The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses of nearly every size and shape in the food industry. The global food system has been tested in a way unlike any time prior as both businesses and consumers faced the realities of its inherently complex and intricate nature. These challenges have forced the industry to build a deeper reliance on emerging technologies.
Widespread lockdowns and reduced mobility had immediate impacts on food purchasing behavior early in 2020, leading to a 57% increase in retail food sales when comparing March 2019 to March 2020 and a 51% decrease in sales at restaurants and other dining establishments comparing April 2019 to April 2020, according to the USDA. Needless to say, this level of disruption wasn’t unique to consumer purchasing behavior alone. Businesses in the food space felt the crunch of wildly fluctuating supply and demand, reduced labor availability, and myriad food safety and security challenges.
For many businesses, the pandemic highlighted the significant potential impact of the issues and risks that had existed but been deprioritized for years in the industry. As a result, businesses began investing earnestly (and at times rapidly) into technologies and digital capabilities to address the immediate effects of the pandemic and enable greater resilience for the future. This broad awareness and investment resulted in something of a banner year for agrifoodtech. Agrifoodtech startups raised $26.1 billion in 2020 with expectations that the total number would settle to over $30 billion once all deals have been accounted for.
Learn how the landscape of technology is changing across the supply chain, and how food businesses can leverage emerging technologies in our latest Trends Report on Food Tech impacting the supply chain this decade.