Big Incubators


In February I posted about FoodBytes! an event sponsored by a global financial services company that connects investors with innovators.  Major CPG food & beverage companies (e.g., Campbell, Nestlé, etc.) are also partaking in private market investments to fund/acquire unique start-up brands.

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Last week Kraft Heinz announced it was launching “Springboard”, an incubator program focused on start-up brands that produce healthy, organic or specialty products.  Last year Kellogg and Conagra joined forces to fund a project called “The Hatchery”, Nestlé invested in an accelerator program targeting food/agriculture start-ups and Tyson increased its original (5%) investment in California-based vegan company Beyond Meat.  The big company incubator strategy undertakes minimal risk and pairs the smaller start-up brands with the stealth expertise (e.g., R&D, marketing, distribution, etc.) of established CPG companies.  As a result, the innovative brands benefit from a fast-track new product entry.

Welcome to the age of Big Incubators.


Save the Planet


AI (Artificial Intelligence) is rapidly becoming mainstream.  The World Economic Forum at their recent annual meeting in Davos detailed innovative technological opportunities that would solve our planet’s threating environmental challenges.  What will save the planet, AI or community?

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Answer: Both, interconnected.

Detailed below is a short list of identifiable areas AI will impact according to the World Economic Forum’s report Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for the Earth:

  • Management of future utilities, water and energy (e.g., renewables).
  • Monitoring systems that will identify the illegal depletion of valuable resources (e.g., oceans, forests).
  • Improved modeling/forecasting of weather and climate change that will eventually lead to better decision-making pre/post natural disasters.

It is clear, AI is poised to support a more energy efficient world, improve ecological conservation and confront climate change in real time.  However, after all the data is crunched, I firmly believe the human factor, as in community will also be essential to save our planet.  Back in 2017 I stated in two posts, Community and A Community Tale “To build a better world, start in your community.” 

Start participating in saving our vulnerable planet!

Knowledgeable Associates


Earlier in the month I posted Breakfast at Tiffany’s, specifically the company’s objective to create a modern luxury experience.  Leveraging technology to deliver the ultimate customer experience has been a driving force behind the overall growth of retail sales.  Neiman Marcus also recognizes the power of knowledgeable in-store associates.

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The National Retail Federation forecasts retail sales will increase this year 3.8% to 4.4% over last year.  Included in their overall projection for robust growth are on-line and other non-store sales increasing between 10% to 12%.  Current technology enables retailers to aggregate data/information about the consumption habits of their consumers.  However, it is imperative for brick & mortar retailers to train in-store staffs on how to utilize all the available technology.  Accordingly, sales associates will employ more interaction with their customers to guide them through the buying journey.

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus, in its pursuit of being a digital first leader, continues to invest in proprietary clientele management tools on their company issued smartphones (iPhone app).  In addition to tapping into customer data (preferences and behavior), sales associates have the ability to provide direct engagement – an unequaled personalized customer experience.

Retailers, are you investing in associates in the know?

Speed Pitching


First there was speed dating, then speed networking and now speed pitching complete with an open mic.

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The Rabobank Group, a leading global financial services company specializing in food and agribusiness, sponsors FoodBytes!, an event that connects investors with innovators (a.k.a. startups).  I just received an email that their next event is March 1st in San Francisco.  The event kicks off with an opening reception (2 to 3 PM) and ends with a closing reception (5:30 to 7:30 PM).  In between, entrepreneur wannabees have signed up for 3.5 or 1.5-minute pitches.  This year FoodBytes! is experimenting with 60-second open mic pitches.  At the conclusion of the pitches, a panel of judges will select several companies for rewards.

I reviewed the list of startups.  Interesting/innovative companies – robotic work carts that assist produce pickers in the field, plant-based products, technology that will improve supply chain, snacks, etc.  All the companies will give it their best shot speed pitching to get on investors’ radar screens.

I apologize for sounding judgmental, but I do not buy into the concept of speed pitching.  Being a 32-year veteran of the food business (two major CPG companies and my own marketing company), I cannot accept how people can communicate the viability of their start-up in 3.5 minutes or less.  Did each startup properly conduct their due diligence (a business assessment complete with a S.W.O.T. analysis), identify their point of market differentiation, write an all-inclusive business plan that includes time tables, a detailed marketing budget, etc.  Food and agribusiness is already a crowded, competitive playing field.  Any start-up looking to enter, should slow down and do their homework.

