Category Archives: Consumer Choices in Food, Health, and Wellness

Biopesticide Patent Landscape Dominated by a Select Few; One Will Soon Be Uncatchable

Biopesticides are en vogue in the world of agtech. Ever since Bayer acquired Agraquest for nearly half a billion dollars in 2012, start-ups have been raising significant money and jockeying for position as attractive partners and/or acquisition targets. The biopesticide market is still small – in the single-digit billions of dollars worldwide (see the Lux Research webinar “Planting Seeds for Future Success“) – but these products continue to take market share from the conventional pesticide market, which is worth more than $50 billion worldwide. While smaller companies like Marrone Bio Innovations and Stockton Agrimor have made headlines by developing promising biologicals, it’s really the world’s leading agrichemical companies that dominate the patent landscape for biopesticides (see figure below). Of the top 10 patent assigned in the biopesticide space, only five major companies and two smaller companies (Marrone and Qingdao Haolite) are represented. Notably absent from this group is Syngenta, a major player in the conventional agrichemical space.

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Not All “Digital Drug” Therapies Are Created Equal

Lux recently spoke with Chrono Therapeutics, developer of a digital smoking cessation program that incorporates a transdermal patch for timed drug delivery, a digital compliance platform, and virtual behavioral support. Chrono looks to combine innovation in drug delivery with digital tools to – it claims – double or even triple the quit rate achieved via traditional nicotine patches. Lux has spoken with other companies who characterize themselves, or whom others characterize, as developers of digital drug therapeutics, too; they include Medimetrics Personalized Drug Delivery, Proteus Digital Health, and Pear Therapeutics, and with $47 million invested in Chrono Therapeutics, $40 million in Proteus Digital Health, and $20 million in Pear Therapeutics – all in the last year – the digital drug space is gaining traction. However, through our conversation with David Matley, VP of Business Development at Chrono, a not-less-important insight than the value of digital surfaced: the term “digital drug therapy” is commonly used, though by different parties to mean different things. Continue reading

ExxonMobil’s Algal Biofuel “Breakthrough” Is Significant – but Not a Real Breakthrough

Last week, ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics jointly announced they doubled the lipid content of an algae strain from 20% to 40% without significantly hindering the strain’s growth. The news comes on the heels of the second renewal of their joint research agreement originally started in 2009 and is the biggest breakthrough yet to come out of this partnership. According to the published research paper, the team used the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system to inhibit a gene that suppresses lipid production in the algae.

Lipid content is the most influential factor in the production cost of algal biofuels. We previously estimated the cost of algal fuels at $13.50 per gallon of gasoline equivalent (GGE) for an algae with 25% lipid content. However, increasing the lipid content to 40% only brings the fuel cost down to about $9.40/GGE, still a long way from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s target of $5.00/GGE by 2019. This improvement moves the needle in the development of algal fuels, but many more breakthroughs will be needed for the technology to reach commercial viability. This new development comes at a time where interest in algae fuels sharply collapsed, causing surviving algae developers to pivot into alternative markets. While consumer perception will curb the use of genetically engineered algae strains in food, animal feed may be a promising alternative target market although the technology will struggle to compete with inexpensive fish meal lipid alternatives. ExxonMobil’s and Synthetic Genomics’ announcement steers algal biofuels in a positive direction after years of failed promises but readers should remain cognizant that algae will unlikely be an economically viable technology solely for biofuels.

By: Runeel Daliah and Arij van Berkel

Organic Does Not Mean Pesticide-Free

Organic agriculture has grown into a major market, resulting in food companies making bold commitments to bring organic products into their portfolios. For example, General Mills has transformed its portfolio to include nine organic brands, including Cascadian Farm, Annie’s, Food Should Taste Good, and LÄRABAR. Danone has similarly initiated a strong organic push by acquiring organic, non-GMO, plant-based food company WhiteWave for $12.5 billion in 2016. One of the primary drivers motivating food companies to develop organic product lines is the overwhelming demand from consumers. Consumers are demanding more nutritious, healthier, and sustainable foods, which they often associate with organic. Continue reading

The Future Is Meal Kits: Campbell Soup Company Invests in Chef’d

What They Said

Last week, Campbell Soup Company invested $10 million in Chef’d, a U.S.-based meal kit delivery company. This investment came directly from Campbell itself, not its $125 million venture capital arm Acre Venture Partners. This direct investment is part of Chef’d’s Series B round and gets Campbell a seat on the company’s board of directors. The investment will help position Campbell to enter e-commerce.

