“I think Sweden has put itself on the foodtech map recently. There is a general understanding that Sweden is building up the system,” says Arman Anatürk, co-founder of Swiss-based Foodhack, a global community covering the global foodtech development.
The mix of a strong tech scene, curious customers, forward looking food and agricultural universities as well as the growing interest for food in the investment sector makes up for an interesting foundation. And they’re not stopping there. A few years ago (2017 to be precise) the government adopted a food strategy that included allocating more capital into innovation in food and agriculture. The foodtech sector is young and the future looks bright.
“I would say Sweden, together with the Scandinavian ecosystem, is top ten in the world in generating innovative solutions and services,”
says Daniel Skavén Ruben, independent consultant, advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation, and Curator of the FoodTech Weekly newsletter.
Next generation plant based
2020 has been a breakthrough year for alternative protein, and Sweden has some interesting development in the sector. On the outskirts of Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö, lies a new protein factory where companies test how protein and nutrients can be extracted from, for example, carrot blast, parts of broccoli or red clover. The extracted green juice can be used in new vegetarian and vegan food products.
The next step for plant-based food companies will be creating more nutritious and clean food, reducing the number of ingredients to avoid being referred to as ‘processed’, Arman Anatürk at Foodhack says. One Swedish company that fits this description is Bärta, run by founder Pia Qvarnström. Bärta is tempeh made from fermented Swedish split peas. It is organic, vegan, gluten free and without additives. The tempeh contains only four ingredients, unlike many counterparts.
“Sweden has a strong agricultural history and now several companies use ordinary crops like oat, peas, lupin and refine them into new and refined food products. Like Bärta, Havredal and Lupinta,” says Anna Ottosson, founder of Investor Trellis Road.
She also mentions what she calls “the Swedish tech DNA” with a strong track record of successful technology startups.
“Food waste companies Karma or Whywaste are good examples where you have built a good technical product and service that consumers and companies can and want to use. That is a strength and something that Sweden is very good at,” says Anna Ottosson.
Another interesting example is Lifvs, Sweden’s first fully digital, unmanned grocery chain that have surged during the pandemic. The company does not see itself as a grocery chain however, but rather a tech startup.
Enhance our health naturally
The pandemic has also put the spotlight on food and health.
We will eat more in line with our actual needs and focus on wellbeing in the future. In the cross section between biotech and foodtech, I believe we can expect more innovations from Sweden. Boosting ingredients that are naturally good for us, increasing our capabilities or improve the metabolism,” says Sara Håkansson Maxence, Innovation Manager at the largest food retailer in Sweden, Ica Gruppen.
Sweden has a long history of science-based innovation and one successful example is oat milk producer Oatly with its roots in research at Sweden’s Lund University. Another example originating from the university is Saveggy, a startup with a patent pending food-safe spray that extends the shelf-life of vegetables.
Sweden is among the top 20 countries in the world in terms of investments into agri-foodtech according to the online venture capital platform Agfunder*. This is clearly a significant position given the small population of 10 million people.
The country has also been a frontrunner in the world when it comes to health and sustainability regulations in food and agriculture, which has led to one of the most sustainable food systems in the world. With the megatrend of sustainability accelerating, in combination with a highly technical skilled community, Sweden is well positioned to export these food products, solutions and innovative techniques.
Magnus Löfsjögård is head of the Sparx accelerator powered by multinational food and service company Sodexo. He says the purpose of Sparx is to find great innovative ideas in the Nordic countries. Then test, validate and scale them within a global network.
“Many colleagues in other countries are looking at Sweden as the perfect place for molding new ideas. They look at Sweden to see what is going to happen in the future,” he says.
*Agfunder investment report 2019.