Food technology is a growing industry that might not yet be mainstream, but is definitely gaining momentum fast. The role for food technology incubators and food tech communities is to nurture new innovation and guide companies to get to the mass market. However, companies that have found viable solutions to our food dilemmas, need to understand what big companies that have the capability to produce and expose their product, are looking for.
This last week we had the pleasure of hosting Bill Aimutis, Global Director of External Innovation Intellectual Asset Management at Cargill, who gave us many insights on what big food companies are looking for and how to get their attention. Considering the fact that Cargill is one of the biggest privately owned companies in the world, generating $140 billion in revenue, operating in 70 countries, employing 150,000 people, is responsible for the distribution of some of the biggest food commodities including eggs and beef, processing grain and oil seed, and investing in innovations to streamline the food system – their opinion matters. Getting your product in front of these companies is one sure fire way to create more sustainable food systems and reach the mass market.
The External Innovations Branch at Cargill was developed two years ago because they understood the necessity of turning to food technology as a formative solution due to changes in the world and in the market. As Dr. Aimutus explains, as the population expands and the world become more interconnected with are experiencing what is known as VUCA. Coined by the U.S. Army, VUCA stands for vitality, uncertainty, complexity. Due the complex nature of the world, the market began looking for more transparency, sustainability and clarity. Consumers are focused on health and wellness more than ever before and today they are equipped with a lot of information.
For this reason, large production, trade and innovation companies such as Cargill are looking for solutions first and foremost to increase food safety and transparency. Some of the technologies in this field that are particularly attractive are rapid pathogen tracking system and seed to stomach tracking technology.
Cargill is also interested in finding efficient, clean, and productive solutions to providing more nutritious and environmentally sustainable foods. Whether that is plant based protein alternatives, insect protein, natural antioxidants or reducing saturated fat.
Agricultural innovation is also important as they are looking for smarter ways to utilize, finding safer fertilization methods, applying big data, precision agriculture, or creating more efficient supply chains. Processing is also key to their operations and they are looking for solutions for faster dry separation processing, spray dry alternatives, and new ways to refine oil.
When Cargill looks into a new solution, they are looking for a product that has the science all sorted out and there is a way to utilize the processing by products created during your production. If you have a food or ag tech company that is interested in working with Cargill, make sure that you understand their supply chain and strategy and that your solution is appropriate for them. It’s important that your tool has been tested well and that the science is in order. You need to have the freedom to operate and establish intellectual property rights. The product has to pass all the regulations and be lucrative for the current market. If you have developed a technology or product that passes all these qualifications, then you can feel confident to reach out to them and pitch your product.
Food tech is a fast growing industry and there are so many solutions that companies are looking for. The most important thing we learned during Bill Aimutis visit, is that if you have an idea and some science behind it, you should try to pursue it. With the right support and hard work, you can figure out all the tweaks. Even in the early stages, you might not have everything ready to sell your technology to a company such as Cargill, but there are other ways these companies can help. If your product has potential, they can help with research and development. The truth is that there are resources out there.
If you are a company offering one of the solutions that big food companies are looking for, you can now understand how to develop your product to get into the door for the mass market.