The Fi Global Startup Innovation Challenge: A platform for success for global food ingredient startups
Contents The Startup Innovation Challenge: Advancing ingredient innovation since 2016 . . . . . . . . 3 Fostering disruptive innovations for a sustainable food system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Why take part in the Startup Innovation Challenge 2022? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A world-class jury of food & venture capital experts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 What’s the secret to successful scale-up and corporate collaboration? . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Create a sandbox for safe scale-up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Making innovation ecosystems available to startups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The secret to success: Think big and be open to collaboration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Where are they now? Meet the Startup Innovation Challenge Alumni . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Enzymit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Amai Proteins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Chromologics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Seven tips for successful fundraising from leading investors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Spotlight on startup innovation in Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Spotlight on startup innovation in China . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Interviews with the 2021 winners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Allozymes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Sophie’s Bionutrients . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 NoPalm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Key Takeaways . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
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The Startup Innovation Challenge: Advancing ingredient innovation since 2016
Since its beginnings in 2016, the Fi Global Startup Innovation Challenge has been offering a unique platform to showcase startups’ ingredient innovations and amplify their message to an audience of potential partners and investors at Fi Europe, the annual global meeting of thousands of decision-makers in the food ingredient industry. Startups active for five years or less can apply to as many of the categories that are relevant to them, free of charge.
All finalists gain access to the Startup Lounge at Fi Europe 2022, held in-person in Paris, where they can meet and mingle with industry stakeholders and gain valuable exposure when pitching their solutions on stage at the Innovation Hub. The award ceremony and startup pitches are also livestreamed to attendees watching from around the world via the Fi Europe 2022 online platform. These pitches are then available to watch on-demand on the Fi Global Insights website all year round, further increasing visibility.
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The winning startups can also choose from one of three high-value prizes: A fully equipped exhibitor stand at Fi Europe for the following year, as well as a Premium Profile on the Ingredients Network directory, which attracts more than 45,000 unique ingredient buyers every month. A digital marketing package for Ingredients Network and Fi Global Insights to promote their online presence throughout 2023. M entorship and support from one of our jury members. This could include one-to-one coaching sessions; the opportunity for potential pilot work; or access to corporate collaborations and accelerator programmes.
Click here t o register your interest for the 2022 Startup Innovation Challenge hosted in Paris and find out more about the exciting prizes up for grabs.
Fostering disruptive innovations for a sustainable food system Startups are defining and designing the innovative food ingredients of tomorrow, but often lack the scale and funds to bring their solutions to market. Connecting with the right partners is therefore a fundamental part of any startup’s journey, and the Fi Global Startup Innovation Challenge is the ideal place to do so. The Startup Innovation Challenge was the brainchild of nutrition consultant and food industry expert Sandra Einerhand, who worked with the team at Fi Global to make it a reality. According to Angelique Cachia, director of content and digital at Fi Global, the Challenge is unique in the high-level exposure it offers startups.
Angelique Cachia, director of content and digital at Fi Global, at the 2021 Startup Innovation Challenge
“The Startup Innovation Challenge is co-located with Fi Europe, the annual meeting place of R&D scientists, food technologists, product developers, and senior management,” says Angelique Cachia. “In other words, people who are razor-focussed on scouting out the most interesting ingredient solutions. The benefits to startups of such industry interactions are immeasurable.” “At Fi Global, we are proud to make such connections possible, fostering food industry innovations that are truly disruptive and that will contribute to creating a more sustainable future food system, providing safe and nutritious food for all.”
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Fi Europe 2022 in numbers
Attendees (Online & In-person)
Top job functions of attendees to the Startup Innovation Challenge Founder, COO, CEO
President / Director
Research & Development * based on visitor badge scans of the Startup Pitches at the Industry Insights Theatre 2019
Einerhand adds: “The Challenge gives startups the opportunity to get exposure and potentially get investors interested in what they’re doing. But there are also benefits for the food ingredient exhibitors; with startups, everything is in development, so you can, early on, interact with them to see whether they fit your company or your product development.”
