Food Tech Matters

“I don’t think there’s been a more exciting time to be in the foodtech industry than now”

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Discover what the world’s brightest innovators think will shape the future of food at Food Tech Matters 2020 on 12-14 October. The inspiring programme of debate and discussions features leading foodtech experts examining some of the big questions facing society today,

One of the highlights of the event is a live panel discussion, moderated by Belinda Clarke (Director, Agri-TechE), debating if the industry is innovating fast enough to feed 10 billion people sustainably.

Register now to join Gil Horsky (Director of Innovation SnackFutures, Mondelez International), Merijn Dols (Global Director of Open Innovation and Circular Economy for Food, Danone) and Serpil Tascioglu, (Director Foods Innovation & Transformation, Unilever) for this exciting and influential session.

In an exclusive preview, Gil Horsky tells us about the innovate work his team is doing to revolutionise the foodtech sector, his predictions for future tech trends and the impact COVID-19 has had on the industry.

Tell us more about your background and the focus of SnackFutures?

I have been working at Mondel?z since 2010 in a variety of innovation and commercial roles. A year and a half ago, I had the privilege to join the founding team of the newly formed innovation and venture hub SnackFutures within Mondel?z, with two pillars: invent and venture. SnackFutures is on a mission to create a vibrant ecosystem of partners to invent and to make venture investments in the next generation of snacks and entrepreneurs. Within SnackFutures, we try to change the way of innovation in snacks. The traditional innovation process in the food industry is about reducing risk, be being very diligent, but it is also a relatively slow process. It works well, but the time it takes is a disadvantage. Our team focuses on agility and speed, we try to test in a real-life setting, in an independent store or framer’s market to get consumer feedback quickly and purchase intent. Based on that, we optimise the proposition and move to a small scale’ transactional learning’ usually in 10-15 stores in one city or online. With this method, we can move much faster, and it is a great way of learning from consumers in real-time. So far the brands that we “invented” and launched in this way include — Dirt Kitchen, CaPao, Ruckus and Co. and NoCOé.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on your innovation efforts in SnackFutures?

The good thing is that because so much of what we do in our team, is about learning, and then doing and iterating, and learning and doing again, it helped us to pivot and change plans where needed due to COVID.

These shifts include pivoting the sales strategies of some of our brands, much as start-ups need to do in order to thrive. For example, we launched a transactional learning of our new Dirt Kitchen in several stores in LA, at the end of February. But very quickly, COVID-19 was impacting the retail environment with some of the stores we were selling-in closing-up. That led us to quickly pivot and transition our sales to be direct to consumer via our website. In addition, COVID-19 has further accelerated some existing consumer needs and behaviours that we are exploring, for example, the need for ready to eat care ingredients with functional benefits such as immunity-boosting and energy.

The good news is that the marketplace is willing to be tolerant and patient with you as you learn, as long as you’re listening to consumers and trying to address their needs.

Are you excited by the future of food tech and what are your predictions for the next big innovations?

I don’t think there’s been a more exciting time to be in the foodtech industry than now. Consumers are more engaged with their food than ever before and are interested in healthier, authentic and personalised food experiences.

In the past, most food innovation was around marketing, product form & flavour, and packaging. There was little based on hard science. But the industries increasing focus on sustainability and delivering more nutritious products to consumers. That means that more scientists and researchers are coming from adjacent disciplines such as biotech, chemistry and pharma etc. and applying their know-how to the food sector.

There are several themes that I believe will take a bigger role in the next few years, among them: technologies that enhance building trust around food safety and transparency, “food as medicine” using functional foods & ingredients to prevent or remedy physical conditions. And of course, next-generation proteins by leveraging cell, plant-based, and fermentation to replace meat, milk, fish & eggs, that support a more sustainable planet.

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