In addition to acquiring new companies, many big brands are creating programs and departments that partner with start-ups to teach and grow them. These legacy brands are becoming business incubators to keep their innovation fresh and timely through smaller companies.
SnackFutures, an independently operated unit of Mondelez International, Inc., Deerfield, Ill., launched in 2018 and seeks “invention, reinvention and venture.” The investment hub not only supports start-ups, but on the flipside, Mondelez International has innovation opportunities it wasn’t able to tap into before. It has invested in companies such as Hu Products, New York, which includes paleo-friendly and clean label snacks, and Uplift Food, New York, which focuses on functional ingredients. Mondelez also supports The Hatchery Chicago, a nonprofit food and beverage incubator that provides access to commercial-grade production space, resources and financing.
301 INC, an emerging food brand elevator through General Mills, Minneapolis, can help with marketing, product development, supply chain and channel development. It currently partners with snack companies such as Purely Elizabeth, Boulder, Colo.; No Cow, Denver; Farmhouse Culture, Chicago, and more.
In 2018, Springboard, a platform developed by Chicago-based Kraft Heinz Co. to scale up disruptive brands, took on its first Incubator Program class. A second class was announced in 2019 and includes five companies: Blake’s Seed Based, Chicago, which offers protein bars made of seeds; Brami, New York, creator of lupini beans; Ka-Pop! Ancient Ingrained Snack Co., Erie, Colo., which develops popped chips; Origin Almond, Philadelphia, maker of cold-pressed almond juice, and Tiny Giants Food, Los Angeles, a plant-based alternative for yogurt.
PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, NY, developed a Nutrition Greenhouse accelerator program in North America after successfully implementing the program in Europe. A six-month course provides one-on-one mentoring and funding for 10 food and beverage start-ups in the United States or Canada.