Friday, November 17, 2023

The Future of Food Innovation Does NOT Need to be Scary…and it Needs Dairy and Plant Based


(I knew that typo on the email would get you to link!) 

The Future of Food Innovation Does NOT Need to be Scary. And, It Needs Dairy and Plant Based

Last night the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) hosted its fifth year of the Real California Milk Excelerator, which is designed to advance innovation in dairy. I’ve been honored to be a Shark Tank-style judge for all five installments of the competition. Before recognizing the companies that will proceed in the program, let’s discuss the importance of food innovation.

TNW newsletter ran this ARTICLE a few weeks ago explaining that the future of food includes “invisible innovation.” The article quotes Beatriz Jacoste Lozano, director of the KM ZERO Food Innovation Hub in Valencia, Spain.

Invisible innovation is all about providing consumers with tried and true products, but taking them up a level or two, with many efforts taking place behind the scenes. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for new concepts, but it does mean that innovators do not need to over think their efforts.  

“If we want a product to work in the market, it needs to be aligned with cultural identity,” said Jacoste Lozano. “Food is something very close to our identity, our memories, our desires. So it has to also be delicious, right, and that is our first requirement for a novel food.” 

KM ZERO is looking to facilitate and accelerate that change through open innovation and investment. So is the CMAB. 

KM ZERO analyses the needs of the food industry. This includes sustainability challenges, such as packaging, water usage, carbon emissions, soil quality, reducing food waste and more. So does CMAB. 

CMAB—and other food innovation accelerators—are part of the future of food. And remember, it does not need to be scary. 

New products must be aligned with personal and cultural identities. The products must serve a purpose, have it be extra nutrition, flavor adventure or packaging. And that purpose must be communicated to the shopper in order to stand out in the very busy marketplace. 

Cincinnati-based data powerhouse 84.51 Degrees offered insights around consumers’ interest in new products in its October Consumer Digest. Highlights include: 
  • Shoppers are seeking innovation but are still price conscious. 
  • Shelf-stable grocery, fresh bakery and frozen food lead as categories where shoppers would most like to see new products available. 
  • Shoppers are seeking innovation to provide functional benefits, clean ingredients and higher protein options. 
  • The most frequent ways shoppers report discovering new items to try are in-store display (47%), product advertisements (45%) and product coupons (42%). 
  • Products that rank high in expandable consumption, such as candy, snacks and drinks, are ripe for consumer experimentation, with purchase decisions often made at the time of purchase, and even in addition to planned purchase. 
These attributes were found in the CMAB open innovation competition. The program sought early-stage applicants with high-growth potential that created a 50% cow’s milk-based product or working prototype.

Amazing Ice Cream, Arbo’s Cheese Dip, Petit Pot and WonderCow claimed victory last night at the 5th Annual Real California Milk Excelerator Final Pitch Event. The four cohort winners each received $30,000 in resources and funding to scale their products in California and will compete for an additional $100,000 in support based on continued performance over a period of one year.

  • Arbo’s Queso Dip (Memphis, Tenn.) – Gluten-free, keto-friendly queso-style cheese dips for retail.
  • Amazing Ice Cream (Stockton, Calif.) – Cookie Wild cookie wafer ice cream bar novelties enrobed in chocolate to stay crunchy.
  • Petit Pot (Emeryville, Calif.) – French-style dairy desserts in paper-based cups made with more than 80% stainable/renewable fiber.    
  • WonderCow Nutrition (Valencia, Calif.) – All-natural bovine colostrum powder supplement that promotes immunity, muscle recovery and gut health. 

Photo (left to right): Donald Anit, founder, Amazing Ice Cream; Andrew Arbos, founder and CEO, Arbo’s Cheese Dip; Maxime Pouvreau, founder, Petit Pot; and Rob and Erica Diepersloot, co-founders, WonderCow

During the live event, two of the 2022 cohort members--dosa by DOSA and Wheyward Spirit--unlocked $100,000 and $25,000, respectively, in additional funding after demonstrating their ability to grow their businesses in California over the past 12 months. 

John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB, said, “It was a close competition this year, with each cohort member bringing something interesting to the table. In the end, however, the four winners each had a solid product and a complete selling story that will connect with consumers. California dairy families understand the value of innovation and invest in research and opportunities like the Excelerator competition to ensure a continued role for real milk and dairy in consumer’s evolving lives.”

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