Given the onset of Covid-19 earlier this year, food startups in Los Angeles have had to reengineer  their operations to survive.  Some examples of these types of businesses are ChowNow, Sweetgreen, Apeel Sciences, Thrive Market, and Joju Foods. These companies have reported that they needed to tighten up their sanitation practices for both their kitchens and deliveries as a result of the pandemic.

“Everything goes through a sanitation process before we start cooking every day, which has added a lot of time and labor, but it was very important to me” says Christine Elfalan of Joju Foods. They currently follow a contact-less delivery protocol and have invested in gloves and other protective gear as well as use much more potent disinfectants. Joju foods is a subscription-based company that makes weekly food deliveries in the Los Angeles area. Their goal is to help families.

Below are three ways food startups have adapted to Covid-19 in 2020:

2020 food startup entrepreneur holding delivery box
2020 food startup entrepreneur holding delivery box
Takeaway No 1:

Companies that rely on subscriptions need a strong online presence. Many startups have shifted their focus from brick and mortar retailers carrying their products to focusing on beefing up their websites as well as setting up a presence on Amazon. Many firms have also been focusing on developing social media campaigns and promotions. Several startups offer discounts after a new customer’s first purchase to entice future purchases.

Takeaway No 2:

Be flexible with your marketing plan. If the plan was to initially market your product to brick and mortar retailers, shift gears and focus more on online partnering with the initially targeted firms and sales until the pandemic subsides.

Takeaway No 3:

Don’t let what seems like an insurmountable problem deter you. Develop new best practices to overcome barriers that the onset of Covid-19 has presented.

There is an expectation by food startups that eventually things will return to more normal patterns of consumption. When they do, those companies need to be ready by making sure they have ample liquidity, an efficient supply chain, and a robust labor force in place.

Robot Prepared Food

Before the pandemic, robot-prepared food was a hit with investors, but ambitious sales goals didn’t materialize. There are several food startup companies that grow arugula, kale and micro-greens in indoor farms run by robots. From planting through harvest, its vegetables don’t encounter human hands, meaning fewer chances of virus contamination.

Some greens startups are reporting a 30 percent increase in shipments than before the pandemic struck, in part because the greens marketed by startups filled the gaps at grocery stores whose normal supply chains were disrupted by the pandemic.

Robotic Food Vending Machines

Man using food vending machine
Man using food vending machine

For those not inclined to order food or leave the house, there are startups that offer souped-up robotic vending machines that sell staples like dried noodles and other food stuffs. In the apartment buildings where the machines are installed, the average monthly tab per user has shot in since February, when shelter-in-place orders started going into effect. The machines are believed to allay Coronavirus fear and discomfort when it comes to buying products.   

After consumers try the machine for health reasons, they typically return once they realize how convenient it is, particularly the mobile payment feature that’s offered.

Good for You Billed Food Brands

Pile of fresh vegetables on table
Pile of fresh vegetables on table

Food startups in the healthy foods segment have been doing well during the pandemic, from faux meat to healthy alternatives to soda. These startups with a wellness edge are attracting more funding dollars as the self-care movement gains momentum. Dairy-free and gut-health-geared startups are attracting increased investor funding.

Coronavirus has turbocharged the concept of food as medicine as consumers have opened their minds to improving their health through healthy diets and personalized nutrition. This concept was gaining traction before Coronavirus and has accelerated since the onset of the pandemic.

The bottom line for food startups in Greater Los Angeles, as well as globally, is to remain flexible and to prepare and react to future market disruptions as quickly as possible.

What ways have you noticed food startups have adapted to 2020? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.