At a recent Future Food-Tech virtual event, we heard from engaging speakers, listened to terrific roundtable discussions, and participated in energizing networking opportunities. We heard prominent — and oft-mentioned — themes including sustainability, plant proteins, meat alternative, investment, and scale-up.
The focus on these themes didn’t surprise us. We hear these same topics in conversations with our clients — from large consumer product companies to ingredient manufacturers, start-ups, and investors.
From our more than 30 years combined experience, we have five insights to help position food innovators and food investors for success.
- Success starts with addressing an unmet need. Each word is equally important. There must be a consumer, market, or customer need, and it must be unmet. Your offer must be unique to be successful. Maybe your uniqueness is a feature — some way your offer is faster, better, or cheaper than the others. Just be certain you are offering something that is needed and unique.
- Think about B2B: The compelling unmet need could be an ingredient or a process, not a consumer product. To advance sustainability in the food ecosystem there’s lots of uncharted territory outside of consumer products that need innovation. Look at the full ecosystem to find where your offer might add value.
- Lean on those who know: Start-ups often lean on industry veterans who understand the market, scale-up, and supply chain so the entrepreneur can stay focused on the big idea that started the venture. These same start-ups should look at investors who bring more than cash so they can leverage the investor as a partner. Start-ups want to add value to the investor’s portfolio while the investor brings experience to the new venture. For investors, look for partners who can vet technologies and approaches that are new to your portfolio. We often help our investor clients sort out what’s only promised technology and what’s proven, leading to more informed and confident investment decisions.
- You can’t improve the planet if you go out of business: If you aren’t attractive to seasoned investors who make a living assessing the feasibility and viability of a company like yours, then perhaps your offering isn’t ready for prime time or is in a crowded market and not unique. If public funding is your chosen route, make sure you share in your pitch a realistic view of your feasibility and viability. Your pitch for public funding should clearly explain how the product could be made or how the process can work, as well as the viable paths to financial growth to round out your terrific pitch on the global benefits of your idea.
- Food innovation is a team sport. Nobody knows everything about ingredients, processes, products, packaging, and markets. Figure out what you know and add to your team people who know what you don’t. Even in large companies where there’s terrific technical knowledge across the organization, you’ll find that moving into new technologies needs additional partners on the team to cover what you don’t know.
For our clients, we are part of their team that helps drive innovation and invest wisely. Innovation is and has always been a team sport.
Are you looking for seasoned team members for your next innovation? Contact us.
Susan Mayer, MS CFS is our technical food industry lead, with great problem-solving, strategic, and communication skills. Our clients rely on her experience in product development, product lifecycle management, and public-private food industry partnerships to understand how technology, research, and the right suppliers can create innovation opportunities.
Lawrence Blume, PhD., is passionate about collaborative partnerships that bring innovative solutions to challenging research and development roadblocks. A lead advisor for our food science and biotechnology innovation, Lawrence brings extensive experience leading technology-focused opportunity forecasts in support of competitive advantage, product differentiation, and commercialization strategies for C-level executives at companies ranging from early startups to Fortune 500s.