Startup Innovation Challenge founder Sandra Einerhand with the 2019 winner Better Nature
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Why take part in the Startup Innovation Challenge 2022? The Startup Innovation Challenge has played a pivotal role in accelerating the businesses of many startups - as previous participants in the Challenge testify. Dr Ilan Samish, founder and CEO of Amai Proteins and 2019 Challenge winner, says:
“The Startup Innovation Challenge is the world’s leading competition in the field of ingredients, a major component of our food and beverage system, which is often B2B and, as such, receives less of a spotlight compared to consumer-packaged goods applications. Numerous ingredient and food and beverage companies approached us after the win.”
Ricky Cassini, CEO and co-founder of Michroma, which won the most innovative ingredient in 2020, agrees.
“The first advice I have for startups is to apply: don't miss the chance to experience this great Challenge. The feedback from the jury was very personalized and extremely wise. Winning the prize was also extremely helpful not only to be contacted by new investors and potential customers but also to reactivate some conversations we had in the past.”
Ofir Daube, product manager of Sufresca, which won the award for the most innovative processing technology in 2020, says:
“Winning the Fi Global Startup Innovation Challenge 2020 has truly opened up new opportunities for Sufresca. The Fi Global team is highly professional and a pleasure to work with, which made the whole experience particularly worthwhile, especially when facing the challenges of a world pandemic.”
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A world-class jury of food & venture capital experts Finalists and winners are selected by a jury panel that is a veritable who’s who of experts in food innovation and startup ecosystems. Past and current jury members include directors of major food manufacturers and suppliers such as General Mills, Mondelez International, Givaudan and Roquette, as well as leading companies in the world of venture capital for food startups, including PeakBridge, Five Seasons Ventures, and New Crop Capital. The Startup Innovation Challenge’s jury panel is also dynamic, changing each year to bring in fresh perspectives and new areas of expertise. Our jury members are clear about the concrete benefits of participating in the Fi Global Startup Innovation Challenge.
“Personally, I believe the main benefit is to present their innovation and intellectual property (IP) to a unique and large platform of investors and industry partners. Your message will definitely be amplified via the Startup Innovation Challenge, and you will reach potential investors and strategic partners who can accelerate your development.” Alexandre Bastos, head of front-end innovation at Givaudan and jury member
“For startups, exposure is essential, not just to find funding opportunities, but also to find industrial partners who can help them scale their solutions. Through the Startup Innovation Challenge, they will gain exposure to hundreds of multinational companies and industry leaders working within the food industry. I find it a great opportunity for any startup working in the foodtech space!” Mila Valcárcel, managing partner & co-founder at Eatable Adventures and jury member
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“It’s my second or third time at Fi Europe and we see the quality of companies and startups rising each year. This year, I’ve heard startups say that […] they’ve had so many spontaneous interactions and so many networking opportunities at this in-person event. I’m already looking forward to the next edition in 2022.” Thomas van den Boezem, senior associate at PeakBridge and jury member
“I love the Innovation Hub at Fi Europe and meeting startups and the founders in person. It’s a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to meeting my partners and potential future partners when I take a tour on site here.” Albrecht Wolfmeyer, head of ProVeg International Incubator and jury member preview mag ad2.pdf
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What’s the secret to successful scale-up and corporate collaboration? When startups and corporates collaborate, the result can be a mutually beneficial partnership that brings innovation and agility to the established brand while giving the startup the support it needs to grow and scale. But what form should that collaboration take? We put the question to startup innovation consultancy Eatable Adventures and flavour supplier Givaudan. Eatable Adventures is a Madrid-based accelerator and strategic innovation consultant. It helps startups partner with corporates through a variety of projects ranging from scouting to open innovation portals. Eatable Adventures currently works with over 25 food corporations and, in 2021 alone, its team analysed more than 2,000 technology-driven food startups for its corporate clients. Recently, it worked with Spanish dairy company Pascual to create Mylkubator, a global incubator specialised in cellular agriculture and precision fermentation solutions for the dairy sector. Switzerland-headquartered Givaudan is a major global flavour and fragrance supplier which actively works with startups. In 2020, it set itself the objective of building a global community of innovators – including industry partners, academia, and startups – to improve its capabilities in alternative proteins. As part of this project, it partnered with Redefine Meat, an Israeli company that uses 3D printing to make plant-based meat, to ensure the final ‘Alt-Steak’ product had the same taste, flavour, and aroma as real steak.
