Industry big names General Mills, Coca-Cola, Danone seek to work with start-ups to meet Chinese market demands

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

China Food Tech Hub was officially launched in Shanghai last week, where participating companies gathered to meet one another and the start-ups. ©Bits x Bites
China Food Tech Hub was officially launched in Shanghai last week, where participating companies gathered to meet one another and the start-ups. ©Bits x Bites

Related tags: Coca-cola, Pepsico, General mills, Danone, Louis Dreyfus

A consortium of industry big names, including General Mills, Coca-Cola, and Danone, has joined the China Food Tech Hub – a project aimed at partnering outstanding start-ups with major industry players to meet the ever-changing consumer demands in China.

Organised by Chinese food tech venture capitalist Bits x Bites, China Food Tech Hub is backed by seven other key industry players at present, namely Givaudan, Griffith Foods, Louis Dreyfus Company, Novozymes, Nutreco, PepsiCo Greater China, and Puratos.

Officially launched in Shanghai last week, the China Food Tech Hub will service as a neutral platform for these companies to cooperate with start-ups and each other in tackling business challenges and creating growth opportunities.

The start-ups are selected and invited by Bits x Bites to participate in hub meetings and meet the corporations in the hub twice each year. 

The upcoming meeting will take place in Shanghai in November.

To qualify, the start-ups need not be based in China, but selection is based on the quality of their solutions for the Chinese food and beverage market and the types of problems that they seek to address.

These start-ups could be providing upstream services, such as precision agriculture, midstream services such as novel ingredients, or downstream such as smart retail.

“Like most parts of the world outside of EU and US, food tech is still in its infancy in China and there has not been a strong ecosystem to support start-ups in this space.

“As China’s first food tech VC, we see an opportunity to bridge and strengthen these partnerships and hopefully make it easier for start-ups and corporations to share insights and work together,” ​said Matilda Ho, founder and managing director of Bits x Bites.

For Danone, this model serves as an opportunity for innovation.

“The Chinese market evolves at an incredibly fast pace…To maintain our edge in the categories where we play, we believe that it is key to be able to identify emerging new ingredients, technologies, product formats and business models in order to define new innovation opportunities for our consumers,” ​said David Machiels, R&I Director Asia Expansion and Innovation Acceleration, Danone.

“By working with the start-up and corporate community through the China Food Tech Hub, we want to contribute to further build the food tech ecosystem in a collaborative way, feed our innovation needs and identify new project opportunities in China.”

Start-up’s attractiveness

Working with start-ups has become an increasingly attractive option in the food manufacturing industry, which may come in the form of an accelerator, such as PepsiCo’s Nutrition Greenhouse program.

Elsewhere in China, more early-stage consumer packaged goods companies were generating customer excitement, and food tech companies were showing how their solutions could address the corporates’ pain points, said Ho. 

“For food corporates, China is a high-growth market. As such, most of the focus is on maximising sales. Medium and long term innovation projects have rarely been prioritised.

“But we are seeing a shift. Increasingly, more corporations are looking to engage food innovation start-ups as more early-stage CPG companies in China are generating customer excitement and food tech companies are showing how their solutions can address the corporations’ pain points,”​  she said.

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