Could Miami be the future Food Tech capital of the US?
It has long been established that Miami has the cojones to become one of the hottest areas in the US for food and beverage startups. South Florida in general has all the ingredients to make the scene rise including well-established expertise in both food and hospitality, a base of talented food stars, a diverse culture, foodie influencers and plenty of educational opportunities that focus on food.
However, this year a confluence of events might just catapult Miami from an F&B location to watch to the red hot epicenter for food tech. Why?
Unless you’ve been living a Twitter-free life (which we absolutely would understand after 2020), you no doubt know that Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has made it his mission to utilize the social media platform to transform the Magic City into a tech hub. And it’s working. He’s already recruited some tech heavyweights to move to Miami, and we will no doubt see more and more people rent U-hauls to head out of Silicon Valley, SoCal, and NYC and cruise on down to Miami.
Most recently, Softbank, the Japanese conglomerate that’s a heavy investor in technology companies, has earmarked $100 million for Miami-based startups, showing the rest of the start-up world that Miami has got something going on. (All night on the beach, til the break of dawn…)
Reef, a Chicago-based ghost kitchen company, was early on this in 2018, transforming empty parking lots into kitchen spaces for delivery. And while Miami has long been home to handmade, creative and adventuresome F&B for years, this tech infusion just might open up new distribution and marketing channels for these incredible products. These small, scrappy companies are already experimenting with curbside tech, IG ordering, ghost kitchens, Gold Belly and Shopify.
(A good primer on the Miami tech scene can be found here.)
Mix in real world innovation like Wynwood Marketplace—a giant open-air hybrid event space, bar, and food outpost—with the fact that giant travel companies like American Airlines, Virgin Hotels and numerous cruise lines are headquartered in Miami (all of which will need to consider unique partnerships with food and beverage to come out the other side of the pandemic) and you have what just might be the future epicenter of food tech.
With the Mayor’s efforts, the F&B talent already in place (like Zak The Baker who is now selling his bread in local Whole Foods), fully loaded investors, food tech poised to continue going up and to the right this year, Miami has officially become a city for the greater F&B ecosystem to pay close attention to.
So who to watch in Miami? We’ve got a curated list of 17 emerging makers right here, chosen not just for their innovative products but for their e-commerce savviness as well. Read about ’em, get to know ’em, and hit ’em up when you see ’em. Know of a Miami or South Florida F&B brand we should be watching? Tell us please!
Please click to enlarge. Created in February 2021 by Foodboro staff and friends.
(Note: We looked at new food & beverage of all shapes and sizes in the Miami area, specifically those who were pushing boundaries, innovating, and demonstrating proven e-commerce capability.
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What: Good for you and all-organic ice cream with sneaky veggies, like tasty vanilla mixed with hidden zucchini, delicious strawberry with carrots, and poppin’ mint chip with spinach.
Why: Feeding kids healthy foods, especially straight-up vegetables, is a near-impossible task but sneaking them into something they already love—ice cream—is a genius way to get this done.
Sharks Love Veggies Too: Peekaboo founder Jessica Weiss Levison took her product on “Shark Tank”, putting her frozen treats in front of parents nationwide. And now, Peekaboo is shipping nationwide too.
What: Everyone attempted their own sourdough in lockdown but it’s time to face reality now and order up the expert organic sourdough bread from Domaselo, baked fresh in Little Havana.
Why: Founder/Baker Emil Hristov elevates organic sourdough, both into a loaf form and as a sandwich bread, in varying flavors. (You can read Domaselo’s thoughts on the history and technique of making bread on their blog.) Domaselo is available for pick-up and delivery but is also shipping to all of the continental US. They even sell accompanying jams, coffee, and alfajores through their website.
Big Tech Already Investing: Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Sr. recently invested an undisclosed amount in Domaselo.
What: Simple, low-glycemic granola made with coconut sugar and free of refined oils and processed ingredients.
Why: Founder and personal trainer Thalita Pascaul got frustrated when she couldn’t find a great-tasting granola that didn’t have refined oils or sugars. So she put together her own mix with a darling brand style to boot.
Not Just for Miami: Available in two different flavors, T-Nola Granola works on its own or topped onto an acai bowl or yogurt. And it can be enjoyed anywhere now, as T-Nola ships nationwide.
What: High-protein, plant-based drinks made with greek yogurt and meant for folks living that active lifestyle. Also available in special protein bites and oatmeal.
Why: The Powerful range of foods fill that need for natural high-protein foods and they’ve done a tremendous job of getting the word out and raising capital too. They’ve even become an official partner in Inter Miami CF, the city’s MLS team.
Enjoyed By All: While founder Carlos Ramirez sought to create a product for men’s nutritional needs, Powerful is now consumed by many women seeking drinks and snacks with a protein punch. Powerful can be found in nearly 10,000 stores and are available directly from their website.
What: Carefully roasted coffee, in 10 different brews, sourced from Nicaragua, Brazil, Honduras, Columbia, Mexico and more and all packaged in stylish bags meant to bring joy to your morning habit.
Why: What started out as a coffee shop and cafe (Sips Eatery is still operating too) has expanded into a full-grown coffee roastery, shipping nationwide and with a monthly subscription club too.
Sips with Chops: Founder Gail Hamilton Azodo has a background in brand marketing at Procter Gamble and Bacardi, putting her expertise to work in marketing Sip. Gail and her co-founder/husband Uche Azodo are also dedicated to empowering other Black coffee professionals in Miami and beyond.