Create a sandbox for safe scale-up We ask Mila Valcárcel, managing partner and co-founder at Eatable Adventures and Startup Innovation Challenge jury member, what the best form of collaboration between startups and corporates is.
“There is really no single answer to recommend the best tool,” she said. “In general, it depends on the companies' objectives, their corporate strategies, the degree of maturity in the field of open innovation, and of course, the time horizon of the outcome of the collaboration with startups.” Before embarking on a partnership, both players should think carefully about timing, as this can be crucial for success, says Valcárcel.
“The biggest failures occur due to the lack of maturity of the corporation in the open innovation field and the incorrect startup selection. In order to succeed, startups must consider if they can keep up with the timings and work that corporations expect of them. Another major failure occurs at the time of scaling the solution within the organisation,” she says. To scale safely, both partners should work to create a ‘sandbox,’ a safe environment that provides opportunities for variation and experimentation.
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Making innovation ecosystems available to startups According to Alexandre Bastos, head of front-end innovation at Givaudan, who also sits on the Startup Innovation Challenge’s jury panel, Givaudan works with startups in the same way as its internal innovation projects.
“We set up a team focused on the innovation concept and work together to bring it to reality,” says Bastos. “In that context, we make our structure, knowledge, reach and innovation ecosystem network available, and engage them as needed. [We also] work with VC partners to review funding opportunities for disruptive technology concepts that are core to our strategy and innovation ambitions.” The company has its own due diligence process to choose which startups to work with, involving many different internal teams, from business, technical and innovation to IP, regulatory and operations.
“We prioritise [startups] with a specific eye on strong and unique IP as well as sustainable and evolving business models for both parties,” Bastos says.
The secret to success: Think big and be open to collaboration Bastos, who has also acted as a startup mentor at various programmes, such as MassChallenge, Startupbootcamp, Founder Institute Switzerland, and Bits x Bites, has three pieces of advice for both corporates and startups about to embark on a partnership: clarity, transparency, and speed.
“Both Givaudan and the startup need to aim for clarity on the business opportunity for both parties. That's the first goal. Even if it's not completely fleshed out at the beginning, both parties need to see how it would play out at the end and what both are after.” “Second is transparency and this goes for both sides. It is really important to be fully clear with each other. Givaudan needs to be open about its ambitions and likelihood to bring the partnership to fruition, and the startup on their progress and achievements. And third is perseverance and drumbeat. We need to be diligent in delivering results, fast.” For Valcárcel, the secret to successful scale-up is to “think big and be open to collaboration” from the very beginning.
“Focussing on scalability and distribution alliances is key to success,” she says. “Today, the route to market with a competitive price and quality assurance is more important than ever. And this is much easier from the hands of someone who has already developed and implanted knowledge and skills in the marketplace.”
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Where are they now? Meet the Startup Innovation Challenge Alumni Winning the Startup Innovation Challenge can propel startups to the spotlight and help them enormously in their business journey. We caught up with some past winners of the Challenge to learn more.
Tailor-making enzymes for scale-up success Name: Enzymit Country: Israel Product: Develops a cell-free bioproduction platform using novel enzymes Award: Most Innovative Technology or Service Supporting the F&B Industry, 2020 Interviewee: Dr Gideon Lapidoth, co-founder, CEO and CTO
Can you describe your journey since taking part in the Startup Innovation Challenge? “Enzymit has made a ton of progress since our participation in the Startup Innovation Challenge. The biggest news is that we have successfully completed a $5m seed round funding, bringing the total funds raised to $6m. Enzymit has used this financing to triple in size from three employees to 10 current employees, upgraded our lab and doubled its size. Enzymit has also recently launched multiple collaborations.” What benefits did the Startup Innovation Challenge bring you? “The unmitigated access we got, meeting industry representatives has really helped us understand where the pain points are and how Enzymit can help solve them. In addition, the publicity we got from participating in the Startup Innovation Challenge has helped us gain positive attention.” Did you make any good industry connections? “Enzymit is developing enzymatic processes for the food industry. A lot of our future clients were introduced to us through the Challenge. Startups can’t work in a bubble, the more interactions you have with industry, consultants, competitions the better you will be, if only for the constant feedback you will be getting.”
