Launching a food product in today’s marketplace isn’t what it used to be.

You must admit: life was simpler when R&D drove the decision-making process. They’d make the call on the next big “thing.” You’d pitch that new product press release out, and (sometimes) easily get buckets of top-tier coverage. Everyone went home happy.

But then those darn consumers decided they deserved a role in brand decision making and that easy-peasy process became oh-so-different.

Take product R&D for instance. Big food has started embracing the traditional start-up model to create innovation think tanks, or even venture capital funds, to launch new products.

The old food launch marketing playbook doesn’t apply when you’re building new technologies.Click To Tweet

At a recent event hosted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, “Evolution in the Food Space: Innovate or Perish,” we heard about some bold approaches taking place in the industry to kickstart product launches. Here are a few takeaways:

Venture Capital is Playing a Larger Role than Ever.

While food brands are focused 1-3 years in the future, VC firms are investing in new food technologies & products that won’t hit the market for another five or more years. For instance, one VC company is already thinking ahead on bringing to market cultured meat alternatives to meet consumers’ environmental concerns. They’re also exploring technologies that change the immediate environment surrounding perishable foods, like apples, to lengthen their shelf life.

Big Food Is Repositioning Itself as Big Startup. 

Small-brand acquisitions aren’t new to the industry, but Big Food companies like Kraft Heinz are changing the game with the creation of internal venture capital funds. In Kraft’s case, Evolv Ventures will allow them to accelerate their R&D, explore innovative food tech and enable them to prototype faster. They’re completely rethinking staffing, product testing and team mindsets using the lean startup methodology. In fact, they’re actually embracing failure. Did you ever think “fail often” would become a company’s mantra?

Sustainable Agriculture Exists in Innovation Planning.

Beyond a select few companies, I imagine “sustainable agriculture” never made its way into marketing planning meetings at food brands 10 years ago. Across the board, regenerative agriculture is now an element of the marketing and operations conversations – from big and small food brands to VC firms. Brands are now concerning themselves with how they’ll be able to leave the land in a better place than when they arrived. One speaker said of this new approach, “the old marketing playbook doesn’t apply when you’re building new technologies.”

Below is a list of the companies who spoke at the event:

  • Kraft Heinz
  • Conagra Brands
  • Simple Mills
  • Sustainable BioProducts
  • S2G Ventures
  • Bluestein & Associates
  • Cultivian Sandbox Ventures

Looking for counsel on how you can rethink your product launch strategy? Contact us! 

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