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bean free coffee a gimmick or the future of the coffee industry?
In this article, let’s talk about the future of coffee. My co-author is my friend Bai Zhongying. As a business analyst in Beijing, our common interests are cutting-edge technology and social problems that technology can solve. We are also workers who usually rely on coffee to survive. When we talk about coffee, we will be refreshed immediately.
I made up a paragraph to summarize what I will talk about today:
Aibiying doesn’t have a house,
The future coffee company may not have a coffee bean.
Like computers, the Internet, artificial intelligence and biotechnology, coffee has also promoted the progress of human productivity. Every successful person should also thank the countless cups of coffee he has drunk. Just in the past second, people all over the world drank another 26000 cups of coffee.
The special coffee of Yunnan wild jujube I drank in Wuma, a local community cafe in Kunming, Yunnan Province, is one of the best flavors I have drunk this year. But behind my enjoyment of this exquisite cup of coffee, I want to know where this cup comes from.
Caffeine, a chemical molecule, is actually a magical substance. It comes from the evolution of plants over hundreds of millions of years. Plants first evolved to produce caffeine. On the one hand, it is for survival competition. It can resist the invasion of pests and keep other plants away from their own territory. On the other hand, it can attract beneficial insects and animals to help pollinate or sow seeds. Who can refuse the temptation of caffeine? Finally, coffee “domesticated” humans hundreds of years ago, allowing humans to plant coffee fruits on a large scale, which is harmful to people at high doses, but it keeps our minds clear at low doses, and even prevents diseases.
The picture comes from the Internet. Robusta Robusta coffee fruit. Scientists have figured out the mechanism by which many plants can produce caffeine through gene sequencing and evolutionary biology research, which lays the foundation for the later biotechnology to create new technologies for producing caffeine
The fourth wave of high-quality coffee is also sweeping China, a country with tea drinking as its cultural foundation. Young people in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Bayu and capital have supported a new generation of coffee brands challenging Starbucks, such as three and a half tons, manner and Ruixing. The ancient industry of coffee has embraced a new era of brands, But it has not well embraced technological innovation.
On the other hand, coffee planting industry is also one of the most unsustainable industries in the world. The main reason is that coffee, a high economic value crop, needs to occupy a lot of forest land, consume water resources and reduce biodiversity (because 99% of the coffee varieties grown in the world are concentrated in Arabica coffee beans and Robusta coffee beans, the species diversity is very low). According to the estimation of UNESCO water resources department, a cup of coffee in our hands will consume 39 gallons of water (147 liters of water) For production. Today’s ongoing climate change, in turn, has made the coffee planting industry a vulnerable victim. The more unstable the environment is, it is difficult for farmers to obtain stable production, so they can not effectively organize production. With climate warming, it has also exacerbated the emergence of microbial infectious diseases infecting coffee crops.
In Brazil, where the Amazon rainforest covers the largest area in the world, the past year was the highest year in Brazil for planting and animal husbandry due to economic reasons in the past 15 years. Cattle raising, palm oil, coffee beans and cocoa fruit are the main industries causing deforestation, but our happiness and the livelihood of millions of people also depend on it. The picture comes from social networks.
In the end, the booming boutique coffee industry in the first tier cities did not allow millions of small farmers in the upper reaches of agriculture to obtain sufficient benefits, which continued to aggravate the problem of “economic income inequality”.
Pictures from social networks
To improve the sustainability of the coffee industry, in the main coffee producing areas, the governments and non-governmental organizations of some countries encourage coffee farmers to plan their production more orderly and plant some wild coffee fruit varieties.
Recently, in Europe and the United States, biotechnology start-ups began to enter the coffee industry, just like the developing plant meat, alternative protein food industry and cell culture food industry. They want to change the coffee planting in the past hundreds and thousands of years through technology, so as to solve the problem of climate change. In cities such as China, especially Shanghai, It already has the largest number of cafes in the world. Behind the seemingly booming coffee market, brands are facing the problem of helpless homogenization and scale of upstream supply chain.
The world’s largest coffee producing area is not in Africa, but in Brazil, which has the most abundant rainforest resources. The picture is from visual capitalist
The major problems existing in today’s human society are systemic and interrelated, and it is almost impossible to have a perfect solution. However, technology is a motivation and variable, which makes some living water emerge from the dead market and solve the current and future problems at the same time.
