Investing in incubators has become big business, and it has drawn the attention from the biggest of the big in Big Food. PepsiCo, Campbell Soup and General Mills are just three examples of companies that offer venture capital and other ways to invest in emerging brands. Another is Mondelez International, which recently announced its support of The Hatchery Chicago, a non-profit food business incubator. Mondelez joins Conagra Brands and Kraft Heinz as supporters of The Hatchery.

“As the world's snacking leader, it is increasingly important for us to collaborate with the best and brightest talent in advancing the future of snacking,” said Timothy Cofer, executive vice-president and chief growth officer of Mondelez International.

Mondelez also has initiated its SnackFutures innovation hub that focuses on the creation of new snack brands and businesses and the funding of start-up entrepreneurs.

Targeting the snack industry is a natural choice, said Elizabeth Avery, president and chief executive officer of SNAC International. During the past decade, she said, the snack industry has garnered a greater number of start-ups because this market has a lower barrier to entry than other food groups.

“We have new companies coming in, scaling up and being acquired, which powers the bigger companies and makes space for new companies,” Ms. Avery observed.

For those incubators that are testing the waters, it’s no longer an either/or choice. It looks like these big fish in the little pond can possibly find a larger ocean of new opportunities ahead of them.