Series: JTM Scale

This month we continue with the JTM Scale Series – a monthly post dedicated to sharing some of what we’re seeing in the local food and beverage start-up scene. Last time, we covered the beginning of this season of the MN Cup. While we anxiously await the second round of applications, we take a look at how “thinking small” is put into action to get closer to the consumer.

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Innovation is the primary driver for many of the accelerators, incubators and venture arms that have been created in recent years. Now that these programs have been established, it’s been especially interesting in the past few months to see how they are being brought to life to bring real learnings and change.

Voice of Customer. If you’re familiar with Kickstarter, it’s likely you associate it with start-up brands or perhaps mission-based projects or causes. It is currently being utilized by Mondelez as a tool for testing different methodologies as they refine new product launch plans.[1] In a recent campaign, Kickstarter backers are required to select which product they would prefer to receive in exchange for a pledge, which provides Mondelez with real-time feedback and a less traditional research method. Ultimately, the goal being to launch products on a timeline more reflective of a start-up.

              

Real-Life Food Labs. Food brand themed restaurants are nothing new – and have often been leveraged as a real-life lab for testing new innovative products and partnerships. A unique take on this concept is Edwards Dessert Kitchen, a beautifully designed space in the North Loop of Minneapolis with sophisticated dessert items and a craft cocktail menu curated by Tattersall Distillery. The concept is backed by Schwan’s (Edwards is the name of the frozen pies division), a collaboration between its corporate entity and a very talented pastry chef. With an intentional lack of corporate branding, it’s an opportunity to innovate, create and learn.

WHAT’S NEXT

As incubators and venture arms become more prolific, the creativity in approach and execution are what will truly create a competitive advantage. The impact of these efforts on speed-to-market and innovation will take time to measure – but it’s exciting to see how “thinking small” is taking on its own meaning within organizations.

[1]“With Dirt Kitchen & CaPao, Mondelez Tests New Launch Strategies.” Nosh. Ortenberg, Carol. July 1, 2019.

Sweets + Snacks Expo

We have been on the road a fair amount in 2019 to industry events and trade shows. A new one for us, Sweets and Snacks Expo, took place in Chicago May 21-23 at McCormick Place with an estimated 15,000 people in attendance. Snacking has continued to carve out its own daypart as consumers of all ages (yes, younger generations at a more significant pace) are turning toward a more frequent and convenient eating lifestyle. We saw how this is playing out in the $86 billion market of snack ($51 billion) and confectionary ($35 billion) first-hand.[1]

STAND OUT BOOTHS

A colleague with prior Sweets and Snacks Expo experience dubbed the show “like Trick or Treating for adults”. I have to agree. I also have to admit that in many cases, I’d take the “trick” over the treat if that’s what the booths were intended to deliver. The quality of the booths at this food show stood out more than any I’ve been to when it came to experience and creativity.

       

WHAT’S TRENDING?

It isn’t too surprising that many of the same trends we shared from Natural Products Expo West the past couple of years are making their way into mainstream CPG products. Plant-Based, Adventurous Flavors, and Fats + Fads (think: anti-sugar, and proliferation of Keto-friendly) were all prominent themes throughout the show. It was interesting to see how these themes showed up in both legacy products and newer formats.

         

WHAT’S NEXT

We’ll continue to expect rapid innovation from this category. Not only due to the fact that it’s quickly becoming a dominant daypart but also because it’s inherently a factor required for brands to remain relevant. When new products account for nearly 5% of sales in snacks and over 6% in confectionary as compared to 3% in overall consumer packaged goods, it’s a great place to turn for inspiration in product, format and overall brand experiences.

[1]“Top Trends at Sweets & Snacks 2019.” Watrous, Monica. Food Business News. May 21, 2019.

Series: JTM Scale

Last month we kicked off the JTM Scale Series – a monthly post dedicated to sharing some of what we’re seeing in the local food and beverage start-up scene. This is the start of the 15th season of the Minnesota Cup, the largest and most impactful statewide start-up competition in the country. Connecting emerging entrepreneurs with tools, resources and support to further new ventures, there is a lot of momentum going into this year’s competition.

SO, WHAT’S HAPPENING?

