Natural Foods Merchandiser logo

In the Aisle: Restoring 'humaneaty' to the food system

Machine learning and artificial intelligence have their place, but they can't make food reach consumers' hearts and souls. Check out these low-tech options.

Jessica Rubino, Vice President, Content

September 15, 2023

2 Min Read
In the Aisle: Restoring 'humaneaty' to the food system | Woman making Turkish pancakes on a stove

There’s no denying that machine learning and generative AI are influencing the food products making their way onto retail store shelves. High-tech innovations have plenty of potential: They can help develop convincing meat and dairy analogues, support food system biodiversity, expand positive health outcomes and develop more robust and resilient climate-friendly agricultural models. What they don’t offer is the soul that makes food sing and connects with consumers—they don’t embody the humanity of our food system.

Equally important to cutting-edge technologies, some of which are garnering major investments from food startups and venture capital, are the human-centric models that support global wellness and environmental sustainability. From employee-owned business models and global humanitarian efforts to high-integrity supply chain partnerships, heritage products and chef-driven recipes, these “low-tech” innovations are getting our attention right along with the cutting-edge ones. Products that capture the personality and heart of their founders and makers are among the most innovative to hit the market.

Take Solely, a people-driven clean food company that has transformed food sourcing, processing and manufacturing. The company focuses on simple ingredients (typically just one or two ingredients, often utilizing “imperfect” fruits) and empowers farmers across Latin America to convert acreage to organic. Commonplace products, such as fruit snacks and pastas, take on new identities thanks to Solely’s unique approach to business and formulation—and the results are delicious.

Related:In the Aisle: Diverse founders share foods of their heritages

Another example is GoodSam Foods’ Brave Day Female Farmed Coffee, a coffee that is regeneratively grown by a women-led family of farmers who were victims of armed conflict in Colombia. There’s also the beautifully packaged organic granola company Struesli, which was born out of private chef Adrienne Lufkin’s battle with Crohn’s disease and chronic migraines.

In the future, we hope to see more companies finding the right balance of technology and humanity, pairing the best of machine learning with mission-minded people and creative culinary formulators to support the growth of an exciting, purposeful CPG industry.

Struesli Original Granola

Packed with healthy nuts and seeds—hemp hearts, flax, chia, tiger nuts, pecans, walnuts—and studded with coconut flakes, Struesli’s USDA Organic Original Granola delivers the flavors and textures consumers love, without the added sugars and grains. It’s also prebiotic and keto- and paleo-friendly.

Solely Organic Pineapple Fruit Jerky Drizzled with 100% Cacao

The founders of Solely wanted to create sweet products for kids that skip the added sugars and embrace the natural sugars found in fruit. Their answer: fruit jerky. While the market has no shortage of fruit jerkies, Solely relies on technological innovations, excellent fruit and thoughtful formulation to craft products that are especially thrilling—including this USDA Organic pineapple and cacao option.

About the Author(s)

Jessica Rubino

Vice President, Content, New Hope Network

Subscribe and receive the latest updates on trends, data, events and more.
Join 57,000+ members of the natural products community.

You May Also Like