According to the 2019 Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, Israel ranks as the #10 healthiest country and additional research shows that Israelis have the lowest rate of diabetes-related deaths in the world. Undoubtedly a result of a balanced Mediterranean diet focused on fresh fruits and vegetables and low intakes of red and processed meat, Israeli eating habits are a source of inspiration for many people who want to lose weight and lead healthier lives. It therefore comes as no surprise that Israel is a major hub for businesses advocating for a sustainable future for the food industry. In recent years, Israel’s food-tech sector has been developing rapidly gained a record $109 million in capital in the first half of 2019.
These startups combine Israel’s advances in tech, research, and academics in an effort to solve the global obesity epidemic, while at the same time working towards a more sustainable future, where food production doesn’t harm the planet.
One step closer to making clean meat
The more researchers analyze the environmental impact of meat production, the more we understand that the true cost of eating meat is far higher than we imagined. In addition to the harmful health effects of processed meat and excessive red meat consumption, the meat industry is a major contributor to wildlife extinction, greenhouse gas pollution, and the global superbug epidemic. But simply eliminating meat from the diet of billions of people is complicated, which is where clean meat could help. For years, scientists have been trying to make meat in labs, striving to maintain its nutritional properties and at the same time make it craveable. When it comes to manufacturing plant-based meat, Israel stands toe-to-toe with Singapore and the United States.
One start-up, Future Meat Technologies, raised $14 million in the latest round of funding and plans to release the first market-viable product by 2021. The company, which will work primarily on a B2B model, focused on creating a hybrid product between plant-based (which will give it the nutrients) and cell-cultured (which will replicate the feel and flavor of meat). Another up-and-coming player in Israeli food tech, SuperMeat, is working on developing a technology to create clean meat from lab-grown chicken cells. Aleph Farms, which is part of The Kitchen food tech incubator, is also making great progress in fine tuning its 3D tissue engineering platform, which produces beef steaks without harming cows.
The fight for reducing sugar
The sugar industry will be worth $90 billion by 2024, but sugar is also of the biggest causes of diabetes and heart disease, and research shows that it can be even more harmful than fat. But unlike clean meat, an endeavor that many conventional meat businesses have supported, “clean sugar” is more difficult to mass adopt. DouxMatok, an Israeli startup founded in 2014, is trying to change this by using a patented sugar reduction solution that maintains the taste and crystallization of sugar. For their efforts, they won the Prime Minister’s Innovation Award in 2018 and they also recently partnered with German company Südzucker, Europe’s largest sugar producer.
Another major milestone in Israeli food tech was reached by A1C Foods, a start-up founded in 2016 by Ran Hirsch, who managed to produce low-carb chocolate candies, ice cream, bread, and pizza for consumers with diabetes. Hirsch started the company in collaboration with her daughter’s endocrinologist, Dr. Mariela Glandt, who had always wanted to mass-produce healthy, sugar-free snack options for people with diabetes. Today, all products from A1C Foods are vegan, kosher, free from artificial sweeteners and safe for those following a low-carb diet. These products are available in 50 stores in Israel, but A1C Foods plans to expand to hundreds of selling points throughout the country by the end of 2019 and even start operations in the US in 2020.
Personalized nutrition – a profitable venture
Although Israeli eating habits are some of the healthiest in the world, data from the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that around half of the country’s population is overweight. The good news is that Israelis want this to change and the majority of those who are overweight are actively trying to change their lifestyle and lose weight. For example, studies show that at least 41% of Israelis eat vegetables three times a day, 45% eat fruit two times a day, and 29% eat fish two times a week. Interestingly, people over 45 are the most likely to go on a diet and monitor their health with body fat calculators and they’re also the ones most likely to lose weight. For them, personalized nutrition is of great help.
One of the leading Israeli providers of nutrition data analytics services, Nutrino, has recently been acquired by Medtronic after a two-year collaboration. Nutrino’s product consist of an algorithm that analyzes the user’s photos of food and then extracts data from them to create a customized diet based on the user’s medial profile and goals (lose weight, build muscle, eating healthier).
Another notable start-up in the field of personalized nutrition is Lumen, which offers an advanced breath-analysis device. Inspired by the high-tech RQ measurements that athletes take in specialized clinics, the company’s founders wanted to create a commercially available device that could “hack the metabolism” and provide personalized diet suggestions just by analyzing the user’s breath. When the company project was posted on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, the target funding was reached in just four hours. Now, the device can be purchased from Lumen’s website, helping users approach dieting in a smart, personalized way.