, so we want the health factor but indulgence as well.”
Mongendre highlighted the importance of knowing what your body needs. “I’ve never met anyone that didn’t have enough protein in their diet. I think it’s a big misconception; it’s another misinformation thing, like gluten.”
Tang gave some common-sense-rooted insights. “Everything we promote is a long-term lifestyle plan. And it’s a constant balance. It’s quite important when you eat food that you enjoy it.”
Chopra suggested practical protein alternatives. “Tempeh has a lot of protein when it’s fermented. I don’t really believe in proteins that have been synthetically produced. There are plenty of available resources that are plant based.”
Wines from Wines of Germany and food from Fama’s Kitchen to finish the Summit
Our first Food’s Future Summit three years ago was the first large-scale forum raising awareness about the issues facing the industry in Hong Kong. We placed a spotlight on the problems and connected businesses, start-ups and investors with restaurateurs and chefs, and the industry responded.
By our second year, most everyone was aware of the Summit, and we were sparking interesting debates on potential solutions and finding technologies in the works that could help, including helping to launch some of them here in Asia.
This year, we took an in-depth look at the technology and continued our role as a launch pad for those businesses offering clever and conscious solutions to combating the challenges facing the food industry.
The 2019 Summit provided a surprisingly hope-fuelled look at the innovations happening within the food industry to evolve, improve and transport our taste buds back to nature. The term “accidental” was bandied about a lot, from accidental vegetarians, to accidental high-tech farmers, to accidental activists.
The new world of food isn’t being shaped by the evangelical. It’s being shaped by normal people going about their jobs and being hoisted onto a pedestal for doing things the right way. They are paving the way forward for a nutritious, sustainable and solid new base to replace the broken system beneath our feet.
This is where the investment needs to flow – into the businesses and people already doing things the right way and providing templates for a future where our health and the planet’s health are the building blocks of our food ecosystem.
Food’s Future Summit 2019
At the 2019 Summit, we discovered a hotbed of ingenious new products coming to market, futuristic technology that can be used for increasing our everyday knowledge of what we are eating, how healthy it is for our bodies and tracing food back to it source. We featured excitingly mindful restaurants and food businesses that nourish the body in a delicious manner and one disruptive business helping young chefs to get their conscious cooking out to the masses.