Food conglomerate and startup investor pair up to bring innovation to food industry
Like a classic peanut butter and jelly, The J.M. Smucker company knows a thing or two about striking the perfect partnership. In the summer of 2018, Smucker’s announced their intent to work with Rev1 Ventures in Columbus to help identify new technologies and strategies. With a focus on process technology, snacking and supply chain management, Smucker’s secret ingredient is the strategic alliance with Rev1’s network of entrepreneurs and startups—a network more and more large corporations are turning toward to promote inventive thinking.
“What Rev1 allows us to do is to tap into some emerging technologies and startups,” said Tina Floyd, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Consumer Foods at Smucker’s. “We’re looking for ways to evolve our business, and Rev1 connects us to startups and entrepreneurs so we can better understand what new ideas or innovations are out there.”
The idea of a large food corporation pairing with a startup firm isn’t new—in fact, it’s becoming more and more common as the industry shifts rapidly in the face of changing consumer habits. As these behaviors change, so do the companies that service them—or else risk falling behind. One such example is the focus on healthy eating. In 2016, 54 percent of Americans said people in the U.S. pay more attention to eating healthy foods today than compared to 20 years ago.
“Food in general is dynamic, and that all goes back to our consumer,” said Floyd. “I think we’re all eating differently from where we were a few years ago, whether that’s bringing multiple snacks together and considering that a meal or the way we sit down and eat with our families.”
By turning to Rev1, Smucker’s hopes to respond to new consumer eating habits with the people who understand change best: entrepreneurs and startups. When the program is up and running, Smucker’s hopes the combination of their resources and the cutting-edge ideas from a startup will reshape the way they approach business using everything from artificial intelligence to supply chain technology.
For Ohio born-and-bred Smucker’s and Rev1, a partner of Ohio Third Frontier, location is important. The state itself has seen an uptick in agricultural productivity since 2015 and the food and agriculture business in Ohio is a $105 billion industry. But industry alone isn’t the only thing that Floyd sees as integral to the Ohio-based partnership.
“We know that this collaboration will attract talent here in Ohio, especially from an agricultural perspective. As we build our network, there’s also the opportunity to work with The Ohio State University, which is provides us even more access to industry resources,” said Floyd. “There are a lot of great ideas coming from folks here and we want to tap into those—that’s why we’re so excited about this partnership with Rev1.”