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The sweet progression towards designer proteins Name: Amai Proteins Country: Israel Product: Protein design technology that enables sugar reduction of up to 70% Award: Most Innovative Food or Beverage Ingredient, 2019 Interviewee: Dr Ilan Samish, founder and CEO
How did you benefit from taking part in the Startup Innovation Challenge? “The Startup Innovation Challenge is the world’s leading competition in the field of ingredients […] Numerous ingredient and food and beverage companies approached us after the win. No less important, with the help of the win that validated our product, we secured around $15M in investment and non-dilutive funding.” Did you make any good industry connections? “In a meeting of 27,000 attendees with full attendance by virtually all players in the field, [we] met all the companies that we wanted to meet.” Why is it important for startups to take part in such challenges, competitions, pitches? “It is pivotal for startups to take part in such events for three reasons. First, it is an amazing exposure to the ecosystem – rather than knocking on doors of potential business partners, your small startup’s door is being knocked on.” “Second, the preparation for such an event is not different from preparing for meetings with investors, which bring the fuel required for moving forward. Third, winning such an event that is judged by top-notch industry experts is an important external validation showing investors your credibility and high chances of long-term success.”
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Fermenting colours of the future Name: Chromologics Country: Denmark Product: Natural colouring production via a fungal biotech platform; fermented red colour Award: Best Innovation Award, 2017 Interviewee: CEO and Co-founder, Gerit Tolborg
How did you benefit from taking part in the Startup Innovation Challenge? “The award helped us in many ways. It gave us a lot of exposure and industry connections, it provided us with a lot of confidence to pursue our goal with Chromologics because it validated our innovation, and it helped us raise extra non-dilutive funding. Also, in a soft-money context, it helps to have industrial validation from winning an award, for example. We got a lot of good industry contacts and are still working with some of these companies. Most of them we could not utilize straight away because we were so early in our journey, but we profited from the networking provided by the event.” Do you think it’s important for startups to take part in such challenges, competitions, pitches? “It validates your pitch and your idea in a new context. Often its international, so also the jury has a different background. And every time you get new questions, you can rethink your business model. It also helps you grow your presentation skills. And then it exposes you to the great network of industry specialists, but also other startups from which you can learn a lot.” Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs who are just starting out? “It was difficult under COVID, but as soon as you have the chance again, take part in ‘in-person’ events. The relationship-building cannot be matched with online events. But it’s also important to choose the right events, that really create value for you and your startups. I think you can easily lose time and focus by attending too many random events, without there being a good fit for your business.”
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From seed to series D: Seven tips for successful fundraising from leading investors
rather than later
5. Don’t be afraid
6. Don’t focus just on the money
to ask questions
4. M ake the pitch: 3. Stand out as an ingredient company
Make the first contact
Tackle the fundamentals early on
2. Send samples and organise a tasting
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From seed to series D: Seven tips for successful fundraising from leading investors
Eléonore Lafonta Boezem Five Seasons Ventures
Thomas van den Boezem PeakBridge
Saskia Hoebée Five Seasons Ventures
Saskia Hoebée and Eléonore Lafonta from Five Seasons Ventures and Thomas van den Boezem from PeakBridge are members of the Startup Innovation Challenge’s jury panel. They share their tips on how to stand out from the crowd and get that all-important funding for your startup, at any stage. In addition to sitting on the Startup Innovation Challenge jury panel, both Five Seasons Ventures and PeakBridge are leading European venture capital firms, operating at the forefront of foodtech investing. PeakBridge’s early-stage venture fund FOODSPARKS, for instance, is the only venture fund manager fully integrated with the EU innovation ecosystem, EIT Food, giving it exclusive access to EIT’s extensive network and partners. Five Seasons Ventures’ keen eye for the most disruptive food startups can be seen in its previous investments, which include game-changing startups such as Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Clara Foods, Perfect Day and Just.
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Making the first contact The best way to get a foot in the door is to have someone open the door for you. If you know someone who can make a direct introduction for you to an important investor, this is ideal, says Eléonore Lafonta, associate at Five Seasons Ventures. Failing that, send an email that presents your startup and the solution it is offering – but don’t copy, paste, and send to everyone in the company.
