FoodTechIL 2019: The future looks delicious

The main focus this year was sustainability and ecology, which started when everyone signed into the conference and got their name tag, which was made of recycled materials.

The entrance to the FoodTechIL conference (photo credit: Courtesy)
The entrance to the FoodTechIL conference
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 9th annual Food Technology conference was held in Tel Aviv in September, hosted by the Strauss Group. The conference is all about food, technology and the interactions between them. The main focus this year was sustainability and ecology, which started when everyone signed into the conference and got their name tag, which was made of recycled materials.
There’s an inherent irony when events like this focus on ecology: tasting food always requires a lot of dishes, and an event focused on food must have tastings, but all those dishes (disposable, since otherwise they’d need to find a place to store them for the rest of the year) take an environmental toll.
In her opening speech, Ofra Strauss, chairperson of the Strauss Group, talks about food’s crucial role in the world economy, the way reforms in the industry can cause changes throughout other industries, and the way those reforms are reliant on technological solutions.
“Two billion people work in the food industry today, and (that’s a) quarter of the population,” Strauss says. Food production is arguably the most important industry in the world – the entire population relies on it, and for the majority of human history most of the human labor was devoted to it. Today it feeds over seven billion people and takes up over 11% of the world’s land.
With over 50 start-ups featured at the event, it would be impossible to cover all of them, but some of the most interesting are Zero Egg, the makers of a vegan, low calorie egg; Eatsane, which focuses on making low carb foods; and Flytrex, a drone delivery company.
Flytrex’s CEO is Yariv Bash, who also co-founded SpaceIL, which recently launched a spacecraft that made it close to the moon. Flytrex uses drones to make deliveries, and can make up to 15 deliveries per hour – where delivery people can make one and a half – because they avoid traffic and can use direct routes that cars and bikes can’t, and the drones don’t interact with people or even land, they just drop the deliveries to the recipient from 80 feet in the air.
Though drones are most associated with photography, Flytrex’s drones aren’t equipped with cameras, to minimize any privacy concerns. In a market where automation seems like more and more of a threat to employment, particularly of manual labor, Flytrex looked for a solution that wouldn’t involve letting employees go. Their solution was to retrain the delivery crew to be drone operators, which let them avoid layoffs. Flytrex currently operates only in Reykjavik, but plans to expand to North Carolina soon.
Zero Egg, run by Liron Nimrodi, offers a vegan egg alternative. One of the challenges with vegan baking is finding egg substitutes. Keeping pastries together is a challenge, and most vegan omelets are more like pancakes made with legume flours. Zero Egg is an egg substitute made from plant protein, which aims to mimic the flavor and texture of eggs while being both cruelty free and a healthier option.
Zero Egg has only 15 calories, as opposed to a chicken egg’s approximately 70 calories, with 40% of the protein of a regular egg and no cholesterol. The Zero Egg team brought some baked goods to the conference, and the vegan muffins were indistinguishable from the regular baked goods served at breakfast.
Though Zero Egg may not be in stores any time soon, they are sold wholesale to factories and restaurants. Currently it is being served in the restaurant chain “Café Gan Sipur,” which serves coffee shop food in parks around the country and offers a story hour to children during the summer.
“We decided to use Zero Egg after tasting it,” explains Oren Feldman from G-Group, which handles Café Gan Sipur’s PR.  “It perfectly mimics egg fluid. We worked with Zero Egg’s chef to make vegan omelets, shakshuka, frittata and a vegan kid’s breakfast.” The chain loved Zero Egg so much so that they decided to incorporate it even in some non-vegan dishes, using it to coat baked goods, and in batter for the fried dishes.
Einat Gal, who’s been vegan for five years, ordered the vegan breakfast at the Herzliya branch. “Eggs are the only thing I really miss,” she says, but that the new omelet “tastes really good. It’s not an exact replica, but it did fool me for a moment. I had to confirm with a waiter that it’s really vegan, that they didn’t make a mistake.”
Eatsane, which recently rebranded from A1C, makes low carb foods. They take normally carb-heavy foods like bread and chocolate and use traditional ingredients to reduce the number of carbs in the recipe. As the name A1C indicates, the original purpose of the company was to help diabetics (like co-founder Ran’s daughter Hadar), so even more important than the number of carbs is the foods glycemic index, which measures a food’s effect on blood sugar.
Mariella, an expert endocrinologist specializing in obesity and diabetes, and Ran, a foodie, founded Eatsane out of a firm belief that the healthiest diet is low-carb, that artificial sweeteners don’t taste good, and that avoiding indulgences is unsustainable.
Currently they only sell pralines, which taste like nut rich dark chocolate that have 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams, as opposed to the standard 56 grams or so. But they are also working on a low-carb bread, with just two grams of carbohydrates (not including fiber) that tastes just like the nut and seed bread you can buy in any decent bakery.
Though low-carb, it’s important to note their recipes are far from low in calories, as the pralines have 596 calories per 100 grams rather than the standard roughly 485 calories. You won’t find any unrecognizable ingredients in Eatsane’s recipes, since they believe in using only traditional ingredients.
Some other notable companies are Ronen Lavee’s Yofix, the Israel Innovation Authorities’ first food technology project, which makes vegan yogurt using oats and probiotics. FFW is working on a new mock meat based on yeast that has whole protein (all the essential amino acids) and is extremely sustainable, with very little waste and byproducts. Clarifruit uses a portable machine to assess the quality of a batch of fruit, including parameters like size, sugar content and ripeness. Clarifruit is used by Tali Grapes to insure that they only purchase high-quality grapes from farmers.
No matter what are your food goals for 2020, it seems food technology has your back. Here’s to a delicious, sustainable, healthy and innovative future!