At the end of May, the semi-finalists for each of the nine divisions were announced. A total of 88 teams will continue on the path to compete for their share of $500,000 in prize money – not to mention incredible mentorship, connections and in-kind sponsorships along the way.[1] As active participants in the Food, Agriculture and Beverage division, we were excited to meet the entrepreneurs and see elevator pitches from each of the teams this past Thursday, June 6th.

Food/Ag/Beverage

 

The turnout to the event itself was strong – the auditorium at the Carlson School of Management was packed with an engaged audience. A combination of judges, mentors, other entrepreneurs, and general enthusiasts filled the seats which made for a high-energy platform. With just one minute each, the live pitches were a perfect glimpse into the story behind the business and a quick opportunity to “give a face to the name” of the entrepreneur. The semi-finalists in our division represent a wide range of products and solutions and they maximized their 60 seconds. I have to say, I walked away pretty excited about what I saw within the top 10!

WHAT’S NEXT

Over the next 60 days, the semi-finalists will be in the thick of the season – getting paired with local mentors (one of the benefits most highly spoken of by past participants), working on their next round of submission materials and taking part in education seminars offered through the program. The next milestone is August 22, where the the top 10 semi-finalists will compete in a division-wide “Pitch Slam”. During the event, JTM will announce the recipient for this years’ JTM Scale award, $25,000 of advertising expertise and brand development resources in an effort to help propel one of these great brands forward. We’re excited to see how this season shapes up – so far, it’s looking like it will be pretty fierce!

[1]“2019 Semifinalists.” MN Cup. University of Minnesota. May 30, 2019.

 

AI + Food

Do you know what you’re having for dinner tonight? Do you know where you’d like to go out to lunch for that birthday celebration coming up in February? How about what new and exciting menu item you might venture out on a limb to try at a restaurant next summer? I honestly can’t answer a single one of these questions and of course, that’s not really the point. What matters is that our hyper-personal flavor preferences are changing at a rapid rate and food manufacturers could benefit from understanding not just what they are today, but to have some indicators of what they might be in the future. That is just one of many – slightly unexpected – ways that artificial intelligence (AI) may come into play in the industry.

WHAT’S HAPPENING

We recently heard from Jason Cohen, the founder of Gastrograph AI, about how artificial intelligence can not only uncover, but also predict consumer preferences when it comes to flavor, aroma, and texture.1 An AI platform driven by consumer data, it analyzes individual’s sensitivities and biases to different flavors and informs how those flavors may need to be tweaked based on age, ethnicity and gender of a target audience.

AI is making its way into the food industry in a number of ways. While this industry is not always on the forefront when it comes to technology, the solutions coming forward address areas of tension like labor, supply chain, food safety, and food production.2

WHAT WE THINK

AI has the potential to aid manufacturers and retailers in not only understanding but predicting human behavior when it comes to their flavor preferences. Resources like Gastrograph AI could have real, immediate impact on business decisions like new product development and launch plans.1

The reality is that AI doesn’t take the human out of the equation, though. In fact, in ways, it puts more onus on decision-makers to effectively understand and use it to positively impact business.

WHAT’S NEXT

This is just the start. We know that consumers expect more from the food industry when it comes to transparency and personalization. Couple that with significant gaps when it comes to food management (both production and waste) and it’s clear why testing and adoption of these technologies is increasing. We’ll keep our finger on the pulse as success stories and learnings come forward.

[1] “52 Things We Learned & Experienced at Foodscape 2.” Datassential. Datassential: Issue 57. September 2018.
[2] “6 Examples of Artificial Intelligence in the Food Industry.” Garver, Krista. Food Industry Executive. April 2018.

See What We Saw at SIAL

SIAL 2018 is a 5-day food innovation exhibition that took place last week in Paris, France. The largest international food and beverage innovation show, there were over 7,200 exhibitors from 119 countries around the world. And in a space that spanned the equivalent of more than 100 supermarkets end to end, there were more than 400,000 products shared across the 300,000 stakeholders from the industry.

SIAL 2018 is a 5-day food innovation exhibition that took place last week in Paris, France.

