As part of the Spryker-Webinar Weeks on Food meets Tech, Hungry Ventures Founding Partner Bastian Halecker gave a webinar on innovation strategies for the food sector.

The following article is a summary of the webinar. All insights and the discussion following the presentation can be found in the video.

At a glance

  • Due to the crisis, a change has taken place in recent weeks that would probably have taken years under other circumstances. Offline is increasingly becoming online, and the digital transformation, which has often been planned but not carried out, is taking place overnight.
  • COVID-19 offers many opportunities that need to be seized. Startups that make this their own are very popular. Even established companies are increasingly trying out new business models (e.g. in the form of a D2C channel as in the example of AB Inbev or Lindt).
  • The next crisis will come. According to Bastian, the issue of sustainability will be put to the test here. Companies should act now to make their companies fit for the future and avoid problems like those currently caused by Corona at an early stage. Because here too, the motto is: Flatten the curve.

Food is the new internet - Don't miss it!

Innovation

According to Bastian, this quote from Elon Musk’s brother Kimbal Musk more than aptly represents the last years. The number of start-ups proves that food, especially in combination with technology, is an attractive market not only in Corona times.

But how high is their innovative content? Bastian uses three gradations to explain what types of innovations exist:

  • Vitamin: Vitamin innovations are “nice to have”. They do not satisfy existential needs, but they make many a situation more pleasant. One example of a vitamin is the Knoppers bar (which has recently also become a competitor).
  • Painkiller: Painkillers provide the answer to the question of what problem innovations solve. Especially in the food industry often not an easy question, because which food innovations are really vital and solve a problem of the target group? However, Beyond Meat comes suspiciously close to the concept. The company made products made from alternative proteins available to the general public, thus creating a way of restricting meat consumption.
  • Game Changer: The third stage is the so-called Game Changer. Game changers are often difficult to find, as it is a complex bias to bring really new products to market these days. Especially in the food market, where a reinvention of certain food areas would be required. An example of this would be artificial meat products like those from Mosa Meat.

Based on these three types of innovation, Bastian guides us through the innovation practices of established companies and how these can (and should in the future) be complemented by digital practices. The focus should always be on customer-centric work, which only works if the customer is involved as early as possible. In addition, the acquisition of own skills is also important for the companies: Besides classical market research, customer analytics and insights play an important role.

Current status quo and potentials from COVID-19

With COVID-19 socio-economic ‘plate shifts’ took place: Social structures and consumer behavior changed globally, and within days.

The trade profits and struggles. By shopping online more often, online shops are winning, but on the other hand they are struggling with an unprecedented number of orders. At the same time, offline retailing is under pressure: fewer customers visit the stores, but buy larger shopping baskets. Not only do overstretched retail structures suffer from this, but above all the customer experience. A situation from which many opportunities arise.

In many places, business models are therefore currently being modified, new businesses established or existing structures rethought (startups such as foodly provide support in this respect). This paves the way for many new trends that have been growing in the background until now. Pick up stations as in the USA, contactless trade (deliveries and payments) or live commerce as in China are just a few examples. Likewise, farm shop delivery services are currently experiencing a boom. But it is not only here that the question of efficiency and scalability will remain local and digital in the long term.

Examples from the field

The most prominent example is probably toilet paper. From one day to the next, the product went from being a low interest to a high interest product that people in supermarkets and drugstores fight over. One of our projects at Hungry Ventures dealt with a similar topic: The Quick Help online shop under the domain toilettenpapier.de was designed to supply people who have difficulties in obtaining hygiene products quickly and easily.

COVID-19 also shed new light on direct-to-consumer approaches: For example, Heinz UK launched the HeinztoHome online shop, where consumers can buy canned bundles, among other things.

Generally speaking, alternative POS are becoming increasingly important – and exciting. From smart fridges to product boxes in taxis, there are no limits to the possibilities for companies. Emmas Enkel shop is no exception. The Stuttgart shop was launched by real GmbH as a new branch of the traditional sales department and follows the Aunt Emma shop concept.

Bastian Halecker

Would you like to discuss your innovation strategy?

Bastian Halecker
Founding Partner
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