In its official press release, Campbell President and CEO Denise Morrison said, “E-commerce will transform the food industry in similar ways to how it transformed entertainment and apparel. It is a game changer for consumers, food makers and retailers alike. The movement is irrevocable and irreversible. In the future, shopping for and preparing meals will be flexible, fully automated and anticipatory. Chef’d will help Campbell connect with our consumers where they are today and, more importantly, where they’re headed.”

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Evaluating the Patent Activity in Smart Textiles

To gauge the innovation activity in the smart textile space, Lux surveyed the patent landscape and identified 10,051 patents published since 1997 relevant to smart textiles and fabrics. There has been a consistent uptick in activity, showing a greater interest in smart textiles as other enabling technologies, such as conductive inks, sensors, and power systems, further develop. We have previously looked at the innovation occurring in smart textiles (see the report “Innovation in Smart Textiles Moves from Materials to Analytics” [client registration required]) and printed electronics. To evaluate the patent landscape, we utilized a Lux-developed search tool that uses patent data that has been stored and categorized by Clarivate Analytics. The search terms used were conductive fabric, conductive textile, electronic fabric, electronic textile, smart fabric, and smart textile. There were no specific conductive ink terms used in the search; therefore, companies that innovate primarily in conductive ink were not included in this search. Even without including conductive inks, the amount of patent publications specifically around smart textiles is growing; 2016 saw the most-ever patents granted, with a total of 377. Figure 1 shows the total number of patent publications per year, with the data for 2017 current to May 2.

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Solid-State Technology Enables Development of the Flatscreen of Microwave Ovens

The way consumers interact with their food is changing dramatically. The development of novel technologies opens the door for new ways to make decisions about and obtain food, new ways to prepare the food in our homes, and allows us to quantify and track the impact of consumption on our bodies. The consumer kitchen is the target of multiple technology developments, from Innit’s connected kitchen to Pantelligent’s smart frying pan and the development of the Smart Knife that detects freshness, safety, and nutrient status of foods during the act of cutting. As kitchen appliances become smarter, one consumer appliance sticks out as sorely out of date. That appliance is the microwave oven. Continue reading

Medtronic Partners with Garmin, but Still Remains Far Behind Philips

What They Said

Last week, Medtronic announced that it is expanding the capabilities of its Medtronic Care Management Services (MCMS) platform, which evaluates patient biometrics, symptoms, and other health information to enable sorting by caregivers for risk stratification. This software allows caregivers to focus on patients with greater risk. Medtronic is further developing its remote patient monitoring (RPM) platform, adding in information collected from Garmin wearables. The platform offers more than 20 different programs focused on specific diseases and comorbidities (such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, and heart failure), and can now incorporate the data collected from the Garmin wearables allowing patient and their care providers to better manage their health conditions from home. Medtronic is looking to use the data collected from wearables to show deviations in baselines and help treat diseases, like diabetes, but not necessarily make a clinical diagnosis. The integration combines activity measurements from Garmin wearables with the MCMS platform for both chronic care and post-discharge treatment plans, giving health care providers a better idea of how physically active patients are, when they are the most active, how rested they are, and where they visit. This comes after the December announcement that Medtronic was partnering with Fitbit to use their wearables with MCMS, as well ([see the February 3, 2017 LRDHWJ] client registration required).

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Recapping Health and Wellness at LES: Three Formulas for Success Highlight Faults of a Technology-First Approach

Last week Lux hosted the Americas Lux Executive Summit (LES). Among discussions on the great energy transition, the digital transformation, and the materials-manufacturing nexus, Lux analysts and external speakers also explored the rise of consumer health and wellness. From non-GMO and organic food to activity tracking and “natural” ingredients, today’s consumers care about – and are willing to pay for – wellness. Some estimates put the wellness market at nearly $4 trillion, but it remains unclear if current solutions actually deliver on wellness claims to the consumer. Below, we highlight key themes discussed at LES that look to provide clarity on how developers should approach the wellness market: Continue reading

Can You Overcome Public Perception of Genetically Modified Crops by Targeting Consumer-Facing Traits?

In the food and agriculture industries, most biotech developers have approached crop modification with a specific goal in mind: increasing crop yield. Most focus has been on traits that confer agricultural benefits like herbicide tolerance and insect or disease resistance that are upstream to the consumer. Lux Research has identified an emerging trend wherein companies are now targeting developing traits at the point of the consumer with direct consumer-facing benefits rather than agronomic farmer-facing benefits. Over the last few years, several firms have developed these traits, including a variety of pink pineapple developed by Del Monte, a variety of gluten-reduced wheat developed by Calyxt, and non-browning apples developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits. We expect to see more crops with consumer-facing benefits to appear in the coming years, as developers aim to capitalize on consumer-driven trends and needs. Continue reading