WHY WE WERE THERE

Aside from the sheer scale itself, this show is not to be missed when it comes to understanding food trends at a global scale. We’ve attended a number of North American-based shows like Expo West and Fancy Foods, and we’ve seen that innovation in food and beverage is occurring across nearly every category—rapidly. SIAL provided a unique EU and global viewpoint. It showcased trends that align with what is happening in different markets around the world – a combination of innovation and representation of high-demand consumer products in familiar categories.

SIAL had specific tracks dedicated to sharing these trends in an organized fashion – innovation, culinary, and country/region representation—in an atmosphere that was inspiring and interactive. A “Future Lab” captured what may be the biggest influencers on the industry by the year 2030. And by gathering producers, distributors, brands (both large and small), restaurateurs and ingredient providers, this was truly a show that brought the global food industry together for a productive week.

WHAT’S NEXT

We came back with a lot to share – including what we saw on the show floor, the seminars we attended hosted by leading research firms, trends and innovations, and the many conversations with industry stakeholders around the world. Over the upcoming issues of Thought for Food, we will be sharing our thoughts and experiences with you.

 

Photo credit: SIAL Paris

Start-Ups: Getting Local

With an $18 billion shift since 2011 from big food companies to small food entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry, consumers continue to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to diversifying the products in their shopping cart and in their home.[1] Minneapolis – home to us and many of our clients – has a rich history in the food industry. That makes our backyard a hot spot for emerging trends, continued innovation, new brands, and an ecosystem that continues gaining strength.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Minnesota is home to 74,500 farms and the food and beverage industry employs more than 49,000 people, while contributing $4.9 billion to the state’s economy each year. We have more than 700 food companies, and many of them are Fortune 500 companies supported with incredible talent and experience.[2]

Grow North is “a central hub for resources, a mobilizing connector and ecosystem navigator” and an example of a ground-up network that has been established to drive intentional connection between entrepreneurs and organizations, in an effort to support growth in our food and beverage community. Just around the corner, the first ever Food Ag Ideas Week will take place in St. Paul and Minneapolis, a week-long platform centered around topics like sustainable agriculture, food innovation and tech, and food and society.

Minnesota isn’t the first to bring together a broad industry representation to discuss progressive topics in this space. Other innovative food hubs – Colorado, Austin, and more – also see the importance of coming together (big and small, across the industry) as a reflection of the greater social and economic role that food and beverage play in the community.

WHAT WE THINK

It’s energizing and more important than ever to keep our finger on the pulse in our local community. There is so much happening in our own backyard that it can be challenging to determine what events and activities to prioritize. So our team has committed to spending more time out in the community where the action is happening, with both big and small companies. What we’ve found so far is that there is no shortage of passion on all fronts and a united desire to support success.

WHAT’S NEXT

If the trend continues, there will be more fragmentation and even bigger demand, creating a structure that leverages knowledge-sharing and drives innovation among food and agricultural leaders. Tactically, what’s next for us is to head out to some of the many upcoming roundtables, panels and discussions.

We hope to see you at FAI! There are still spots available: Register Here

 

[1] “Millenials are driving an $18 billion food revolution.” Marinova, Polina. Fortune. October 2015.
[2] “Food & Beverage Products Made in Minnesota.” Boehm, Jessica Walker. Livability. October 2016.

Future Farms of America: Listen Up

The future of farming likely looks very different than what you might think. I recently visited a number of farms in western Minnesota where the Redwood County Farm Bureau hosted a tour that exposed us to modern agriculture production – the practices, challenges and opportunities on the horizon for the industry. This outing came on the heels of many other discussions over the past year at events, including Esca Bona and Expo West, focused on “good food movements” and further confirms the systemic changes underway.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

People will always have to eat. It’s one of the things we love about being in this industry – it’s always changing, but it’s always in demand. However, the population is growing at a rate that requires farmers globally to increase production by 70%1 in coming years to feed the 9.1 billion people expected to be alive in 2050. Simultaneously, income levels are increasing within developing countries which gives consumers a larger voice to demand quality food products that align with their nutrition needs and preferences.

This is forcing a number of farming components to change dramatically and rapidly. The two that stand out from the discussions highlighted on our farm tours? The growers and the technology.

