Nancy Mann Jackson

Follow the Money panelists

The economy may be uncertain, as inflation persists and recession fears continue. But investors are still pouring money into food companies. The companies in which they choose to invest depends on their appetite for risk and their take on the current environment and future trends.

In the Tuesday afternoon Business FIRST session, “Follow the Money: Where Are Investors Placing Bets on Food Innovation?,” panelists discussed the various opportunities available for investors in food science and technology, and how food tech companies fit into the overall investment landscape.

Investors are looking for opportunities to invest in an inflationary and potentially recessionary environment, and “food is recession-resistant,” said Lloyd Greif, president and CEO at Greif & Co., an investment banking firm with a deep history in investing in food companies. Because food is always necessary, food companies can be a valuable investment when other types of products are not.

However, even in recession-proof categories like food, some types of products are more palatable in the current economic environment. For example, Greif & Co. is currently working on a deal in the meat space, but “the focus is on ground beef and chicken, the more affordable products, than on more expensive steaks and chops,” said Greif.

Each investment firm must determine how much risk it wants to take, and some areas are more promising than others. For example, Greif & Co. has been doing deals in organic foods for three decades, and the category hasn’t lost its luster, said Greif. In addition, investors are highly interested in ESG investments, focused on Environmental, Social, and Governance issues, and many food technology companies fit that description.

In fact, this session’s other panelist, Jonathan Webb, founder and CEO at AppHarvest, a sustainable indoor agriculture company, started his business to find a solution to major social problems. “We will need 50% to 70% more food by 2050, and we have a finite amount of water and land,” explained Webb. “We’re able to grow fruits and vegetables with 90% less water than traditional agriculture while producing yields that are 30 times greater than conventional farming yields, and we grow year-round in Central Appalachia, with 70% of the U.S. population within a day’s drive.”

Webb’s company, with its ability to demonstrate passion and a clear sense of environmental and social commitment, may be the type of company that will attract investors looking for a solid, recession-resistant investment. In addition, he exemplifies a passionate founder, another important quality for a strong investment.

When investors lose sight of a company’s mission and begin focusing only on profits, the brand may get separated from its founder, cautioned Greif. And that almost always spells disaster.

About the Author

Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance writer based in Huntsville, AL ([email protected])

Digital Exclusives right arrow

10 Food Trend Predictions for 2022

The editors at Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), have announced their predictions for the hottest food trends for 2022.

When Science Follows Technology

While canning is commonplace today, for that generation of food technologists it was a paradigmatic example of the power of science to change food for the better.

Ingredient Companies Seek Sodium Reduction Solutions

In October 2021, the FDA released new voluntary guidance on sodium reduction with the overarching goal of reducing consumption by 12% over the next two-and-a-half years.

North American Consumers Get Comfortable With Cannabis

What changes have occurred in the way Canadians perceive cannabis since it was legalized there in 2018? How do Canadian and U.S. consumers of cannabis and edibles compare?

Food Technology Articles right arrow

Adding Value, Cutting Waste

Kenyan entrepreneur Yvonne Otieno developed a successful fruit exporting business and introduced mobile drying operations.

Proofing Innovation

How Bread and Butter Ventures’ Brett Brohl went from startup CEO to VC investor in the future of food and ag-tech.

The Science Behind the Pucker

Formulators of plant-based foods want their products to taste less astringent. So an engineer, a food scientist, and an oral biologist are teaming up to solve the problem.

From Bean to Bar—Chocolate Without Bitterness

Researchers study the effect of roasting cacao beans on the bitterness of chocolate made from the beans.

Recent Brain Food right arrow

IFT's Engagement on the Closer to Zero Initiative for Baby Foods

Toxic element exposure in early life and toxic metals in tainted baby foods are top of mind for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) and FDA as they work to safeguard the food supply. Last year, the USDA announced a new action plan called Closer to Zero, which identifies steps the agency will take over the next three years to reduce exposure to toxic elements from foods eaten by babies and young children. Read more about how IFT’s is engaging with this initiative.

IFT Comments on Proposed Questions for 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

IFT responds to scientific questions to be examined to support the development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Specifically, “What is the relationship between consumption of dietary patterns with varying amounts of ultra-processed foods and growth, size, body composition, risk of overweight and obesity, and weight loss and maintenance?”

The Latest from IFT’s Global Food Traceability Center

Discover what the team behind IFT’s Global Food Traceability Center is working on, including recent events, research projects, and advocacy efforts

DEI Case Study: IFT Revamps Long-Time Scholarship Program

In an effort to provide the science of food community with actionable information that can be used in their own DEI efforts, IFT shares a case study of its recent effort to increase accessibility and inclusivity in its scholarship program.