UK Foodtech: A Tour Diary

From September 28 to October 8, as part of a corporate tour for the management team of the VkusVill chain of healthy food supermarkets, we visited 15 innovative foodtech companies in the UK.

From September 28 to October 8, as part of a corporate tour for the management team of the VkusVill chain of healthy food supermarkets, we visited 15 innovative foodtech companies in the UK.

Another exciting tour of the VkusVill team
Day 1
Ready, steady, go! The first day of our business tour saw us visit three world-famous, incredibly successful foodtech companies: Waitrose & Partners, Amazon Fulfillment Center, and Asda Superstore

Waitrose & Partners

This is a British supermarket chain that forms the retail part of the UK’s largest retailer, John Lewis Partnership. The chain comprises 344 stores in the UK, including 65 Little Waitrose shops, and holds a 5.1% retail market share, which makes it the eighth largest food retailer in Great Britain. Waitrose & Partners also exports products to 52 countries and has stores in the Middle East.

 

Amazon Fulfillment Center

Amazon fly-pages often have Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) written next to the seller’s name. This means that the seller uses an additional service that makes life much easier for them.

FBA allows companies to reduce the time and cost of delivery. In addition to storage, other services Amazon provides are labeling, delivery, and return products customers are dissatisfied with.

When we visited Amazon Fulfillment Center, we were able to see for ourselves how the company’s internal processes go and how warehouse employees work. 

Worldwide, Amazon has over 175 operational order centers and more than 150,000,000 square feet of space where employees assemble, pack, and ship millions of items ordered each year by customers at Amazon.com. 

Asda Superstore

Asda is a British supermarket chain selling food, clothes, and other kinds of products. As of May 2019, it had 341 supermarkets. Most of them have petrol stations, as well as restaurants and diners for customers. Some stores have McDonald’s franchise restaurants or “Express Diners”.

Visiting the Asda Superstore

The chain became a subsidiary of the American supermarket chain Wal-Mart in 1999, and is currently the second largest retail chain in Great Britain after Tesco. Moreover, Asda is the largest overseas branch of Wal-Mart, accounting for nearly half of the revenue it generates abroad. 

Day 2
This is a story about food delivery with a menu from a Michelin chef, about a brewery that shared all its recipes on the internet, and about a consultancy that helped Nestle develop its products 

Business Visit to Fresh Fitness Food 

The company specializes in balanced meal plans designed by nutritionists. The food is prepared by chefs and delivered all over London. 

Meal plans are based on individual algorithms supervised by nutritionists. The time needed to prepare food gets reduced as much as possible. For example, customers don’t need to wash their vegetables or count calories. 

Interestingly, all the menus have been designed by a Michelin star consulting chef.

 

Meeting BrewDog

BrewDog is a multinational Scottish chain of breweries and pubs that produces beer in bottles and cans in a variety of styles such as ale, stout, Indian Pale Ale (IPA) and lager, some of which are also available in keg containers.

The company believes that transparency is the future of business. Therefore, all 326 of its beer recipes can freely be accessed by any brewer anywhere in the world. The company’s accounting, financial performance, revenues, and future plans are all available to everyone as well. 

Not so long ago, BrewDog launched a crowdfunding campaign called Equity for Punks, where anyone could buy an online share in the company. As part of this campaign, 1,329 people invested in BrewDog. Subsequently, Equity for Punks II was launched and attracted another 5,000 of shareholders and 2.2 million pounds of investments. Recently, Equity for Punks III has been launched. 

Our group after visiting the company

Visit to Forward Fooding 

This is the world’s first collaboration platform for the food and beverage industries. Forward Fooding seeks to promote innovation in the food industry by bringing food and technology entrepreneurs together with the most suitable partners for their businesses. 

In other worlds, this is a boutique consultancy for food companies that combines entrepreneurial acumen and technology with corporate expertise in order to help its clients build a more sustainable business and remain competitive in the long run. 

The company’s partners include Nestle, Danone, Mondelez, and Barilla.

Day 3
In Britain, the three pillars of retail are Whole Foods Market, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s Superstore

Meeting at Whole Foods Market 

It’s an American supermarket chain specializing in organic food without artificial preservatives, colorings, flavor enhancers, sweeteners, or trans fatty acids.

The chain has 479 stores in North America and the UK. Whole Foods Market has also announced that it does not intend to sell meat or milk from cloned animals or their offspring, even though the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded that such meat and milk is safe to eat.

At the Whole Foods Market

Visiting Tesco

Tesco is the number one retailer in Great Britain and the third largest in the world. It operates 2,700 grocery and general merchandise shopping malls. Store formats in use include hypermarket, supermarket, convenience store etc.

The company was founded back in 1924, and the first Tesco store opened in a London suburb in 1929. 

