To help support this growing community, IFT—through our IFTNEXT initiative—launched a new, high profile promotional venue at our 2017 Annual Event and Food Expo called the IFTNEXT Start-Up Alley. It’s a unique opportunity for food start-ups to showcase their innovative technologies, products, and/or services at one of the world’s largest annual food science events.
Year one of Start-Up Alley was a major success, putting new companies in front of a global audience of 20,000+ food professionals. One of those companies was Nima, a San Francisco-based start-up specializing in portable food allergy sensors.
Francisco Dias Lourenco, CTO of Nima, says his company’s experience with IFTNEXT Start-Up Alley at far surpassed their expectations.
IFT: What was your experience like at IFTNEXT Start-Up Alley?
Francisco: IFT17 was our first show. We were really impressed by the size of it all. And the location of Start-Up Alley was pretty awesome. All the IFTNEXT presentations were right there, so we had a lot of good exposure and were able to meet many interesting folks from industry. And just the variety of people coming through—from companies big and small—was incredibly helpful. And because we’re such a consumer-focused product, talking to different people from industry was very eye-opening.
IFT: What were some of your biggest takeaways from the experience?
Francisco: We definitely received lots of actionable advice, particularly around how we can market to industry, i.e. the different places in the supply chain where Nima can fit in as a partner. We also received some great advice on things like how we can get our data and research published. We also learned a lot about what we can do in the future to make the product more attractive to manufacturers, and about working with insurance to help consumers get reimbursement for using Nima. So that was one of the best things—getting a large variety of advice and getting to talk to so many different people with different backgrounds.
IFT: Have you seen any new leads or partnerships that sprouted from your time at Start-Up Alley?
Francisco: We have some interesting collaborations that we started the planning stages of at Start-Up Alley. One is working with a culinary school to incorporate Nima as part of the allergen management process that a chef would need to implement. We also started working with a large Israeli food manufacturer who wants to incorporate Nima in their manufacturing process. And we started an evaluation with a grain distributor who wants to check their grain for gluten contamination and purity. So we established a lot of future partnership prospects, but just having the exposure to people like that was very valuable.
IFT: How has Nima Sensor changed since the event?
Francisco: At this time last year, we were only selling the gluten-detecting sensor. In the past year, we have been developing a peanut tester, and are now in the final stages of development and validation for this new product, and we are looking to get our second product on the market soon.
Are you (or is someone you know) a start-up in the food world? Want to be a part of the second annual IFTNEXT Start-Up Alley? Check out iftevent.org to find out more.
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A conversation with IFT's senior food safety and traceability scientist Sara Bratager