An increasing number of food incubators and accelerators have been popping up across the country, all with one common goal: to innovate on every level of the food supply chain. The masterminds behind the scenes are small startup companies and individual entrepreneurs, and with some help from bigger companies — like Cargill, Chobani, and Nestlé — they’re getting the chance to make their mark on the food industry.
Changing consumer demands make way for startups
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart, especially in saturated markets where “big names” historically rule supreme. However, it has become obvious over the past few years that consumers are looking for something different from the food industry. Increased demand for fresh, local foods and food supply chain transparency has paved the way for innovators in the field who are ready to deliver.
The demand for farm-to-fork food isn’t dwindling anytime soon in the modern food marketplace, but startups can’t always realize their missions on their own. Well-established, forward-thinking food companies are seizing the opportunity to support the sustainable food movement both at a company level and through the support of startups.
Incubators and accelerators
Large food companies have more than a handful of things that most startups don’t: experience-driven business proficiency, capital, and extensive networks — all of which are necessary for launching and stabilizing a successful business. Money, training, and connections are generally what business incubators and accelerators provide startups that have the chops to succeed.
With so many resources on the line, big companies do have to be picky when selecting startups and entrepreneurs to participate in their acceleration programs. For example, Ecolab, Cargill, and Techstar’s Farm to Fork Accelerator program expects to have hundreds of applicants over the next three years, but only 30 will be chosen to participate.
The time is now!
When it comes to innovation of the food supply chain, time is of the essence. So while restaurant incubators have been around for a long time, acceleration programs for agriculture and food technology entrepreneurs will start to become more common.
According to Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator Managing Director Brett Brohl, the timing of the program couldn’t be better. “Food trends affect everyone,” he says. “Entrepreneurs, consumers, investors, and companies all over the world are increasingly aware of the growing challenges in the food value chain.”