Do you have 60 seconds?  I have a great new snack concept to pitch.



“The less of routine, the more life.”  Amos Bronson Alcott (Philosopher/Teacher)

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Does this routine sound familiar?  You get up, race to get ready for work, commute, eat a breakfast snack with your Starbucks coffee before your first meeting because you skipped breakfast, meetings, meetings, meetings, etc.  Lunch at your desk.  Reverse commute, stop at the gym because you subscribe to a healthy lifestyle, stop at the grocery store to pick up some staples (e.g., toilet paper, Diet Coke, a box of Kind bars, etc.), plus something to nuke for dinner.  Once you arrive at home you check your social platforms, watch a special on Netflix while you eat your reheated dinner, engage with your significant other who just got home from their daily routine, before one more round of exercise (stretching) and then crash.

Spontaneity: The condition of being spontaneous; perform or experience a sudden impulse or inclination without premeditation or external stimulus.

Spontaneity!  Try it!  Live a little!


Breakfast at Tiffany’s


Breakfast at Tiffany’s is no longer a movie fairytale, it has become a reality.

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Tiffany & Co. the luxury jeweler, in an attempt to stimulate sales by targeting/attracting Millennials, opened the Blue Box Café at its flagship store in New York City.  The fourth floor was wholly renovated at the end of 2017, incorporating the company’s classic robin-egg blue motif in the café, plus a luxury home and accessories section, as well as a baby boutique.  Breakfast starts at $29.  Their menu also includes a prix fixe lunch with seasonal items and “Tiffany Tea” complete with Bellocq teas paired with a selection of finger sandwiches and bakery items.

The company’s objective was to create a modern luxury experience.  “The space is experimental and experiential, a window into the new Tiffany,” according to Reed Krakoff, their CAO (Chief Artistic Officer).  “Millennials are seeking experiences rather than “stuff.”  I comprehend Mr. Krakoff’s experiment given Millennials are constantly seeking “instagrammable” experiences due to their FOMO (fear of missing out) anxiety.  However, I question whether Tiffany’s fourth floor experiment will succeed:

  • How many Millennials even know who Audrey Hepburn was or have seen the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” unless they hung out one night with their grandparents and watched the movie on TCM.
  • Sales data indicates this demographic group likes to shop online, but they also tend to make most of their purchases offline according to the Summer 2017 report released by CouponFollow. The report indicated females are buying more fashion items, males more hard goods.  CouponFollow also revealed that a majority of Millennials follow brands on at least one social media platform in order to get discounts.  Two-thirds will switch brands if offered a discount of 30% or more.  Therefore, once Millennials finish their Tiffany meals, will they actually wonder into the store and buy anything?  Or will Tiffany’s have to begin discounting their luxury items (e.g., engagement rings)?

Do you think Millennials will be lured to experience Tiffany’s fairytale $29 breakfast?

TMI Chicken


Food & beverage companies are being pressured to make public accountable disclosures about where their products were harvested, manufactured and distributed for sale.  Eventually Blockchain technology will be utilized to assist in this process.  Introducing Block Bird’s, the world’s first transparent chicken.

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New food and beverage products were on display earlier this week at the 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.  One innovative concept was a hi-tech grocery store called The Future Market, a pop-up store that featured six futuristic products.  One product that piqued my interest, was Block Bird chicken sourced from several Midwestern small farms.  Verified by Blockchain technology, the entire journey of their chickens to the grocery store is documented and visible on the front label of their packages.  Block Bird’s label includes hatchery (egg) information, starting weight, ending weight, the type of feeds consumed, as well as the health and handling of each bird.

Being in the food business, I respect how today’s consumers are more knowledgeable about the food and beverages they consume, thus demanding label transparency.  However, at what point is the complete and total transparency overload provided by food & beverage companies TMI for consumers to fully grasp?

TMI Thought: “Everyone gets so much information all day long they lose their common sense.” – Gertrude Stein (American Writer)