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A Taste of Innovation for the Giants of the Food and Beverage Industry

The biggest players of the Food & Beverage Industry are positioned to innovate internally, creating new food concepts through their own well-funded research and development. Increasingly these corporate giants are also expanding their resources outside the company to innovate externally by nurturing smaller, sometimes more cutting-edge food start-ups.

One means for expanding their portfolio of products is inviting creative and successful foodpreneurs to the innovation table, and in some cases, investing in their companies. General Mills, Tyson, Whole Foods, and Kellogg, for example, all offer pitch days and accelerator programs for startups looking for funding and expertise to bring more of their innovative products to market.

Industry leaders who avoid diversifying their product lines to represent growing consumer demand are destined to see their food expired and forgotten on the supermarket shelves. Let’s examine some areas the Food and Beverage Industry can focus their Innovation efforts.

Part I : Understand Your Customer

Buying in to what the Market Demands

Consumers today are purchasing foods not just for taste but are also compelled to buy based off other criteria:

-Where and how ingredients are sourced and mindful packaging that are all designed sustainably.

-The brand is championed by an underrepresented founder, acknowledging the importance of diverse perspectives and supporting equitable economic opportunities.

-A complete, clean ingredient list according to dietary restrictions, social responsibility, or other personal, nutritional preferences.

One simple and popular market trend is low sugar food options. Products like Amyris PureCane, a zero-calorie sweetener made from sugarcane, or True Made Foods’ condiments that use fruits and vegetable extracts in replacement of sugar are two sweet examples of food innovation in today’s market.

Another trend in beverages is exploring alternatives to traditional coffee.  Rising temperatures and erratic rainfall jeopardize coffee crops worldwide, with suitable growing regions expected to decrease by 50% by 2050. One solution comes from Seattle startup Atomo which produces cold brew “coffee” with superfood and upcycled ingredients. Utilizing date seeds, grape skin, and chicory root, they created a canned beverage resembling traditional coffee with approximately 84 mg of caffeine from tea for consumers still wanting a daily pick-me-up.

Prefer, a startup headquartered in Singapore, employs innovative fermentation techniques to craft beanless coffee products from surplus bread, soy milk pulp, and spent brewer’s grain utilizing sidestream ingredients from the food industry. This approach is gaining popularity as a sustainable option due to its efficient use of food waste, contributing to environmental conservation efforts.


Learn how our Innovation Management, Technology Discovery and Pipeline platform can provide new insights and help organize your innovation projects in the Food and Beverage Industry.

Part II : The Key Ingredient is Innovation

Global Agriculture Innovation for a Growing Planet

Due to unpredictable climate events, a change in eating trends, and disturbances in the supply chain for worldwide populations, agriculture demands innovative solutions. AgTech companies are solving for these challenges through new approaches in drone technology and other crop maintenance robotics, gene editing, and disruptive research to increase food production. Among their smart farming focuses are new sources of protein, eliminating pollution in food production, cutting edge technology infrastructure, and overall sustainability for future healthy crop planting.

Here are a few leaders in AgTech Innovation, growing food security for all:

Farmwise Labs, a San Francisco startup utilizing AI and robotics to streamline farm operations through a commercial weeding machine.

Groundwork BioAg is aiding grain farmers in increasing their healthy yields while reducing phosphorus use to minimize local water pollution.

Puris, a crop genetics innovator specializing in non-GMO, organic commercialized North American pea farming, nurturing the pea protein market and designing new food products.

Indeed, healthy diets rely on protein, and it goes beyond traditional animals and plants. Read our previous article about sourcing nutrition from Insect Agriculture in an ever-changing protein market.

What about areas on the planet where farming is exceedingly challenging?  Innovation has a solution for this too. Ideas are generated every day from researchers and scientists in collaboration with industry partners to solve for these problems. For one example, combining hydrogels, solar panels, and spinach seeds, a prototype system of clean energy, water and food production was tested in an arid desert environment. The team was successful in extracting water from the atmosphere, generating electricity, and growing nutritiously dense spinach in rural and dry areas. Expanding this WEC2P technology to other remote areas can drastically alter water and food scarcity problems while enabling growth of much needed localized small scale farming.

