‘Disruptive’ Food Products Prove To Be More Hype Than Bite: Is the Age of Food Disruption Over?

The consumer food industry has witnessed an explosion of disruptive innovation for food products over the past decade. These disruptions can be seen in food products such as plant-based meats, insect protein bars, synthetic fat replacers, precision fermented milk proteins (and sugars), and many more. All promising to revolutionize what we eat. However, there has been more hype than bite for many of these products. Plenty of these trends have failed to catch on with consumers, have seen limited revenue growth, and/or have not been profitable, as many investors have learned. One of the key lessons (particularly for investors from outside the food and agriculture industry) has been that it’s more challenging to change what consumers eat than how they eat. Especially if there is a familiar, better-tasting alternative. Furthermore, the economic environment has also changed.

So, get ready for boredom, because the next few years will bring about far more incremental innovations and fewer disruptive innovations to consumer food products. Disruptive innovations will likely face more rigorous evaluation, resulting in fewer but potentially more successful disruptive products that have endured more intensive vetting. Meanwhile, we are already seeing an uptick in the number of incremental innovations on shelves and in restaurants.