WHAT WE THINK

According to the 2012 agriculture census, growers who are older than 65 outnumber farmers who are younger than 45 for the first time in history.1 The prediction is that farming will continue to consolidate to more mid- and large-scale farms and that the younger farmers will approach the business from a “farm-management” position. Research indicates that Millennial growers are educated (57% have a bachelor degree), tech-focused, and business-savvy.2 They also view farming as a business and a lifestyle – and that as a demographic they are highly purpose-driven.2 This was backed by every farmer who spoke on the tour, who shared that the passion is rooted in much more than the business itself. For younger growers, it is truly a way of life.

Technology showed up in some surprising ways along the tour, but most interesting was the impact it is making on effective farming practices. The dairy farm we visited was managed by people but operated by robots. The implementation of robots allowed this farmer to remain in business – without it, the labor costs would have been too much to compete with larger producers. Apart from robots, many farms rely on imaging from drones to inform soil and field analysis. This data can be critical in maximizing production through planting, spraying, monitoring and harvesting.

WHAT’S NEXT

Spending a day in the life of a farmer sheds light on the incredibly complex and dynamic business we know as agriculture. The next generation has steep challenges ahead that will depend on innovative thinking and a purpose-driven approach.

[1] “Trending 2050: Future of Farming.” McMahon, Karen. Syngenta. Thrive. Spring 2017.
[2] “Millennial are Increasingly Making Key Farming Decisions.” Maulsby, Darcy. Syngenta. Thrive. Winter 2017.

Crickets: They’re What’s for Dinner

“One hundred thousand crickets…in your basement?” With this excerpt from a recent conversation, Eric Palen, a local entrepeneur who is in the business of farming insects as food, raised a lot of questions and even more eyebrows about this growing trend. After the “gross factor” fades, the facts emerge. It turns out we’ve found a new source of protein that’s compelling for… well, a number of surprisingly good reasons.

Nearly 2,000 insect species are already a part of diets across the globe and they’re making their way to North America in a variety of forms. In fact, the global edible insect market is forecasted to grow to $153.9M in North America by 2023 and over $1 billion worldwide.1

GOOD GOD, WHY?

As the world population grows along with a demand on global resources, alternative protein sources are a heightened concern. Insects take less of a toll on these resources while still delivering a compelling nutrition profile.

Insect farming, on average, requires significantly less land, water and feed than other species – especially with the recent adoption of modern agricultural practices like vertical farming in place. To produce 1 kg of beef, 38x more land, 23x more water and 12x more feed are required compared to insects. This results in approximately 1800x the greenhouse gas emissions.

In conversation with Palen, post-growth production of cricket protein is pretty straightforward. To harvest the crickets, he freezes them before washing, boiling and roasting them. From there, they can be consumed in “whole cricket” form or alternatively, ground down into a powder for use in smoothies, chocolate, protein bars or breads.

On the nutrition front, crickets (whether in “whole” or “powder” form) contain comparable levels of protein to beef and higher levels of iron. They are considered a complete protein source – containing all of the essential amino acids, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and are high in both calcium and vitamin B12.2 It is easy to see why this food source would be explored further as we begin to think creatively about how to effectively feed a growing world population.

WHAT WE THINK

Environmental and nutritional considerations alone don’t make me want to top a Cobb salad with roasted crickets. That being said, we can’t overlook the logic in why and how insects might be a part of the North American food pyramid moving forward. Already commonplace in many large markets around the world, it may just take some time – and experience – to find out how they fit.

As cricket powder and flour makes its way into mainstream through more familiar formats, like bars and breads, there will be a more approachable delivery to educate consumers on the social, environmental and nutritional benefits of insects as protein. It will be an important link in the food chain to keep an eye on as it brings up real issues of “food and footprint” – and how we responsibly balance impact with real consumer demand.

WHAT’S NEXT

Not unlike most new product launches, crickets and other insects will likely gain adoption through innovators and early adopters. Eating an insect is, admittedly, a highly Instagrammable moment, and we see that venues and restaurants have an opportunity to lead from two primary places: experience and culture. Outside of the “wow-factor”, many insect dishes are traditional to various regions and offer chefs a new product to experiment with in menu development. When it comes to edible insects, powder may increase in quantity more rapidly, but whole form will drive awareness with visual impact. 