AgTech agriculture technology
pea plant

Sourcing the Greatest Ingredients

Hungry for more examples? Fast Company highlighted the 10 most innovative food companies that range from emerging technology in farming to new players in the alternative meat industry to a sampling of the tastiest novel snack foods.

If your company is looking to incorporate emerging food and beverage trends or mix in some innovative ingredients to its product lines, consider the power of Technology Scouting to identify advantageous partnerships in ethically sourced raw materials, sustainably conscious start-ups with new production technologies, and global flavor combinations that have widespread appeal.

Another innovation strategy to utilize is Ezassi’s Patent Landscape Report which provides patent-based evidence on the available technologies, patenting, and innovation trends for food and beverages. Disclosed patent literature serves as a reflection of advancements in science and technology, and by analyzing data from patent documents, we can quantify different aspects of innovative activity and focus on the impact they have on an industry. Click here for an example report on the subject of microencapsulation in the Food & Beverage industry.

Part III : Inventory & Improving Supply Chain

Waste Not, Want Not – Limiting Food Waste Through Innovation

By 2050 it is estimated there will be over 9 billion people to feed globally. Yet, it is a tragic reality that food scarcity continues in certain parts of the world while other wealthy and industrialized nations allow surplus produce to rot in fields or processed foods to expire on grocery store shelves. It has been suggested that roughly 17% of total global food production is wasted, never given the opportunity to nourish a hungry person or animal. Food loss and food waste are terrible but surmountable problems that need solving with innovative technologies.


The Food Supply Chain is divided into the following segments, all of which experience some level of food loss and waste:
1. agricultural production: harvest/slaughter/catch operations
2. food storage & transportation
3. processing & packaging
4. wholesale and retail
5. households and foodservices

Fortunately, there are innumerable opportunities across many F&B industry sectors to improve. One innovative example is Apeel, a company recently partnering with Walmart stores to provide plastic-free produce using plant-derived, tasteless coatings that increase shelf life for fruits and vegetables. Consumers will enjoy healthy and fresh produce and will be less likely to have to throw something away due to spoilage. Environmentally conscious shoppers will support plastic free products as well.

Startup food brand, Wtrmln Wtr, provides a refreshing solution for bumper crops of excess watermelons. This beverage company presses juice from irregularly shaped or textured melons that don’t make it to market and which previously would have been discarded as agricultural food loss only due to appearance. More efforts like these are needed to quickly connect farmers during harvest to direct their excess supply of perishable foods into the supply chain.

Further down the supply chain in food service, restaurants and hotels can better monitor and track their food waste through Winnow, a technology prepared to transform the profitability and sustainability of commercial kitchens by cutting food waste by half.

citrus shipping
produce logistics

Standards for Food Traceability and Transparency

Another challenge in the F&B and agriculture industries is food traceability and transparency- the processes and regulations put in place to mitigate potential food recalls and build consumer trust that edible items are produced healthfully and ethically. The Institute of Food Technology (IFT) operates the Global Food Traceability Center a leading authority on this topic.  This organization is credited with creating collaborations between key players in food production to streamline supply chain management using standardized product tracing methods. Raw materials, ingredients, and the products’ lifecycle from farm to fork are recorded, tracked, and verified.

When it comes to safe and healthy food, delivered efficiently, and priced affordably, there are admirable innovators making progress. IFT also sponsors a yearly challenge selecting inspiring innovative solutions that have the potential to transform the food system. Here’s a list of award winners who aim to solve huge problems in food scarcity, consumer obesity, and crop sustainability.  Implementing similar methodologies in circularity, coordinated efforts for supply chain improvements, and supporting the growers in beneficial ways will lower costs for the food production companies, reduce food waste, and bring more nutritious and delicious foods to buyers everywhere.

Collaborate to Innovate

Ezassi solutions connect the teams who make Innovation possible, creating innovative ideas and beneficial collaborations for the food and beverage industry. Our Innovation Management tools strengthen and enhance your company’s Collaborative Intelligence. You can learn more about how Collaborative Intelligence can boost Business Innovation for successful product launches in this article by the Harvard Business Review.

Let’s Talk 

Learn more about Innovation Management including Technology Scouting for R&D, Ideation, Collaboration and Pipeline Management for innovative Food and Beverage companies.