Food and tech startups are two industries for which Southeast Asia is particularly well-known. As the tech-startup scene gets hotter, investors are starting to see more potential and money is pouring in, hastening the region’s exponential growth. The significant economic boom is leading tech startups to innovate the food industry further and make it more accessible to consumers.
Typically, when “FoodTech” is brought up, we tend to think about food delivery services like FoodPanda and Deliveroo. While the FoodTech industry is still classified as applications that bridge the gap between restaurants and our front-doors, the reality is that FoodTech is no longer just about food delivery. Through the use of AI, cloud, and other technologies, FoodTech is now changing the entire process from farm to fork.
From CityFarm, Ricult, BigDish, and TraceVerified who shaped the FoodTech in 2018, here are the four up-and-coming FoodTech startups of 2019:
Thailand is home to some well-known beer brands like Chang, Leo, and Singha. Such brands can be found everywhere, from convenience stores, bars, and now, even in an app. WishBeer is serving you your favourite beers, wines, and spirits along with other 8,000 more options to your doorstep, removing the ‘out’ from Saturday night out. The startup is delivering booze anywhere in Thailand for a minimal delivery fee of 79 THB ($2.59 USD) or free for orders 2,000 THB ($63.97 USD) and up. If you’re throwing a house party, WishBeer is also serving draught beer on tap. WishBeer is also making strides to strengthen their offline presence by launching pop-up stores and opening its flagship store WishBeer Home Bar in 2016. Currently, WishBeer Home Bar is operating five locations around Bangkok.
What made this company innovative is not just their concept of delivering booze or opening flagship stores. Due to Thailand’s law restrictions in crowdfunding, the startup raised funds through the use of Facebook ads. The company was able to raise 10 million THB (approximately $320,000 USD).
Catering to the working professionals in Kuala Lumpur, SmartBite was first introduced in the market in 2017. Compared to the other food delivery services, SmartBite doesn’t charge delivery fees, no minimum orders, and implements fixed-delivery time slots. Such a move is aimed towards saving time and money. For restaurants, it allows them to have more control over the quality of the food by working within the provided time slots. The consumers, on the other hand, don’t have to deal with the delivery charges and minimum orders. This makes it a win-win situation for both the restaurant and the customer.
SmartBite also uses AI technology using criteria like preferences, order history, similar users, and market trends to curate offerings on rotation every day to the customers. For busy working people, this might be a solution to the endless scrolling through overwhelming food choices. Through the help of AI, SmartBite can optimise the logistics process and maximises productivity.
Currently, the app boasts a user base of over 20,000 and is looking to expand to other cities with similar needs and demographics. As of last year, the company was able to raise $300,000 USD through two series of funding. It is expected that the company will begin a fresh round of funding soon.
Singapore based startup, Grain, was launched in 2014, with the mission of highlighting ‘clean food’ while utilising the concept of food delivery services to distribute it. Unlike the other food delivery services, Grain doesn’t join up with other restaurants but instead have their own chefs, menu, and delivery team. Grain offers fast-food meal boxes that are affordable, healthy, and tasty. Aside from the healthy meal boxes, Grain has expanded, offering catering services for groups with a minimum of 30 people. With thousands of daily deliveries in Singapore, it comes as no surprise that the company is bagging eight figures in sales per year.
Recently, the startup secured $10 million USD ($14 million SGD) in a series B funding led by Singha Ventures. The startup is soon crossing beyond Singapore’s borders and will leverage Singha’s F&B network, logistics, and distribution to expand its services in Thailand.
MakanLuar, a restaurant reservations platform that took Jakarta by storm by offering free, instant, and guaranteed restaurant reservations from casual eateries to fine dining. MakanLuar.com, now Chope.co, features e-menus, photos, reviews, current promotions, and exclusive offerings for their members. The platform is helping busy consumers save time from going through the process of selecting from thousands of options in the market by offering an assortment of restaurants that can guarantee a seat reservation. This is particularly beneficial as private events are becoming increasingly common in the city. MakanLuar also extends a reward program in which points can be redeemed to partner restaurants.
In 2016, the Singapore-based online reservations startup Chope acquired MakanLuar. The acquisition made Chope’s reach span across eight countries.
Following the success of on-demand food delivery services, there will be more developments and innovations across the FoodTech industry in the coming years. Companies will leverage their data to optimise offerings and create more consumer-centric advancements, aiming to be integrated into consumer’s habits and lifestyle.
Increasing investors and venture capitalists will fund more FoodTech startups with deep technology. It turns out, on-demand food delivery is just the surface of the FoodTech sphere, and it won’t be long before you see revolutionary developments relating to food science and food sourcing.