Linked to our FoodTech Brands 2020 report, we looked at the top European Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) Food brands led by startups. We have selected 30 of them, based on:
- We selected all the European DTC startups that raised money in the last couple of years. As explained in other “top startups in X”, we use the criteria of raising money as proof that someone else had already put some faith in the company.
- For each sub-category, we looked at the most promising startups.
- Obviously, we clearly factored a “COVID effect” to look for startups that were sufficiently equipped or could make a profit during the economic aftermath of the pandemic.
- Finally, as we had a larger list, we got down (with a lot of debate) to this mapping with one simple question: Which are the startups that we could send to someone looking to have a view of “what’s happening in the European DTC food landscape”?
Below is the mapping, by category, of our Top European DTC Food brands with some comments on the startup category by category (This list is not in order).
If you think we missed a startup or want to share your thoughts about the list, send us an email.
While many entrepreneurs have been working on launching new beverages, very few succeeded in Europe at developing a strong brand.
Nonetheless, Brewdog, one of Europe’s handful of FoodTech startups, has done it. Brewdog is untypical for a startup. It grew global through retail (its own bars and store distribution) and online sales and raised money through crowdfunding.
We also selected Etno Café, a Polish coffee startup, and Wooha, another craft beer startup. This reflects the dominance of beer and coffee among the most developed beverages startups startup drink space. Even if many new ventures focus on soft juices and low or non-alcoholic drinks, none has emerged strongly yet.
🍽️ ⇒ 🍼 MEAL REPLACEMENT
Meal replacement startups are an exciting category. It illustrates one of the main challenges of European startups: scaling internationally. Three startups have reached scale in Europe, in the three biggest markets (Huel in the UK, Feed, in France, and YFood in Germany), yet none is strong outside its home country.
For more on this challenge, download our report here.
🥩 ⇒ 🥜 ALTERNATIVE PROTEINS
Alternative protein startups are maybe the most discussed topic in FoodTech brands. Beyond Meat’s IPO (in mid-2019) has demonstrated a food startup’s potential to become as attractive as a software one. This has led to a surge in the creation of new protein alternative startups and reinforced the ecosystem’s investments.
Two subcategories are present here:
- Plant-based startup
- Meatless Farm, Heura, This, Strong Roots, Planted and Moving Mountains, which all market plant-based substitutes to meat
- Hari&Co selling its plant-based meat alternative (which we differentiate from a substitute as it doesn’t aim to replicate the taste and texture of meat, and hence avoid the high-processing often linked to substitutes).
- Luve and Oatly, two startups working on plant-based dairy, respectively with lupin and oat
- Lab-grown foods: these startups don’t have products yet on the market but could reach it in the next couple of years. They are building strong brands around their technologies.
- MosaMeat, which works on cellular agriculture meat.
- Legendary which work on fermentation-based dairy products.
🏅 💊 SPORT NUTRITION & SUPPLEMENTS
Fitness and nutrition brands are a natural fit for a Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) strategy. Many startups have been venturing into this space in the last decade. Interestingly, few of them have either entered a more traditional retail distribution or become international (on this part, MyProtein and FoodSpring are almost exceptions). We have selected:
- Foodspring is an impressive success story. It succeeded where few did by becoming International and entering retail distribution. The acquisition by Mars may transform it into a global brand.
- Vitafy, a marketplace for fitness and nutrition. The German startup also operates four fitness and nutrition brands.
- Les Miraculeux and its gummies are made of natural super ingredients. It is an interesting example of a well-executed copycat startup.
As for the meal replacement startups, many DTC snacking startups exist, but few have crossed their home market borders. For this top 30, we have selected Proper Corn, Nicks, and Mister Freed.
Finally, even if we try to avoid it as much as we can, we had to create a miscellaneous category for this DTC mapping. Inside, we have put other representatives of the large European DTC food brands:
- Yooji, a baby food startup, with Danone as a lead investor
- Just Spices, an interesting German startup which has raised an impressive amount of capital for its online spices focused e-commerce
- Mr Lees, a noodle focused startups as an example that almost anything can become a DTC startup’s focus!
- Last but not least, InFarm, the AgTech urban farming startup. Source of much debate among us, we have finally selected InFarm for its growing brand power. Indeed, it is becoming more and more a food brand for previously truly brandless products (think about herbs and other salads, and it’s hard to have brands coming in mind).
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