Let’s see if biotechnology will bring a beautiful new world to the coffee industry.
Finnish National Technical Research Center VTT
Bean free coffee cultured through cell agriculture
Finland has the largest per capita coffee consumption in the world, but it does not produce coffee itself.
Finland and Sweden have always had FIKA FIKA’s coffee culture, that is, to get together with friends and colleagues to enjoy coffee at a pleasant time of the day. In the cold northern Europe, coffee makes people warm and close to each other.
VTT technical research centre of Finland (VTT, for short, is a state-owned non-profit company in Finland) has recently successfully developed the technology of cell agriculture to grow beanless coffee. For the first time, scientists have created locally produced local coffee in Finland.
Scientists extract coffee plant cells, culture them, and then ferment them to produce a large amount of biomass to produce coffee
Finland used to lead the world in the field of communication technology and industrial design. As a “state supported interdisciplinary research organization”, VTT has focused on the forefront of biotechnology in recent years. They have developed a cellular factory It includes microbial factory + plant factory. Through the progress of cross disciplines such as the latest gene editing technology, synthetic biology technology, computer simulation calculation and artificial intelligence design, it cooperates with microorganisms and plants in laboratories and factories to create the needs of human life.
“Plant cells, not seeds”, Lauri Reuter, a VTT researcher turned entrepreneur, founded a “plant factory” biotechnology company to explore the possibilities of future agriculture and food technology. The picture comes from social networks
This technique places cell cultures in a bioreactor Then add nutrients to promote growth. The cultivated substances are dried, roasted and fermented to form brewed coffee. There is no need for pesticides in this process, and there is little demand for water. Moreover, because coffee can be produced locally by using this method, it also reduces energy waste and pollutant emission during coffee bean transportation.
You can imagine that this technology can directly produce freeze-dried coffee powder similar to “three and a half” coffee in the future, and debug different flavors.
Picture from VTT official website
As for taste, Heiko rischer, head of plant biotechnology at VTT, described their first coffee product as “between coffee and black tea” – this product is relatively light baked, so it will have some taste of black tea.
Finished coffee products cultured in VTT Research Laboratory (Alessandro rampazzo / AFP via Getty Images)
Jaana rikkinen, senior research technician of VTT research laboratory, is preparing a bioreactor (Alessandro rampazzo / AFP via Getty Images)
At present, this cell agriculture innovation has not been approved for public consumption, so VTT’s products have not yet been put on the market. They expect to obtain regulatory approval from Europe and the United States in the next four years, so as to pave the way for commercial products. Dr. Heiko rischer hopes that more companies will participate in the commercialization of cell culture coffee in the future: “We have now proved that growing coffee in the laboratory can become a reality. But the real impact of this work will be realized by companies willing to reconsider the production of food ingredients. VTT cooperates and supports large and small companies to seize opportunities in their product development.”
Founded in 1942, VTT is the largest comprehensive research institution in northern Europe. Its main research fields include applied materials, digital information system, energy, paper industry and construction industry (built environment) , electronics and communication industry, chemical industry and environment, industrial management system, machinery and automobile, biotechnology, pharmacy, food, etc. as an important part of Finland’s innovation system, in addition to accepting entrustment for the development and research of new technologies, the main work also includes signing cooperative development contracts with other academic institutions and enterprises to provide professional consulting and projects for the latter Project testing, certification, intellectual property rights, commercialization and other services. With its strong scientific research strength, VTT helps partners improve the competitiveness of technology R & D, and is also responsible for transforming new technologies into products and sharing benefits. In Finland’s scientific and technological innovation industry chain, basic research mainly depends on universities and scientific research institutions, and the company is responsible for product production, while VTT plays a role in connecting the two As a middleman, conduct project application research.
Unlike other companies in this field, bean free coffee is just an incubating project of VTT. In addition to bean free coffee, VTT is also using new biotechnology to produce environmentally friendly leather and even dental crowns. It is written on VTT’s official website: “we use cell factory.” Solutions to guide development and produce ethical and delicious food that does not require arable land or animals. “
Optical fiber made of cellulose, spider silk simulated protein generated in bioreactor, nano cellulose based film can selectively capture micro plastics and metals from polluted water – VTT’s research project can open people’s imagination of sustainable bio based materials.
