Among the products were a versatile almond dip, a caffeinated soda, homecooked South African frozen meals, local chickpea tofu and a completely new school canteen category. Critics and interested parties showed up to taste and discuss the progress of this year’s Food Pioneers, a group of true entrepreneurs that push the food system transition with innovative products.
A simple set-up of a couple of stands on both sides of the Pavilion made for a market feel, with the participants displaying their products and ideas. A stage and a few rows of chairs ensured a proper pitch setting. As soon as everyone was seated, moderator and coach Margot Kemps introduced the jury: Manon Klein from Impact Hub, Bart-Jan Veldhuizen from Kitchen Republic and Tatiana Iavtushenko from Picnic.
The jury was invited to provide feedback, as this was the closing event of a six month trajectory in which the Food Pioneers were challenged and educated in support of their entrepreneurial journey. The pitches reflected a variety of ideas and customer groups, and the businesses themselves are in various stages of development.
‘Are you ready for exponential growth?’ Pretty dream-like feedback from Bart-Jan for Nicole McMahon, a decisive lady from Australia, who after many travel adventures settled down in The Netherlands with her family. With Real Good Food she develops chili condiments inspired by a variety of international cuisines that easily tone a meal towards your liking. This enables consumers to prepare a flavoursome meal with random products, including those veggies ‘in the back of your fridge’ that are in danger of being binned. According to Bart-Jan there is momentum for these type of condiments, ‘we see it abroad also’. Right now, Nicole mainly targets the Dutch market, as her condiments are ‘Dutch spicy’, she winks.
Pioneer Alon Ziv is not necessarily interested in exponential growth. His primary focus is to start a movement by turning his company into a consumer club – inspired by Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and convinced by the idea that the world needs a new food economy. That is to say: autonomous, local food production and consumption, driven by love and care. His company, Alon’s Pickles, puts these ideas into practice by using long established techniques such as fermentation to bottle an ever changing variety of local, seasonal Dutch vegetables – and by building a personal relation with customers. Alon works with local farmers and targets the surplus of produce, but he is also working on his own agricultural basis. Markets offer him a lot of interaction with consumers, and the pitch training he was offered by the Food Pioneers program helps him communicate his ideas even better.
The participants of this fourth edition of the Food Pioneers Program – organised by Flevo Campus in association with Food Hub, Impact Hub Amsterdam and Kitchen Republic – make for a diverse group of entrepreneurs. Baker Hanne van Beuningen shares that she benefits most from what the program taught her about marketing and business models. Her product Kvass, an Eastern European inspired drink made from bread and honey, came about mainly because of her frustration with the huge amounts of stale bread that end up as waste. That’s why she started experimenting and founded BRAUT. She shares that gained insights into all things concerned with growing a start-up during the program, meaning she can now make better informed decisions on how she will continue her endeavors.
In a similar vein, the program led Tanya Vannawat to make new choices. When she entered the program, Tanya was running a successful vegan Thai catering business that left her with little time to build a business centered around her Tan Tofu: soy-free tofu from locally grown chickpeas. The personal leadership skills she acquired through the program and the support from her fellow Food Pioneers helped her deliberately invest in Tan Tofu. Her main challenge scaling up Tan Tofu means that she must balance the sales and production accordingly. Upscaling production is often tough for start-ups with self-designed products as a result of lack of proper production facilities. Flevo Campus is looking into remedying this by creating a mid-size production location for their network.
The Food Pioneers testify that the training sessions, workshops, tasting sessions and Q&A’s helped all of them in one way or another – but most of all, the participants appreciate the support from and interaction with their fellow Pioneers and expect to take full advantage of their new network of entrepreneurs, investors and food sector professionals in the future.