GFI’s Good Food Conference is drawing an increasingly international crowd! This year’s conference saw a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of countries represented. From Israel and India to Switzerland and Singapore, word is spreading that the Good Food Conference is the place to meet and connect with the top plant-based and cultivated meat innovators, investors, and policy makers from around the world! This year, almost 900 people from 34 countries met, mingled, shared insights, and forged new connections.
Many international attendees are pioneers for animal-free food in their home countries. To boost their groundbreaking work, GFI organized a pre-conference tour of two of the most innovative new protein startups in the Bay Area: JUST and Impossible Foods. For many of us, the tour turned out to be one of the highlights of the conference!
Prior to the conference’s official opening, 33 international visitors, including government food regulators, investors, meat company executives, entrepreneurs, scientists, Bollywood stars, and GFI’s international team piled into a minibus and headed out.
At our first stop, Taylor Quinn, Director of Emerging Markets, led the group through JUST’s modern San Francisco headquarters. We were then treated to a talk by founder Josh Tetrick, who shared his inspiring story and vision for the future. Among other exciting facts, we learned that 77 percent of JUST Egg consumers are meat eaters! Now the challenge is to expand JUST’s reach to new markets, including China, to feed the world’s emerging flexitarians. After meeting Josh, we were treated to a peek into the test kitchen, where we got to fry up and eat some JUST Egg.
The JUST Egg snack staved off our hunger while we headed down to the South Bay, where all 33 of us streamed into an unsuspecting Burger King and lined up for a lunch of Impossible Whoppers. Although my co-host and Managing Director of GFI Brazil, Gustavo and I worried that the restaurant would run out of Impossible Whoppers, the BK crew was completely unfazed, producing three dozen of the plant-based burgers in short order.
Our final stop was Impossible Food’s bright, airy Redwood City headquarters. There, Rachel Konrad, Impossible’s Chief Communications Officer, gave a motivating talk about Impossible’s current and potential future positive impacts on climate change and biodiversity. One of Impossible’s scientists then joined the session to lead us through the process of building an Impossible Burger from several of its key ingredients: soy protein crumbles, coconut and sunflower oil, and the famous heme! Many of us were excited to taste this “secret sauce” until we got up close and realized it actually smells and tastes like blood!
As memorable as the heme was, I think that the highlight for many of us was the tour of Impossible’s innovation lab. As the 33 lab-coated and begoggled strangers filed past, Impossible’s scientists went about their business of experimenting and testing to improve their signature burger while innovating new Impossible products of the future.
An amazing amount of inspiration and learning was packed into five hours! New connections were made and business ideas were born. We hope to offer a similar opportunity at next year’s Good Food Conference.