Nancy Mann Jackson

Innovators on the Edge panelistsThere’s a growing market for innovative new food products, but getting from an idea to an in-demand product on grocery shelves is a long and often difficult process. In Monday afternoon’s Business FIRST session, “Innovators on the Edge: Pushing the Boundaries of Science to Feed a Hungry Planet,” four food science entrepreneurs shared their experiences in building products and businesses from their passion, creativity, and discoveries.

Building a food science-based business is, for most entrepreneurs, not a one-person job. Panelists agreed that whether you have a co-founder or a team of trusted individuals, successful food science entrepreneurs understand and utilize the complementary skills of others.

Joshua Nixon, co-founder and CTO at Prime Roots, discussed how he and his co-founder have skill sets that complement each other. While they both participate in building the business, they can each focus on the areas that are their strengths.

“Find someone who loves to do the things you don’t love to do,” said Minh Tsai, founder and CEO at Hodo Foods. “But really, you need a whole team rather than just a co-founder.”

Thomas Jonas, co-founder and CEO at Nature’s Fynd, agreed. “It’s not just about founders,” he said. “It’s about everyone showing up every day and doing their job, and people understanding where they can make a difference in the company.”

In addition to building the right team, successful food science businesses also need to have the right funding in place. For some, like Kirsten Sutaria, co-founder and head of curious creation at Doozy Pots, that means figuring out how to bootstrap the business on your own.

“Bootstrapping can be stressful, but it teaches you to be really lean and really thoughtful about what you’re doing,” said Sutaria.

When one supplier’s prices go up unexpectedly, that may mean figuring out how to pivot and make a course correction. “You really have to lean on your network of suppliers and manufacturers, cultivate relationships, and make the right decisions to make it all work financially,” said Sutaria.

For other food science startups, figuring out funding means wooing investors. Jonas at Nature’s Fynd said he carried a bag of the company’s product around Silicon Valley for meeting after meeting with venture capitalists.

“You really get a sense pretty quickly whether someone is interested in investing in your company,” said Jonas. “If you’re having to convince them too hard, you probably shouldn’t. You want people who share your excitement about what you’re doing.” Nature’s Fynd has raised about $500 million so far.

Successful fundraising as well as product sales depend on a startup’s ability to build and communicate a compelling story. For some, it’s about telling the story of their products’ unique ingredients and the benefits they bring. For example, Prime Roots has focused on telling the story of its key ingredient, koji, which has been used in the kitchens of top chefs around the world and is vital to the brand’s animal-free meat products.

For Doozy Pots, the story is about being the first product to use a blend of hemp and oats, “which makes us different but also requires a lot of education for the buyer and the retailer,” said Sutaria.

About the Author

Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance writer based in Huntsville, AL ([email protected])

Digital Exclusives right arrow

10 Food Trend Predictions for 2022

The editors at Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), have announced their predictions for the hottest food trends for 2022.

When Science Follows Technology

While canning is commonplace today, for that generation of food technologists it was a paradigmatic example of the power of science to change food for the better.

Ingredient Companies Seek Sodium Reduction Solutions

In October 2021, the FDA released new voluntary guidance on sodium reduction with the overarching goal of reducing consumption by 12% over the next two-and-a-half years.

North American Consumers Get Comfortable With Cannabis

What changes have occurred in the way Canadians perceive cannabis since it was legalized there in 2018? How do Canadian and U.S. consumers of cannabis and edibles compare?

Food Technology Articles right arrow

Extending ADM From Seed to Fork

It’s a new era for the agribusiness giant, and Leticia Gonçalves, president of global foods, is well equipped to help guide the company’s reinvention as a more consumer-focused, value-added organization.

IFT Perspectives From the White House Conference

IFT 2022-2023 President Chris Downs discusses IFT’s response to the White House Conference on Hunger Nutrition and Health.

Restaurants Reset for a Rough Ride

Returning menu superstars, reimagined classics, and internationally inspired cuisine are upgrading foodservice menus.

Less Waste, More Health

This column describes the growing global market for upcycled foods, which utilize ingredients that would otherwise go to waste but can offer improved nutrition.

The Bountiful Promise of Indoor Farming

High-tech growing systems are transforming agricultural production, yielding increasingly fruitful harvests in tightly controlled environments.

Recent Brain Food right arrow

A Roadmap for Combating Food Insecurity and Promoting Health

IFT’s Anna Rosales attended the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Here are her key takeaways.

Bringing Their True Selves to Work

Two IFT members reflect on how resource groups help them promote diversity and inclusion on the job.

ICYMI: Our Most-Popular Business FIRST Conversations Available Online

Tune in to the IFT FIRST on-demand content channel and hear from experts and innovators who are making big impacts.

Packing a School Lunch? Keep Safety Top of Mind 

A few simple steps are all it takes to keep school lunches not only tasty but safe, says IFT’s food safety expert Sara Bratager.