Every year, hundreds, if not thousands, of new companies enter the crowded food and drink space. To stand out from the pack, these companies need to be unique, well-run, and well-funded, disrupt the status quo, and do their part to truly make a difference. We’ve tracked down eight companies that meet all these criteria, and more.
For vegetarians, finding a suitable meat substitute that actually looks, tastes, and feels like meat has always been a futile effort. Until now. Beyond Meat hails its creation as “meat from plants,” and they really mean it. Instead of just putting vegetable protein in a mold and calling it a day (or a burger), they’ve went looking for the same building blocks that meat contains — amino acids, lipids, fats, oils, water, and protein — and found them all in plant-based sources. The resulting product is uncannily meat-like, but Beyond Meat’s goal goes far beyond that: they want to improve human health, positively impact climate change, address global resource restraints, and advance animal welfare.
Founded in Turin in 2007 as a hub for Italian ingredients and dining, Eataly opened its first American outpost in 2010 in New York City in partnereship with none other than Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich. Italian cuisine in the city hasn’t been the same since. The sprawling, 50,000-square-foot space is a hive of activity, housing everything from a wine bar to food counters, a full-service meat-centric restaurant, a butcher shop, a cheesemonger, a fish store, a pizzeria, a bread bakery, a caffè and gelateria, a wine shop, and a grocery store selling fresh-made and dried pastas, cured meats, fresh vegetables, and Italian imports. There’s even an adjacent “scuola” for chef demonstrations, which also serves fixed-price lunches, and a beer garden on the roof. There was really nothing else like it — until, of course, the expansion plan kicked in. Besides numerous locations in Italy, there are now also 11 Eatalys in Japan and others in Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey — and here at home, there's one in Chicago, another one coming to downtown New York, and more Eatalys reportedly slated for Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
Would you eat a cricket? How about if it could change the world? Crickets, which are ground into a flour to create Exo’s protein bars, are a complete protein source (containing all the essential amino acids), with twice as much iron as spinach and nearly three times as much protein as chicken. They produce 100 times less greenhouse gas than cattle and require only one gallon of water per pound to raise (as opposed to 2,000 gallons for cattle). A hundred pounds of feed yields 60 pounds of cricket protein, but only five pounds of beef protein. These bars, which come in flavors like peanut butter and jelly, apple cinnamon, and cocoa nut, contain no gluten, grain, soy, dairy, or refined sugars, and were designed by a Michelin-starred chef. Think you’d eat a cricket now?
Once upon a time, if you wanted that cult-favorite food, you were forced to actually go to the physical restaurant and order it. Now you can bring the restaurant right to you, no matter where you are. What happens if you find yourself in San Francisco, but are desperate for a half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C.? Or if you find yourself in Dallas, but want to host a dinner party with pastrami from Katz’s in New York? Until recently, you’d be out of luck. But Goldbely is partnering with some of the country’s leading restaurants to help them ship their flagship food items anywhere.
Hampton Creek is perhaps best known for its egg-free condiment Just Mayo, which is a huge seller at Whole Foods and is working its way into most major American grocery stores. But the company does a lot more than make vegan mayo (and cookies): They vigilantly research different species of plants, group them into categories, and use them to create healthy food items that use as little land and water as possible. When it comes to creating low-impact foods, Hampton Creek knows that it’s all about the data.
Munchery is disrupting dinner in a big way, by “combining fresh ingredients, culinary expertise, and smart operations to deliver meals with the quality of restaurant food, the ease of ordering in, and the affordability of home cooking.” Local professional chefs devise and prepare an ever-changing roster of dishes that are delivered chilled and fresh, with detailed reheating instructions. Munchery is currently up and running in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York, with plenty more cities on the horizon. All packaging is eco-friendly, and a meal is donated to somebody in need with every order.
Few food items have been getting more buzz lately than Soylent, “a simple, healthy, and affordable drink designed to efficiently serve your staple food needs.” Developed by a busy entrepreneur who didn’t want to think about food but also didn’t want to sacrifice nutrition, Soylent distills food down to its bare essentials, namely carbohydrates, fatty acids, fiber, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A day’s nutrition (the mixture looks like a milkshake) can be prepared in three minutes, and it costs less than $10 per day. If there’s a food of the future, this is it. The only problem with Soylent might be what it's called; anyone who saw the 1973 Charlton Heston starrer Soylent Green will remember that the miracle protein of that name on which the world is fed is revealed to have an unexpected source: human beings. "Soylent Green is people!" Heston cries near the end of the movie.
If you’re thinking about visiting a chain restaurant for a quick grab-and-go lunch, you’re most likely not thinking about picking up something nutritious. But that’s all changing with the help of Sweetgreen, which serves healthy and delicious organic food sourced locally. Sustainability is the focus, from the food to the design, and menu items are prepared fresh, use in-season produce, and are sourced from reputable farmers. Salads and grain bowls are completely customizable. For all intents and purposes, if you’re looking to eat healthily and cleanly, Sweetgreen is your new best friend, and with a $35 million round of funding recently closed, one might be opening near you sooner than you may think.