What: Flavorful cookies made without corn syrup, artificial food coloring or preservatives and instead packed with high-quality ingredients such as Ghiradelli and Valrhona chocolate. And yes, as the name implies, big dough means bigger-sized cookies.
Why: Co-founders Jonathan Melnicoff and Alan Andai spent years cultivating standout events in the Miami area, yet once the pandemic hit, they found a new way of bringing fun to the masses. Now in a commissary kitchen, Big Dough ships nationwide.
Big Dough for Doggies: The company donates five percent of sales revenue to Big Dog Ranch Rescue, a nonprofit organization in West Palm Beach. Oh and “Below Deck” star Alex Radcliffe is supposedly a big fan.
What: Vegan, gluten-free arepas that are healthier versions of the original, made with white corn meal flour, Himalayan pink salt and extra virgin olive oil, and which can be go from in the freezer to ready in the toaster in five minutes.
Why: Sister co-founders Mafe and Coco missed the arepas of their native Venezuela while living in Miami yet didn’t always have the time to make them from scratch. So they developed a recipe that taste just like their mom’s but with better-for-you ingredients.
Order ‘Em Up!: The arepas, which come in two flavors —original and chia flaxseed— can be shipped nationwide and even to Canada!
What: Wafer-thing, toasted corn crackers with Latin flavors like guava, coconut, roasted corn, and plantain. All crackers are non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, dairy free and kosher.
Why: Venezuelan-born Leo Cotter spent five years experimenting and testing a way to put culturally relevant Latin food into an everyday cracker. Could this replace the tortilla chip? Maybe.
Go Craize: There are multiple ways to go “craize” by dipping in nutella, making a sandwich and adding into a dessert. Bundles of craize flavors can be ordered online, and you can even try a pack for free (just pay for shipping.)
What: Five flavors of bubbly kombucha in sophisticated-looking tall cans.
Why: Radiate takes organic tea and locally sourced organic cane sugar to kick off the fermentation process then triples it up with locally sourced wild yeast and fruity flavors for an organic “Miami” fresh taste. Aside from cool cans and fun names like Mermaid Majik and Pina Caliente, Radiate Kombucha is shipping its taste of Miami nationwide.
Make it a Kegger: Get your party hopping with Radiate kegs which have a few different flavors (this is mostly for wholesale options, but still!)
What: High-protein snacks made using plant protein, probiotics and immunity-boosting ingredients like maca powder and turmeric; available in a variety of indulgent flavors like Red Velvet Chocolate Chip and Cashew Cookie Dough.
Why: Developed by two women founders, Lauren Feingold and Ashanty Williams, Shanti Bar fills the hole on the digital and physical shelves for a need-based solution to performance snacks.
Hit The Bar: All bars are made in Shanti Bar’s certified facility in Miami but are available online and through Amazon and shipped nationwide.
What: Nitrogen ice cream and yogurt lab made using fresh cream/yogurt and liquid nitrogen with a variety of fun flavors and topping combos. (We got our eye on that Genius flavor.)
Why: Putting science into ice cream is a sure way to add excitement to your weekly pint (and to attract Silicon Valley’s attention.)
Bring the Lab Home: The lab has a few retail shops in the Miami area, but you can order up a Brain Freeze from their website.
What: Organic, gluten-free, vegan and low-glycemic cookies with a variety of product offerings from no-sugar keto cookies to dairy-free cookie ice cream sandwiches.
Why: Courtney Leon, the founder behind Courtney’s Cookie, is a Certified Holistic Health Coach whose made it a mission to raise awareness around the quality of food while getting rid of the stigma that healthy food doesn’t taste good.
Order Goodness Online: The cookies are healthy and easy to get when you order online. (You can also find them at area farmers’ markets.)
What: A Mexican-American family-owned sauce company with a variety of spicy condiments, including keto and vegan options.
Why: The Saucy Lips intent is to bring families back to the dinner table with convenient, versatile, healthy and delicious products. And in doing so, they’ve obtained the Whole30 seal of approval.
Mama Made: The brother and sister co-founder team, Jess and Natalia Dalton, are expanding their mom’s saucy creations into stores nationwide, but you can also buy directly from their website too.
What: Nuts and seeds including almonds, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, peanuts, pistachios and more. Crystal Nuts also has a variety of other products including sugar-free offerings, sweet and savory blends, and even nut butters.
Why: Founder Cynthia Bendeck started the company out of a desire to share her grandmother’s original caramelized nut recipe and update it with a wide offering of nuts and flavors.
A Legacy Reborn: The brand was originally founded in 1980 under the name Crystal Peanuts by Cynthia’s grandmother, yet she revived the business in 2018 under Crystal Nuts. A staple of farmers markets in the area, Crystal Nuts can also be ordered online.
What: Globally-inspired sauces for dipping, cooking, marinating and mixing; the flavors are inspired by the cuisines of Thailand, Jamaica, India and more.
Why:Guided by a “simplicity is key” philosophy, Corine’s sauces use quality produce like fresh peppers, whole garlic cloves, and real lime juice and are thoroughly tested for the correct flavor profile.
Whole Lot More: Corine’s is on the shelves in local Whole Foods and other area markets, but you can order up larger bottles online.
What: Savory vegetable-based jams and spreads homemade with fresh ingredients and no preservatives.
Why: Bored with ho-hum appetizers, the founder was drawn to her mother’s recipe for brie cheese and tomato jam so she began innovating with other vegetables and thus, Jammy Yummy was born.
Spread the Jammy News: Jammy Yummy is the first U.S. company that makes exclusively vegetable jams.
MORE MIAMI F&B BRANDS AND ECOSYSTEM PARTNERS TO KNOW