“Don’t send the same email to all the people in the team,” says Lafonta. “We always get that and it's a bit annoying! Also, we then talk to each other between colleagues and, since you know that your colleague has received the same email, nobody feels responsible for replying.”
Send samples and organise a tasting When it comes to food, there is a simple way for VCs to identify what could be the next big thing: trying the product to see if it really does taste good. So, create samples and send them to the right people. Even if you’re still in the development stage, many VCs will be able to see the potential in your prototype.
“When it comes alternative meat, one of the most difficult things probably to do is texture; taste is a bit easier to replicate. So, if you can show that you have the right texture, you can just present it to the VC, add some sauce on it for flavour, and specify that it's not the finished product,” says Lafonta.
If you’re an ingredient supplier, Lafonta recommends showing a VC how your ingredient performs in a test application.
“If it's an ingredient, you can do a use-case with it. So, for example, there are lots of alternative companies that are doing egg whites. In this case, you can just bake a cake to show how the egg alternative is functional.”
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Standing out as an ingredient company To stand out from the crowd, manufacturers of consumer-facing brands can leverage their products’ great taste, eye-catching packaging, and relevant brand messaging. For ingredient startups, however, this isn’t possible, and it can be difficult to avoid appearing as just another commodity. Ingredient startups need to differentiate themselves by showing how their product could be a positive disruption to the supply chain. Thomas van den Boezem from PeakBridge says:
“It pays to make abundantly clear what exact industry challenge you are addressing, why this has not previously been successfully addressed, and what makes you unique in your approach. Don’t leave it to the investor to deduct this information but start with it, and finish with it and make it explicit.”
According to Saskia Hoebée, senior associate at Five Seasons Ventures, it’s also important that ingredient startups keep an eye on B2C market trends so they know how to help CPG manufacturers create the products consumers actually want.
“[…] for ingredient companies it’s always super important that they help their end-
customers - how is my ingredient going to help your products be better, cheaper, healthier, more clean label? It needs to have the right applicability,” she adds.
Making the pitch: Tackle the fundamentals early on Venture capital companies receive a lot of pitches and will want to cut to the chase. When pitching, startups should therefore answer the fundamental questions – ‘why this opportunity, why you, and why now?’ – quickly and clearly.
“We know certain markets and segments through and through,” says van den Boezem. “In those cases, we will dig deep from the first meeting into what is unique and proprietary about the specific way this company is addressing an established segment we know well. We will quickly benchmark them in our head to their key peers and competitors.” “We will want to understand exactly what unique insight or invention – whether IP protected or not – is behind the innovation, and how difficult it is to replicate. We will quickly ask about existing validation and traction in the market. And we will ask about prior experiences, successes, and domain-matter expertise of the team.” “After we’ve addressed these most important topics, we naturally dig into unit economics, capital requirements and milestones – which we encourage startups to include in a clear manner in their pitch.”
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Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Many startups are so focused on impressing the VC and securing funding that they don’t prepare a list of questions to ask. But, just like a job interview, it’s important to ask questions to make sure it’s the right partnership for both parties.
“It's a bit of a mutual process,” says Hoebée. “From the moment we invest in a company, we might be working with the founders for between two to six years. So, it's also super important that the startup finds out if it’s really the right VC for them.” “Ask the VC, how much money do you invest in companies and what is your ownership target? How do you envisage an exit one day? Are we aligned when it comes to ambition? But also, what is your governance style like? Do you like to
be extremely active in every monthly board meeting, or are you extremely hands off?”
Don’t focus just on the money Venture capital firms – especially ones that are specialised in the food and beverage industry – are often very well connected with food industry professionals and could help your startup with a lot more than just funding.
“[Venture capital firms] are very good at financing,” says Hoebée. “We're very good at helping companies arrange follow-on rounds, for example, and how to model and structure those rounds. But it's good to test your VC also a little bit on what would they bring to the table except for their money.” Establishing a good rapport is also important, according to van den Boezem.
“We need to understand the team is equally eager to work with us, is coachable and generally a team we want to spend time with,” he says.
Start sooner rather than later Securing funding does not happen overnight so start well in advance.
“If you need money in December, start your process in summer,” says Hoebée. “It seldom happens that we get a pitch and, three months later, there’s money in the bank. Most VCs like to build a relationship with the founders throughout the year so they can track the company and then see what's happening.”
