Webinar Accelerating food growth: the power of open innovation

We recently launched our series of international webinars where we delve into the main challenges facing our food system during the crisis and welcome some of the most disruptive companies in the foodtech space to offer their insights and solutions


This week we were joined by two companies at each end of the value chain; Mondelez International  as a manufacturer and Sainsbury’s as a retailer, in our latest webinar episode  “Accelerating Food Industry Growth: The power of Open Innovation“. We hosted Gil Horsky – Director of Innovation Snacks Futures at Mondelēz International and Milena Lazarevska – Head of Future Brands at Sainsbury’s who offered insights into the keys to collaboration between corporates and startups, as well as the plethora of benefits for both sides. 


At Eatable Adventures we believe that startups are one of the main agents leading the new food revolution, as the food system is changing so is consumer demand, and during the current crisis it seems to be happening at unprecedented rates. To properly embrace these new challenges and offer viable solutions powering open innovation between corporates and startups is an efficient way to whether the shifts appropriately.

For Gil Horsky working with startups is “very important” and has been “growing as the priority in the last few years”.


Here are the key takeaways from the webinar


How companies engage with startups


There are a number of ways that startups can engage with corporates across the food chain, including through technology advancement, investments and licencing agreements.

Sainsbury’s works with startups “across the business” relishing the search of more distinctive brands to add to their product portfolio. Being the second biggest retailer they offer one of the first opportunities for commercialisation and market traction to new companies through their Future Brands initiative which scouts and incubates new brands.


Positive outcomes from startup/corp collaborations


Collaborations are win-win as corps attract more customers while offering incremental sales for young companies.

While corps add value in the form of investment and R&D support, and just generally tapping into corporate knowledge, startups help address a consumer pain points. Just like Sainsbury’s, it can help establish you as a destination for more exclusive brands as they offer out-of-the-box thinking and refreshing new perspectives. Milena Lazarevska stated that the real benefit is how efficiently they react to consumer feedback and then “how quickly they turn around a new idea”

“Exclusive agreements with startups lead to benefits for the corps such as consumer attraction and rapid answer to consumer demands” – stated Milena Lazarevska.


Working with startups in a crisis


The key to working with startups during this time, as Milena Lazarevska stated is to “be a good partner”be flexible where possible and offer more preferential payment terms, or just be there to help with in issue if you can. It’s important you show you are committed to your partnership and that you are a trustworthy brand that doesn’t run away when the going gets tough.

Gil Horsky said when working together ensure you “set up the relationship in the way you have a big chance of success” – be clear on your objectives, KPIs and future plans. Transparency is the biggest gift – be honest with the startup, if their idea isn’t viable, don’t waste their time. 

Covid has accelerated a shift in trends and companies now need to respond and adapt faster than ever. Trends currently making waves amid covid19 include immune boosting, e-commerce, well-being, food safety and traceability and digitisation across the supply chain. Solution? Find the relevant startups that can help you accelerate these trends in your company. 

Gil Horsky said it’s okay to ask for help in a crisis – reach out to the ecosystem and scope the startups already working on potential solutions. Mondelez recently launched a challenge scouting startups working on antimicrobial surfaces for their packaging as consumers look for safer to eat products.

Startup contributions


How do startups valuably contribute to corporations? Sustainability remains an important issue to be addressed across the spectrum as larger companies become increasingly more responsible, but in order to create a more efficient supply chain corporations must rely on the efforts of the smaller brands they work with for more sustainable operations and incremental improvements to help the planet. Sainsbury’s aims to go net zero by 2040 and as Milena  Lazarevska stated they require “the help of startups in this effort.”

As larger brands currently struggle from staff shortages and logistic constraints smaller companies hold access to an alternative supply base which has offered them a new wave of visibility. Consumers are now interacting more with new brands thanks to increased online presence and bigger in-store baskets. As Gil Horsky said the “inspirational” and “cultural” shift that smaller teams can contribute to corporations is often overlooked. Working with startups allow companies to experience a dose of motivation when they work with more agile minded entrepreneurs and see a product being created and marketed to a supermarket shelf in less than a year.



Missed this webinar? Check out the video