Visit to Sainsbury’s Superstore

Sainsbury’s is the second largest supermarket chain in the UK with a market share of 15.3% in the supermarket sector. 

The holding company J Sainsbury plc is split into three divisions: 

  • Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd (including convenience stores) 
  • Sainsbury’s Banks
  • Sainsbury’s Argos 

In the superstore category, all shops have the same layout and functionality. Most of them have convenient kiosks with groceries, meat, fish, frozen products, as well as both manned and self-service checkout. However, depending on the size of the store, they may also have a bakery, meat and fish outlets, cafes, clothes, general goods, a gas station and a pick-up point.

Day 4
On this day, we saw an underground laboratory in a bomb shelter, the smartest and most rational kitchen, as well as technology capable of solving global food problems

Meeting Grocery Accelerator

We visited the leading accelerator among the industry’s most recognized and innovative food and beverage brands. 

The program is led by a team with over 50 years of experience creating leading British food and beverage brands, including Plum Baby, New Covent Garden Soup Co and Little Dish. In addition to regular classes with a mentor, program participants are involved in a number of workshops, lectures and classes on a variety of topics (market trends, product innovations, branding, sales, consumer marketing, packaging, financial reporting, intellectual property and team building).

 

Visit to Growing Underground 

Growing Underground is an underground farm 100 feet (30 meters) below the streets of London, in the tunnels of a World War II shelter that used to be abandoned. Founded in 2014, the business seeks to benefit Londoners, businesses, society and environment. The company has more than enough space to grow salad leaves, herbs, micro greens and mushrooms without using any pesticides. 

The underground farm 100 feet below the streets of London

Their system uses 70% less water than traditional open-field farming, while their ability to grow produce year-round leaves crops unaffected by seasonal changes, eliminates the need to import products and significantly reduces expenses for retailers and consumers. 

The company already works with such large retailers as Waitrose, Tesco, Whole Foods, Ocado and Farmdrop. 

Visiting YFood

YFood aims to promote innovation in the food industry using technology to solve global food problems. 

Our group at the meeting with YFood

Food is one of the most important and largest economies in the world, while technology is the key factor that has a beneficial global impact. 

Meeting at Winnow

The company’s mission is to bring commercial and household kitchens together and help others see that food is far too precious to waste. Winnow technology helps the catering and hospitality industries to reduce food waste by making the kitchen smarter.

Day 5
This was our final day on the tour. We have to admit that London’s innovative foodtech companies blew our minds

Iceland Foods

This retailer specializes in frozen foods and cooking and has about 850 stores across the UK. The company sells its frozen foods at stores and makes deliveries in special temperature-controlled vehicles. Its freezing technology allows customers to get more authentic flavors, products that do not contain artificial preservatives and taste just as good as if they were fresh. 

Morrisons

Morrisons is the fourth largest supermarket chain in Great Britain that introduces advanced labeling systems and other tech solutions. As of April 2019, Morrisons employed 110,000 people and served about 11 million customers a week. 

Mindful Chef 

Mindful Chef is a British recipes, ingredients and ready-to-eat meal delivery service that allows its customers to prepare tasty and nutritious meals in less than 30 minutes. It is also the first and only British service that delivers 100% gluten-free and dairy-free meals. 

The VkusVill team visiting Mindful Chef

Recently, the company has launched a new line of healthy frozen foods that helps customers eat healthy and save time. The meals do not contain heavy carbohydrates or cheap fillers. The food is frozen quickly to preserve its flavor and nutritional value. Upon delivery, one simply has to microwave it for 7 minutes to enjoy a delicious, healthy meal with minimum effort.

Our week of business meetings, most relevant insights, expert opinions, and getting invaluable knowledge from the best foodtech companies in London flew by at warp speed. Now, we’re analyzing what we have learned, introducing innovations and conquer new retail heights. 

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Participants’ impressions of previous management tours:
Having already taken part in educational tours, these people are happy to share their knowledge and impressions.
Anton Nesiforov
Anton NesiforovProcess Manager for fruit and vegetable preservation, beverages, and alcohol

On our tour of Germany, we visited the most famous food exhibition, the Green Week, as well as numerous retail chains and enterprises operating in various interesting industries. We have a lot to learn. We must take the best and use it. Thank you, FastForward, for your careful approach to creating this tour.

Alena Nesiforova
Alena NesiforovaUnified Concept Manager for Izbenka and VkusVill

We visited several retail stores in Germany, as well as manufacturing facilities. What we liked the most about the stores we visited was the high quality standards of German retail. Retailers know how to sell high-quality goods at affordable prices, and this is probably the main secret of Germany's retail success. As for production, we were inspired by some of the small family businesses we saw.

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