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Spotlight on startup innovation in Europe with Kevin Camphuis, ShakeUpFactory Kevin Camphuis is co-founder of ShakeUpFactory, a business accelerator and a venture capital firm for tech-driven startups focused on food, beverage, hospitality and travel industries. Based in Station F in Paris, ShakeUpFactory leverages a community of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors to provide tailored support and advise to startups and entrepreneurs. Kevin Camphuis, who was director at techdriven kitchen appliance manufacturer SEB for over 15 years before joining the world of food startups, speaks to us about the state of food innovation in Europe.
How would you describe the state of startup innovation in Europe? “We've just issued the 2021 investment report on Food Tech, which is showing rocketing figures. [...] Europe is still strong, steady, innovative. Even in categories that we wouldn't imagine Europe to be innovative in, like delivery. […] Quick-commerce, or Q-commerce, with 15-minute delivery is something that has been invented in Europe, not in Asia nor in the US. Additionally, when we're talking about ingredients, we see that there is a historical culture around innovation on ingredients that proves to be a strong competitive advantage for Europe. We are inventing what insects will be. We are doing innovation around fermentation. And we see that there are many, many opportunities and a strong know-how that makes Europe still a relevant player.” You have said previously that Europe can be a challenging market because it comprises so many different countries. Can you explain a little bit more? “Every country has a different language, different regulation, different business behaviours and habits, and different retailers. There is one Walmart but [in Europe] there are so many different retailers with which the relationship may be different from one country to another. [For example], if you have succeeded to list at Carrefour with one country, it doesn't mean that you will be listed in every Carrefour in every country where Carrefour is present. So, it requires a lot of effort and energy to generate the same efficiency as if you would be addressing the US market. In Europe, you will need to target each country specifically and re-adapt your value proposition accordingly. And now with Brexit, it adds another level of complexity.”
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Station F is a Paris-based startup hub created by Xavier Niel, a French billionaire business leader and philanthropist. Can you tell us how Station F fosters innovation in Europe? “[Xavier Niel] understood that if we want innovation and entrepreneurship to scale, we need to do it at scale. So, he provided the opportunity to thousands of startups to sit under the same roof, stimulating synergies between them and attracting everything that is needed for them to scale. There is a floor with 50 investment firms! [It] also helps us to be nurtured by this mindset of startups [and] entrepreneurship. I think that I wouldn't be as energised and motivated and pushy if I wasn’t sitting here. In our building, there are different ‘slots’. Each slot is a business topic, or a vertical, which has its own space managed by its partner. If you want to address food, for example, you are directed to us at ShakeUpFactory. If you are addressing gaming and you would go to Ubisoft, if you are addressing cyber security, you would be directed to Terrace, and so on. […] It's a virtuous circle. It's very positive.”
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Spotlight on startup innovation in China with Marc-Antoine Olive, Feast Creative Foods China is a market that requires a lot of effort to succeed in but brings startups great rewards - particularly with the right partner on the ground to help de-code and derisk, says Marc-Antoine Olive, CEO and co-founder of Feast Creative Foods. Feast Creative Foods explores, seeds and scales innovative food and beverage brands on the Chinese market, with a strong focus on e-commerce. We speak to Marc-Antoine, who has held management, marketing and business development roles for 20 years within major food multinationals including Danone, PepsiCo and General Mills, for some advice on succeeding in China.
What makes China an interesting market for food & drink startups? “More than just the population and the market size, it is the openness for innovation of Chinese Millennials and Gen-Z. Second is the competitive nature of the market. It forces you to be very sharp on every single element of the execution strategy, from the consumer position, the go-to-market, as well as the innovation cadence.” “Globally, China is really spearheading the social commerce world: online buying and the cross-over between social interactions online and e-commerce. Operating in China therefore offers the ability to be exposed to these online social commerce technologies that will help startups […] to be even better and stronger in all other geographies.”
How business friendly is China, and do you have any advice for startups on how to overcome the seemingly daunting language and regulatory barriers? “If you look broadly at the ecosystem, China is challenging. But it is a high effort, high reward market. When you have something really superior and relevant for consumers such as a proposition or a technology, China is friendly.” “You just need to have the right partner on the ground that can help you to decode and de-risk. Because of the size and potential of the market, startups tend to think that it is okay to burn cash on the blind way for a couple of years. However, we advise startups or investors to learn step-by-step about the market to avoid spending too much cash and human resources at first.”