Just some Thought for Food™

[1] “Insects as Food.” Warren, Haley. de Sousa, Agnieska. Rekoaa, Roni. Bloomberg. July 2018.
[2] “Little Herds: Feeding the Future with Insects”. Articles and Iconographic(s) provided by Little Herds.

Trend Alert: Adaptogens

While some take their coffee with extra cream or even a dash of cinnamon, Four Sigmatic is proposing a unique alternative: mushrooms. The blend promises increased productivity, focus and mental creativity due to naturally occurring compounds found in mushroom varietals like Lion’s Mane and Chaga.

Blending coffee with mushrooms promises increased productivity, focus and mental creativity.

So in late April, those of us attending the Hartman Group’s 2018 Food Culture Forecast sat inside a hotel ballroom and sipped the fungi-infused beverage as we listened to presenter Davey McHenry talk about a growing consumer awareness of, and demand for, products that address brain health and functioning.

In fact, mental health is the second most-mentioned health priority by American consumers (#1: weight control). Which makes it a unique and highly attractive area of innovation exploration.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Despite advancements in technology and the ability to multi-task from anywhere, adults today are busier and more stressed out than ever before. Consider the following:

A graphic showing the increase in time spent working, commuting, and caring for children for the average American family.

Source: “The New Convenience.” A.C.T. Food Culture Forecast 2018. The Hartman Group. April 2018.

And that’s led to a sizable increase in the number of consumers who say it’s taking a toll on their mental health:

  • 55% of all households are treating or preventing anxiety and stress
  • 61% of Millennials say they’re treating or preventing anxiety and stress
  • 31% of teens say they feel overwhelmed1

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’re seeing an increase in products like foods, beverages and supplements that utilize adaptogens (substances that help manage stress) and nootropics (substances that increase cognitive functioning).

WHAT WE THINK

New innovations that provide mental health benefits are ripe for growth, but require approachable and educational messaging to entice consumer trial.

Many of the adaptogens and nootropics used today are completely unfamiliar–and even unpronounceable– to the vast majority of consumers. Food marketers will need to utilize branding, naming and messaging to clearly communicate sought-after mental health benefits. Manufacturers will also need to provide basic education on ingredients and their origins in marketing communications to make products approachable to the mass market.

WHAT’S NEXT

Take a cue from the following brands on how to successfully market food and beverage products that promise enhanced cognitive functioning:

Brain Alchemy Latte by Project Juice

A new offering by the San Francisco-based restaurant and juice company, Project Juice, this company also uses a clever yet descriptive name for its new adaptogen coffee drinks like “Matcha Energy” and “Golden Immunity”

  • The website describes it as a “therapeutic and deeply nourishing formula for the brain.” It also utilizes the packaging to educate the consumer on the definition of adaptogens. Key ingredients of their Brain Alchemy latte include:
    • Lion’s mane (mushroom) and guta kola (Chinese herb); both credited with increasing cognitive functioning

Project Juice utilizes the packaging of their beverages to educate the consumer on the definition of adaptogens.

Brain Dust by Moon Juice

A super-food powder blend created by the company Moon Juice. The name ‘Brain Dust” is described on its website as Edible Intelligence™, which efficiently and succinctly communicates its key benefit to the audience.

  • The product description, “an adaptogenic blend of super-herbs and super-mushrooms that help combat the effects of stress” gives the consumer a high-level understanding of the key cognitive benefit. Key ingredients include:
    • Rhodiola root extract, which is credited with increasing resistance to stress, and ashwagandha leaf extract, which is said to treat anxiety and stress

‘Brain Dust” is described as Edible Intelligence™, which efficiently and succinctly communicates its key benefit to the audience.

Tulsi Clarity Herbal Tonic by Goldthread

One of a variety of herbal tonics from Santa Monica-based Goldthread Herbs, I like how the company has named its concoctions by what mental state consumers can achieve upon consumption.

