Venture Capital Is Hungry for the Food Business

The food business is “ripe for disruption,” according to Steve Case, who cofounded America Online 30 years ago.  Case, who recently started his Washington-based venture capital firm Revolution, has made several high-profile bests on food: Sweetgreen, OrderUp, and Revolution Foods, a school-lunch company serving 1.5 million student meals per week.

“There are opportunities to improve the way things are done at every level: How food is produced, exported, processed, consumed,” Case said in an interview this week. “Our focus … is on investing in people and ideas that can change the world, and it’s harder to imagine anything that changes the world as much as food.”  To Case, the opportunity is, like in tech, in scalability: “It’s one thing to create one product in one particular restaurant,” Case said. “It’s another thing to roll it out to 5,000 restaurants, where the chefs are 16-year-old kids who have worked there for a few hours.”

Case thinks that the low barriers to entry and potentially high profit margins are partially why so many successful food companies have rested on their laurels, and this is where tech will come in to disrupt–especially given that eaters are embracing dining out more often and using apps for payment.  Sweetgreen, one of Case’s investments, is a salad shop that receives more than 20% of its orders through the chain’s mobile app.

“We’re in the first days, the early innings of this food revolution,” he said. “Nothing’s more important than what you put in your mouth three, four, five times a day.”

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Soaring Beef Prices Drive Demand for Goat and Lamb

Goat is the most widely consumed meat everywhere except America.  The States have a poor perception of the farm animals, but that, fortunately, is changing, thanks to a rise in cattle prices.

Kevin Good, senior analyst at CattleFax, explained that beef costs are rising due to cattle herds being decimated after multiple years of drought that drove of feed prices.  Cattle farmers are rebuilding their herds, but the process takes up to three years, so prices are likely to stay high until 2016 or 2017.

For chefs, this means turning to alternatives, and goat is an exciting meat right now.  Stephanie Izard, chef of Girl and the Goat, won a James Beard Award for her cooking, which was basically dedicated to the animal.  Her menu includes goat liver mousse, goat carpaccio, and confit goat belly, to name a few items.  Similarly, Scott Conant, James Beard Award winner and founder of Scarpetta, has championed goat for years on his menu.

And this is a boon for guests and grocery shoppers.  Goat is lower in fat than chicken, but higher in protein than beef.  Lamb, which is already more widely consumed in the States than goat, is also seeing a rise in demand.  Multi-unit concepts are embracing the meat and using it in place of burgers.

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