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Are there any ‘white space’ areas where innovation is still needed? “Yes, I think there is a need for the alternative protein space. However, it must be done in a different way because the drivers for alternative protein and plantbased food and beverage are slightly different in China. The second is around personalised nutrition. The idea of personalised smart nutrition of functional food is something that is very promising for China. Finally, within health and wellness, I think fitness and body enhancement is something that is growing fast as well, with huge potential in how to bring the food supplement space into tasty, convenient, and nice-to-experience F&B solutions.”
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Interviews with the 2021 winners Allozymes' enzyme engineering is 'a paradigm shift' in biotech Allozymes scooped up first prize in 2021 for the Most Innovative Service or Technology Supporting F&B category. It uses microfluidics technology to build and test millions of enzymes a day – the company says this is significantly faster and more cost-effective than current robotics technologies, which typically screen about 1000 samples a day. Increasing the speed of development and the probability of success means that companies can bring products to market in less time, and through using less resources.
“A recent customer came to us to say that they were using ten tonnes of tomato skin to extract 3 kg of ingredient and want to streamline this process,” says the company’s co-founder, Peyman Salehian. “By looking at the skin, we worked out which enzymes work together in the tomato skin to produce the end ingredient; engineered these enzymes; and placed them in the yeast to ferment the desired ingredient. The client can now generate all the ingredient they need through fermentation.” Click here
to read the full interview with co-founder, Peyman Salehian.
Sophie’s BioNutrients finds success with circular economy microalgae protein Sophie's BioNutrients makes plant-based proteins using microalgae strains that it feeds with food waste - a circular economy approach that is inherently more sustainable than animal-derived proteins, it says. The startup, which is based in both Singapore and the Netherlands, won the Most Innovative Plant-Based or Alternative Ingredient category for its pioneering work in microalgae. The company trialled over 1,200 strains of microalgae before identifying four strains capable of growing in the dark that could also be fed food waste, yielding a light, flavourless protein flour. The company’s founder, Eugene Wang, says its ingredient is inherently sustainable but also, crucially, functional.
“What really differentiates us, I think, is our focus on functionality,” he says. “This is the thing most relevant to manufacturers. We have successfully turned our protein flour into milk, cheddar cheese, cheese spreads and alterative meat. We currently have six provisional patents and are in the process of filing more.” Click here
to read the full interview with Eugene Wang.
24 | L earn more about Fi Europe co-located with Hi Europe
NoPalm Ingredients on creating deforestationfree palm oil NoPalm Ingredients is using microbial fermentation to produce palm oil in laboratories without oil palms, a development that it says will reduce deforestation rates in tropical regions. NoPalm Ingredients won first prize in the Most Innovative F&B Ingredient or Processing Technology category. Co-founder and CEO Lars Langhout says its aim is to help businesses replace conventional palm oil as an ingredient in food, cosmetics and detergents with its locally produced, sustainable alternative made via a process of microbial fermentation using food waste and other low-value biomass as the feedstock.
“We’re bold and unafraid,” says Langhout. “In the future we want our microbial oil to be the standard alternative ingredient to palm oil in food, cosmetics and detergents. We foresee a future where our children don’t get to see the devastations of those palm oil plantations, but instead, lush green tropical rainforest with abundant wildlife.” Click here
to read the full interview with Lars Langhout.
KEY TAKEAWAYS • Around 90% of startups fail, according to Investopedia. Maximising industry connections, networking opportunities, and pitching sessions are essential to success. • While there are many food accelerator programmes, most are focussed on finished consumer products. The Startup Innovation Challenge is unique in offering ingredient startups a platform to pitch their solutions. • All finalists - both winners and runners-up - receive unparalleled exposure and access to a highlevel food industry audience. • Winning startups can choose from exciting prizes, including one-to-one coaching sessions, access to accelerator programmes, and a free, fully equipped stand at Fi Europe.
The Fi Global Startup Innovation Challenge 2022 | 25
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the modern way An overview of EU and US trends | 26 Learn more about Fi Europe co-located Snacking with Hi Europe