Forbes Food & Drink Awards 2020: In Praise Of Magic Mushrooms And Lab-Grown Meat – Forbes

Forbes Food & Drink Awards 2020: In Praise Of Magic Mushrooms And Lab-Grown Meat – Forbes

The coronavirus has made Americans appreciate just how essential the food industry is while simultaneously exposing its weakest parts. As America’s largest employer, the food industry saw millions of workers suddenly land on the frontlines of the pandemic at supermarkets, slaughterhouses, food plants, farms and restaurants. Although there were fresh beef shortages at Wendy’s and the odd grocery shelf stripped bare, the food industry mostly delivered for us in 2020.

Here are our picks for the best products, the most intriguing people and the most exciting trends from a time of extreme chaos.

Best Product: Sourdough starter

Pandemic comfort baking and breadmaking sent flour sales surging (and millers scrambling) and transformed yeast into a black-market commodity. The craze even created an unlikely hero: the sourdough starter. Simple flour and water with time (and some wild, airborne yeast) suddenly ferments into the beginnings of some very good bread.

Most Intriguing Newcomer: Psilocybin mushrooms

In November, Oregon became the first state to legalize the use of psilocybin mushrooms in a therapeutic setting. It’s the latest wrinkle in the burgeoning food-as-medicine movement—and the ongoing rollback of the war on drugs. Investors, for one, are tripping out, pouring funds into more than 200 mushroom startups in the U.S.

Disruptive Innovator: Lab-grown meat

The first-ever meat grown from animal cells in a lab was recently approved for official sale in Singapore. The lab-grown chicken nuggets made by Eat Just—the nine-year-old San Francisco firm behind the Just Egg, a mung-bean-based faux egg—cost $23 a serving at the one restaurant in Singapore that currently sells them. The first were sold in December. The emerging lab-grown meat sector has raised close to $1 billion from investors this year.

Outstanding Firm: Feeding America

Despite a partial recovery from the darkest days of the spring, more than 30 million Americans remain out of work. Feeding America, a Chicago-based network of 200 food banks, estimates 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, now struggle to get enough to eat on a daily basis. Feeding America’s network, the largest in the country, is a vital component of the country’s social safety net. Visits are up 60% compared with 2019.

Annus Horribilis: The supply chain

Food companies endured supply-chain shocks all year as breakdowns delayed materials like packaging and held up exports. Nearly every food brand big and small was forced to re-evaluate distribution, with many reconsidering more locally based logistics networks. Backups at meatpacking plants led to millions of chickens and around 300,000 pigs being killed on their farms while lettuce was left to rot in California fields and Midwestern milk was dumped down the drain. Inexcusable waste with millions going hungry.

Forbes Forecast: Instacart IPO 

Instacart, the grocery delivery app, is expected to go public next year. Founder Apoorva Mehta, who became a billionaire in June when the San Francisco-based company raised $225 million at a $13.7 billion valuation, might see his net worth soar. It’s already ratcheting up. Instacart raised an additional $200 million in October, this time at a $17.7 billion valuation, making Mehta’s stake worth $1.6 billion. But the public markets have been insanely generous this year. DoorDash founder Tony Xu saw his net worth increase more than four-fold to $3 billion when his meal delivery app went public in December, and its market cap skyrocketed to more than $50 billion, up from its last private valuation of $16 million.

And drumroll, please …

The Forbes Person Of The Year In Food & Drink: The essential food worker

From farmers and delivery drivers to meatpackers and grocery store cashiers, frontline food workers kept Americans going in 2020. And America’s largest workforce paid the price. According to the Food & Environmental Reporting Network, more than 77,000 food workers have tested positive for Covid-19, and at least 340 have died.

We selected our inaugural Forbes Food & Drink Awards in consultation with GT Dave, who started selling kombucha to grocery stores at age 16 and is now a 43-year-old billionaire living in Los Angeles. His company manufactures everything at its own plant.

Published at Wed, 30 Dec 2020 11:30:00 +0000

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