For VTT scientists, today’s world needs new sustainable solutions to replace fossil based materials and ensure healthy solutions for the earth and all mankind. Sustainable bio based materials are inspired by nature and follow the recycling principle of nature: no excessive occupation of resources, reuse, recycling and biodegradation, and no waste. The realization of this vision requires the efforts of multi-party cooperation in the coming decades, and there are already some pioneers on the road.
San Francisco compound foods
Production of fine coffee by synthetic biology and precision fermentation technology
Maricel Saenz, founder and CEO of compound foods, headquartered in San Francisco, said she was trying to “reinvent” coffee in the laboratory and show people why it was important – coffee is one of the five cash crops that have the greatest impact on the environment in the world, Using the new technology to produce bean free coffee can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption by 90%.
The picture is from the Internet, Maricel Saenz, founder of compound foods
Maricel Saenz, founder and CEO of compound foods, was born in Costa Rica, a famous coffee producing area. Therefore, she will pay special attention to the impact of coffee production on production sites and growers.
From the perspective of greenhouse gas emissions from the food industry, the greenhouse gas emissions brought by coffee production are only inferior to beef and mutton, cheese and chocolate: the production of each cup of coffee consumes about 140 liters of water, and the production of each kilogram of coffee will produce 17 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
In addition, Saenz also said in an interview: “at present, the rise of global temperature and unstable rainfall lead to the decline of crop yield. Because of climate change, Costa Rican farmers have to sell their land or climb higher mountains to ensure yield and income. Experts predict that 50% of farmland will not be suitable for growing coffee in the next few decades.” Saenz believes that due to the negative impact of coffee production on the environment and the impact of climate change on the coffee planting industry, it is necessary to reduce our dependence on currently planted crops – which is why compound foods is committed to using biotechnology to re produce coffee without coffee beans.
Before compound foods, Saenz had entrepreneurial experience in biotechnology related fields: Saenz University studied business in Canada and engaged in consulting for several years after graduation. After working for several years, he participated in the project of singularity University in Silicon Valley (jointly founded by Google and NASA) and co founded the first company nextbiotics with his partners. The partners mainly focused on the technology of synthetic biology laboratory, while Saenz focused on the business direction. In this process, Saenz spent three years learning how to lead a team of scientists.
Biotechnology has always been Maricel Saenz’s passion. In an interview with on deck, she said: “In the past few years, biotechnology has made a lot of revolutionary progress: we have enhanced the ability to read and write DNA, edit genome and engineering biology through sequencing and synthesis technology. At synbiobeta annual synthetic biology conference, speaker Eric Schmidt (former executive chairman of Google) He shared his view that in the 1980s, all his excitement focused on software, and now it’s biology – so do I. in this field, I can see how scientific progress can be applied to solve the most important problems in the world. What I bring to this field is knowledge and creativity, and can pull what scientists can create and what people really want And build it into a great commercial product. “
In 2020, in order to focus on solving the problem of climate change with its advantages in biotechnology, Saenz resigned as CEO of the start-up company and founded compound foods.
Compound foods’ bean free coffee production process is different from VTT – compound foods uses microorganisms and fermentation technology to simulate various flavors and aroma of coffee – these sustainable microorganisms can produce coffee with brighter acidity and more delicate aroma than any coffee on today’s store shelves. Compound foods has received $4.5 million in seed base Gold, and plans to launch bean free coffee products with pricing equivalent to high-quality coffee by the end of 2022, and gradually reduce the price by expanding production.
The picture comes from the network, the team of compound foods
At present, the investors of compound foods include angel investors such as Chris sacca’s climate fund lowercarbon capital, SVLC, Humboldt fund, collaborative fund, maple VC, Petri bio and Nick green, CEO of thrive market. In this investor camp, we can also see the current trend: professional biotechnology investors + influence investment based on social value Investors + Internet technology investment fund jointly participate.
Maricel Saenz and compound foods are a typical “entrepreneur led science company” It is believed that more and more founders with scientific or non-scientific backgrounds will develop advanced technologies and valuable products to solve the most urgent social problems on earth today by working with scientists, engineers and designers.
Every bite saves the earth’s “plant ingredient party” bean free coffee
Compound foods is not the only company that focuses on producing bean free coffee on the west coast of the United States. In Seattle, another company has completed product research and development and launched two flavors of bean free coffee on the market – this company is called atom coffee.
