What will come out of the innovation efforts of the food companies?
Virtually every large food and beverage company in the world has executed on a public facing accelerator or incubator, committing to innovation and creating some needed hope for the future. This is an industry trend that I support entirely; however, I have more questions than answers at this point.
Are they taking the right approach to innovation?
In defense of the current participants, it is too early to judge whether the innovation efforts of over 30 programs around the world are doing things right, considering truly disruptive solutions take a few years to develop and a few more years to be applied in the most impactful commercial manner. That being said, with the exception of the Kraft Heinz (Evolv – $100M), Tyson Foods (Tyson), Ebro (Food Evolutions), Techstars (Cargill and Ecolab), and Bimbo (Eleva Food Tech) investing in some pure tech companies ranging from biotech to supply chain, I haven’t heard of other companies embracing the unknown that can come out of a well-funded and coddled incubation program, or committing the proper amount of funds to support the strategy.
Is the problem the strategy or the execution?
So far, we have seen a few novel brands come out of the innovation efforts; however, a new brand in a trending but small category is on the “forgettable” end of the innovation spectrum. Some promising innovations in ingredient substitution, cooking and dehydration processes, packaging, and logistics can be used across various categories, including applications in other major verticals besides CPG. If executed correctly, the innovations can provide solutions to nutritional challenges in economically disadvantaged geographic and social segments, having a real impact on the world. I hope our industry colleagues can see the forest for the trees and execute on the larger application of their good work.
Is the truly impactful work being done behind closed doors?
Surely, a company wouldn’t showcase a truly disruptive innovation before it was ready to launch at a large scale. Maybe it will be launched under an entirely different B2B model. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the more complex food-tech plays being released a few years from now, after the proper testing and market preparation has been performed and the IP is locked down. Which leads to my last question…
Will the groups tasked with executing on innovation select the right ideas and entrepreneurs and incubate / accelerate them properly?
I believe they will, with time. It is an incredibly difficult task, requiring consistent funding, a supportive network, accessible resources, market knowledge, technical expertise, relationship skills, risk-tolerance, process, compromise, and patience. I will be supporting them all the way and with your help we can teach giants to think big.