Food Entrepreneur - September 15, 2020 - 3

FOOD ENTREPRENEUR

COMMENTARY

Innovation is not canceled
Prepare for another renaissance of food startups
BY MONICA WATROUS

T

he pandemic has upended many business plans and
led to the closing of an untold number of companies. Despite economic challenges, hundreds of
thousands of startups are launching across the country.
The number of business applications filed in the United
States in the week ended Aug. 29 exceeded 101,600, up
62% over the prior-year period, according to US Census
Bureau data.
Drexel Food Lab, a product development and culinary innovation center at Philadelphia-based Drexel University, has received "more inquiries than ever" since the
pandemic began in early spring, said its director, Jonathan
Deutsch, PhD.
"I think that it's a combination of retail really booming right now and a lot of chefs and hospitality professionals are rethinking the longevity of their hospitality
career and looking to pivot into manufactured foods, CPG
or foodservice ideas," Dr. Deutsch said. "And people are
gaining more time by working remotely. There's been a
lot of backburner projects from someone who has a 9-to-5
job, and now instead of leaving the house at 7 to get to
their 9-to-5 job, they have two hours in the morning to
work on their side business or a few hours in the evening
to work on things, so I'm seeing a lot more of that kind of
client as well."
Startups created during times of crisis often are
scrappy. Those that succeed in the current environment
will come through much stronger. Premium packaged
food and beverage represents an especially promising opportunity as consumers travel and dine out less due to the
pandemic but continue to seek convenience, health and
affordable luxury. Successful food brands that emerged
a decade ago from the Great Recession include Chobani,
Purely Elizabeth, Beyond Meat and Zevia.
"A lot of the small companies and brands that we saw
in 2010 are here and powerful today," said Larry Levin, executive vice president, market and shopper intelligence at
Information Resources, Inc. "They positioned themselves
well for continued
survival or acquisition, and I think that
is a light at the end of
the tunnel for some
of these small manufacturers who might
be worried right now.
They can look back
and see what others
Monica Watrous is the managing
did during the last
editor of Food Business News.
recession. They were
Email mwatrous@sosland.com.
September 15, 2020

Startups
created
during
times of
crisis often
are scrappy.

©WORAWUT - STOCK.ADOBE.COM

able to survive and come through relatively well."
The past few months have seen several innovative
food brands come to market.
Gregory Struck, a serial entrepreneur with a sweet
tooth, is setting out to disrupt the refrigerated desserts
category with the launch of Noops, a plant-based pudding
formulated with organic oats, sunflower seed protein and
organic dates.
"We've had to be very nimble and move into a digital
realm where we can conduct Zoom meetings, send
samples, take the sales process from offline to the digital
world," Mr. Struck said. "There was a slight delay in terms
of the sales cycle, but the good news is retailers have been
incredibly receptive to the idea of a plant-based indulgent
oat milk pudding. We're very lucky our sales process was
reinvigorated in June, and we're actively being courted by
best-in-class accounts across the Northeast."
No cows were milked in the making of Brave Robot,
a new brand of ice cream formulated with animal-free
dairy protein that was launched recently by Los Angeles
startup The Urgent Co. The products feature the taste
and texture of dairy-based ice cream but are lactose-free,
cholesterol-free and vegan, said Paul Kollesoff, co-founder
and general manager of The Urgent Co. The brand was
developed in partnership with Perfect Day, a food technology company that produces milk proteins based on plants
instead of animals.
"We find retailers are looking for innovation," Mr.
Kollesoff said. "Ice cream specifically is skyrocketing in
terms of sales during the pandemic. The numbers are
up phenomenally, and I think retailers are saying, 'How
do we keep that going?' They're asking and looking for
innovation." ▪
Food Business News

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Food Entrepreneur - September 15, 2020

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