“There are no beans in coffee. I’m playing with beans?” “or molecular coffee!”
Founded by Andy Kleitsch, a technology veteran, and Jarret stopworth, a food scientist, atom coffee is a start-up company based in Seattle, where Starbucks is headquartered.
Atomo’s two founders (sitting in the middle) and team members
Consistent with Seattle’s temperament – their corporate culture also emphasizes the concept of environmental protection and sustainable development. Compared with the traditional cold extract coffee, they claim that making coffee with its new plant decomposition method can save 94% water, reduce 93% carbon dioxide emissions, and will not cut down any forests.
The founding team not only improved coffee production through biotechnology, but also considered the combination with localized circular agriculture. Through cooperation with local farmers in the United States, they recycled the plant / mushroom and other wastes in their production process. Atomo coffee’s patented process can convert the compounds in these plant recycling materials into the same substances as those in coffee beans (the ingredients written in the packaging ingredients list include water, jujube extract, chicory root extract, grape skin extract, inulin extract, natural flavor and caffeine). Atomo coffee roasts, grinds and brews these special ingredients to make coffee products, which is the same process as traditional coffee – so consumers drink atomo coffee “Every bite is saving the earth.”
Slide around the , , , and to see more about the first batch of products produced by atom coffee from R & D and evaluation. The pre-sale will begin in September 2021
According to the guardian It was reported in October 2021 that atom coffee’s factory can now produce 1000 cans of coffee a day. Its co-founder Jarret stopworth said that they plan to increase the production capacity to 10000 cans a day within one year and achieve the goal of annual production of 30 million cans within two years. In September 2021, atom coffee held an e-commerce flash sale on its website, which marked this company The three-year-old start-up company has finally completed the process of product research and development to market.
Interestingly, the baking plant that atomo coffee has been building over the past year is only six blocks from the headquarters of coffee giant Starbucks.
In addition to producing products, launching brands and building e-commerce platforms is also a difficult process. On September 21, 2021, atom coffee sold 8000 cans of coffee to 1000 customers, each of whom can buy two 4 cans. Next year, atom coffee plans to launch other retail channels and on-demand ordering services, but they will not consider opening offline coffee shops at present.
At present, atom coffee’s small factory
As an entrepreneurial project started in the garage three years ago, atom coffee has received a financing of US $11.5 million, has 25 employees and built its own small factory. The founder thinks it’s really incredible.
Andy Kleitsch (left) and Jarret stopworth, CO founders of atom; picture from atom photo
At present, atom coffee mainly promotes two cold extracts, the classic and super smooth. According to the official introduction, the products of both flavors have a balanced taste of acidity and bitterness. The classic has cocoa, dark berries and smoke flavor, while the super smooth has caramel flavor and less bitterness, which is more suitable for coffee consumers who are not black coffee loyal powder.
At present, the price of these two types of coffee is $5.99 per can. This price is still too expensive for canned coffee. How to achieve scale effect and reduce costs in the future is also a problem that startups need to run to solve.
With plant meat, oat milk and allbirds shoes made of plant materials, there are coffee challengers in the coffee industry that don’t look like coffee.
The three start-ups introduced today are very, very early. They used different technical routes to produce bean free coffee. Their starting points all mentioned to support the sustainable development of the earth, reduce forest land and other natural resources, and turn them into cultivated land for cash crops. With the support of capital, in order to achieve this goal, are these ambitious technology companies Every ordinary consumer is the best judge.
Maybe in the near future, we will drink scientific and technological coffee developed with such biotechnology on Mars and space trips, but at present, our coffee on earth seems to be really threatened by environmental change. What can every ordinary consumer help do?
Biotechnology will revolutionize our agriculture and food, but what social and livelihood problems will be caused behind it? Will the technology of science and technology companies with powerful science and technology threaten the survival of countless farmers in agricultural countries in the third world? Is the progress of industrialization technology alone the best solution?
What kind of company can have the most advanced technology and the most attractive culture at the same time?
These problems are the thoughts that this article hopes to leave to more people.
Author: Fan Yang; Source: Fan Yang (ID: beingmorehunan), reprint has been authorized. Reprint authorization and media business cooperation: Amy (wechat: 13701559246);
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