  • The description–Sweet and fragrant, with just a touch of spice, tulsi…has rejuvenating effects upon the body, mind and spirit”–also provides both education and approachability to the consumer. Key ingredients of Tulsi Clarity include:
    • Tulsi, an herb credited with reducing stress and increasing energy, and lavender extract which promotes calmness

Goldthread Herbs has named its concoctions by what mental state consumers can achieve upon consumption.

Just some Thought for Food™

 

1 “The New Convenience.” A.C.T. Food Culture Forecast 2018. The Hartman Group. April 2018.

Big Game. Bigger Opportunity.

This Sunday, as we watch the country descend on our snowy metropolis for Super Bowl LII, nearly 50 million Americans are expected to partake in a sacred tradition: purchasing takeout/delivery fare.

1.35 billion chicken wings will be spiced, sauced and devoured1. Domino’s and Pizza Hut will bake off 33 million slices of pizza2. And party guests will shell out $58 million on grocery deli sandwiches and another $10 million on grocery deli dips to go along with their potato chips3.

Why settle for a snack stadium when you can build your own Viking-inspired snack ship?

Why settle for a snack stadium when you can build your own Viking-inspired snack ship with this video-tutorial, courtesy of  Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine.

But with Sunday’s big event comes an often-missed marketing opportunity: takeout/delivery packaging.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

The consumer demand for more delivery and takeout options is a fairly recent phenomenon, with Uber Eats making its first delivery in 2014. Unfortunately, the packaging world has found itself scrambling to develop travel-friendly containers that not only maintain temperature, but also control humidity.

David Chang, world-famous chef of Momofuku and founder of Ando–a delivery-only restaurant in New York City–spent two years trying to solve this mystery and redefine restaurant delivery. He developed a travel-friendly menu and experimented with different packaging methods for improved transport. Yet Chang and his team consistently struggled to ensure hot, fresh food arrived to its customers. Industry analysts believe it was a contributing factor in Chang’s decision to let Uber Eats acquire Ando last month.

Because the functionality of takeout and delivery packaging has yet to be solved, marketing and branding opportunities have largely taken a back seat.

WHAT WE THINK

As packaging becomes more important in the food delivery/takeout space, it’s likely consumers will pay closer attention to its features and benefits as well.

Just as packaging innovations are made to improve food quality and portability, branding and storytelling opportunities must also be addressed. While consumers largely overlook the containers, boxes and bags today, companies will begin to differentiate their brand with packaging through functionality, storytelling and play. 

WHAT’S NEXT

Here are three examples of how we see companies utilizing delivery/takeout packaging with customers in the near future:

Functionality

Responsive packaging systems react with stimuli in the food or environment to enable real-time food quality and food safety. While this coffee lid turns red to alert a consumer that their beverage is too hot to drink, this concept could be used for quality assurance purposes. Packaging could use the color-changing technology to indicate whether food is still hot and fresh upon delivery.

Responsive packaging systems react to stimuli in the food or environment to enable real-time food quality and food safety.

Storytelling

Innovative companies will reimagine boxes and carrying containers as a canvas for branded storytelling. A 2017 campaign for Pizza Hut Malaysia by Ogilvy Malaysia demonstrates the power of narratives on the pizza box itself to showcase popular reasons why customers order a pizza for delivery. In this case, the all-too-familiar dinner fail.

A 2017 campaign for Pizza Hut Malaysia by Ogilvy Malaysia highlights storytelling on the pizza box.

Interactivity & Play

Other brands will use packaging as a way to interact and engage with customers. In celebration of the McFlurry’s 22nd Birthday, McDonald’s Canada collaborated with the University of Waterloo to create a limited-edition drink-tray boombox that works with any standard smartphone. In addition to being portable, the tray-based sound system is 100% recyclable.

McDonald's Canada collaborated with the University of Waterloo to create a limited-edition drink tray boombox that worked with customers' smartphones.

Just some Thought for Food

1 “Wing-Onomics.” National Chicken Council. 29 January 2018.
2 “The Staggering Amounts of Food Eaten on Super Bowl Sunday.” ABC News Online. 2 February 2017.
3 “From Live TV to the Grocery Aisles, Americans are Prepping for Super Bowl 51.” The Nielsen Company. 30 January 2017.

Questions, comments or want to learn more? Let's connect! weshouldtalk@jtmega.com

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