Corporate (Ad)Ventures in Food

If you’re a food entrepreneur, no doubt you’ve been closely following the multitude of announcements from CPG companies and large corporate food brands launching their own venture arms or innovation hubs. It’s a dizzying array of offerings from brands that have been figuring out their strategies for years, with an understanding that they had to innovate one way or another.

So here we are. But, if you’ve struggled to make sense of who’s doing what, we’ve compiled a helpful cheat-sheet of corporate innovation. The list below provides a quick overview of individual companies’ efforts, with links to find out more. For food entrepreneurs looking for strategic partners, this is a great pool to draw from.

Name: 7Ventures    
Type: Investment Fund
Location: Irving, TX
Established: 2013
Focus: Early-stage retail and "convenience" startups that can use 7-11's vast store footprint to test and adopt new consumer facing ideas
Portfolio includes: Belly (digital loyalty platform), Briggo (robotic coffee kiosks)
People: Marisa Allen, Senior Portfolio Manager
More Information:

Name: Acre Venture Partners    
Type: Investment Fund
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Established: 2016
Details: $125MM fund, managed by partners outside of parent company
Focus: Early- and mid-stage CPG companies
Portfolio includes: Juicero (home cold-pressed juice machine), Back to the Roots (grow-at-home mushroom kits), Sample6 (consumer food safety testing)
More Information:

Name: Chobani Food Incubator
Type: Incubator
Location: NYC
Established: 2015
Details: 6-10 startups selected for each cohort
$25K non-equity grant, plus access to Chobani executives and mentorship
Culminates with presentation to 77K retail buyers at Expo West
Focus: Early-stage CPG with potential to disrupt larger traditional incumbents
Incubator class includes: Banza (chickpea pasta), CHOPS Snacks, Cissé Cocoa Company
More Information:

Name: H-FARM
Type: Incubator Partnership
Location: Italy
Established: 2016
Details: Majority of program is housed in H-FARM's Italian innovation office. 
Each startup gets $22K at start of program
Cisco provides networking support and business development, as well as access to US market
Focus: Food delivery and e-commerce; logistics, supply chain and sustainability; food safety and traceability; nutrition and organic food; and precision agriculture solutions
More Information:

Name: Coca-Cola Founders
Type: Co-Creation Lab
Location: Atlanta, GA
Established: 2014
Details: Co-Creation Lab is aimed at tapping repeat entrepreneurs and bringing them in-house to solve Coca-Cola's largest business challenges. Different from an incubator in that the ideas / startups are developed internally with seasoned entrepreneurs leading the development of new ideas
Focus: Repeat entrepreneurs from across the CPG, tech and retail landscape
Portfolio includes: Home Eat Home (meal delivery), Vending Analytics (smart vending machines)
People: David Butler
More Information:

General Mills
Name: 301 Inc.
Type: Investment Fund
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Established: 2012
Details: $100MM fund managed internally by GM team
Focus: Early- and mid-stage CPG companies, both focused on "traditional" and "alternative" food products
Portfolio includes: Kite Hill (alternative dairy products manufacturer), Beyond Meat (alternative proteins manufacturer), Tío (on-the-go healthy cold soups) 
People: John Haugen, Managing Director
More Information:

Name: Eighteen94 Capital
Type: Investment Fund
Location: Battlecreek, MI
Established: 2016
Details: $100MM fund managed
Focus: Early-stage CPG, product, ingredient and packaging startups
People: Simon Burton, Managing Director
More Information:

Name: Mobile Futures
Type: Digital Incubator
Location:  New Jersey
Established: 2012
Details: Within the digital incubator, startups get access to Modelez executives and marketing teams to help launch new products. Each startup is given a seed stage investment, as well as the potential to work closely with Mondelez CPG brands after launch
Focus: Early-stage companies in the mobile, retail and shopper marketing categories
Portfolio includes: Kiip (mobile-based rewards platform), Endorse (couponing and discounts), InMarket (mobile shopping/engagement software)
More Information:

Name: Henri@Nestle
Type: Innovation Lab
Location:  San Francisco
Established: 2013
Details: Both physical innovation labs as well as a digital platform for foodtech companies to pitch partnerships with Nestle. In return, startups get exposure and potential marketing partnerships with Nestle.
Focus: Early- and mid-stage foodtech focused on consumer markets
People: Stephanie Naegeli, Digital Marketing Innovation Manager
More Information:

Name: Food+Future CoLab
Type: Innovation Lab (in partnership with IDEO and MIT Media Labs)
Location:  Boston
Established: 2015
Details: The Co-Lab focuses on 6-month engagements, looking to solve particular food, retail or supply chain problems. Most recent in 2015 tackled issues of packaging innovation for food products
Focus: Both first-time and repeat entrepreneurs and innovators to tackle specific retail, marketing, tech and packaging challenges, with Target providing real-time data via its retail footprint
Projects include: Poly (plant-growing systems for classrooms), Illuminate (food transparency), Good+Gather (ingredient-centric food brand) 
People: Greg Shewmaker, EIR at Target
More Information:

Name: Unilever Ventures + Unilever Foundry
Type: Investment Fund + Incubator
Location:  London
Established: 2002
Details: Unilever Ventures is an investment fund with $200MM under management in two separate funds.
Unilever Foundry is the entry point for startups looking to work more closely with Unilever. Foundry offers a platform for startups to pitch ideas, get access to mentors and get feedback on potential Unilever partnerships.
Focus: Early-stage companies in the food/foodtech, personal care, digital marketing and ecommerce spaces that could become strategically relevant to Unilever as they grow.
Portfolio includes: Gousto (UK-based meal-kits), Yummly (intelligent recipe search engine), Froosh (bottled smoothie brand)
People: Olivier Garel, Managing Director
More Information:

Name: Walmart Labs
Type: Innovation Lab
Location:  San Francisco
Established: 2013
Details: While not specific to food, Walmart Labs is an innovation hub focused on incubating new ideas and testing them out across Walmart's expansive retail footprint. One of their first innovations was Goodies, a food subscription box featuring brands sold through Walmart.
Focus: Incubator model utilizing internal team and resources to build new solutions from the ground up; these cover retail, tech, new products and direct to consumer solutions.
People: Jeremy King, CEO
More Information: