Behind the scenes at Frutarom's innovation laboratory

25 June, 2018

More than 25 innovators have applied to participate in Frutarom’s new FoodNxt innovation laboratory, which will focus on the development of functional ingredients and nutraceuticals for the food, beverage and dietary supplements sectors.

The Israeli flavours and fine ingredients giant announced in March that it was looking for start-up ventures focused on food innovation for the laboratory in Migdal HaEmek, known as Israel’s Silicon Valley. Start-ups selected will receive financing of the equivalent of £31,000 from Frutarom, while the Israel Innovation Authority will invest £176,000 in each one.

Dr Gali Artzi, Frutarom innovation director, who heads the laboratory, tells Food Spark the lab could accommodate up to five start-ups at any one time. Final interviews with start-up applicants were currently in progress. Dr Artzi describes the lab as “a home for entrepreneurs and a breeding house” that would invest Frutarom’s time, talent and money in companies that focus on “solving vital problems that plague consumers and manufacturers today.”

Obesity, proteins and protecting the environment

Applicants so far include start-ups that deal with problems such as obesity, diabetes and finding alternative protein sources. Some address the unmet need for natural and healthy food products and supplements that maintain nutritional values, while others deal with preserving the environment.

“It is important to emphasize that the innovation lab provides more than just financial support,” Dr Artzi continues.

“The FoodNxt innovation lab will provide its start-ups with a variety of technologies, advanced equipment and a professional team that will support ventures throughout the programme.

“The close collaboration of FoodNxt with each innovative company that participates will include the preparation of a business plan and feasibility study.”

This would include the creation of technological infrastructure, assistance in patent registration, direction of projects for compliance with US and European regulations, help in finding co-operation and partnerships with leading Israeli and foreign food companies, and the establishment of a competitive advantage in the international market.

Innovation, innovation, and innovation

Asked about the benefits to Frutarom of the project, Dr Artzi replies:
“Innovation, innovation and innovation.”

“Frutarom believes that start-ups can create new industries over time by spurring innovation and injecting competition into stagnant industries,” she explains.

“We are trying to create synergies between the start-ups and Frutarom’s core expertise – for example, in a project that is focused on utilising waste products from the food production and processing industries, Frutarom can design specific flavour and stability solutions and create added-value innovative products.”

Frutarom is also open to providing long-term support for the companies joining FoodNxt, she says

“We will discuss long-term involvement with each company as it moves along in the programme and meets certain milestones, and as Frutarom assesses its continued ability to help each company grow from the proof-of-concept stage to maturity,” she explains.

The start-ups that qualify for participation are at pre-proof-of-concept stage. The timeframe for commercialisation varies according to the nature of each project. Dr Artzi notes that some projects need clinical validations, which could take two to three years before commercialisation, but there are other projects that could be commercialised more rapidly.

The future of flavor

The development of the FoodNxt project comes as clearance is awaited for International Flavors & Fragrances $7.1bn (£5.3bn) acquisition of Frutarom, announced in May. The deal is expected to complete in five to eight months but is still subject to approval by Frutarom shareholders and clearance by the relevant regulatory authorities

Dr Artzi says the combination would unite two industry-leading innovative companies with complementary customers, capability and geographic reach that would result in more exposure to fast-growing end markets and an enhanced platform to deliver sustainable, profitable growth.

“On top of the benefit to the company’s customer, the integration creates a new platform for FoodNxt innovation, providing new capabilities to develop value-added solutions and an extended global operational footprint in relevant market,” she says.

The goal is to continue to support Israeli entrepreneurs and innovators and provide them with the knowledge and resources to grow and establish their businesses with “the right global market orientation”, she adds.

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