Personalised nutrition and precision farming to influence future of food

Despite being over 150 years old, Nestlé is one of the world’s biggest brands in 2019.

Innovation is a key factor in the FMCG giant’s success, as it continues to capitalise on emerging trends with exciting product launches.

In 2016, Nestle launched an open innovation initiative HENRi@Nestlé,
connecting the food and beverage company with innovators and startups to work on cutting-edge projects in product innovation, sustainability, creative brand campaigns and more.

Nestlé’s global innovation director, Gerardo Mazzeo has been at the forefront of this new thinking in the business since 2012. Mazzeo leads HENRi@Nestlé and is responsible for the Digital Acceleration Team (DAT) at Nestlé HQ.

Mazzeo spoke to Inside FMCG ahead of his appearance at the Global Table future of food conference in Melbourne next week.

Inside FMCG: How important is it for a big global brand like Nestlé to work with start-ups in terms of promoting innovative thinking?

GM: Working with start-ups and external partners can offer different capabilities outside of Nestlé and bringing in these capabilities has never been more important than now.

What makes for successful collaborations between start-ups and FMCGs is an equal partnership between the two. Nestlé has the resources to provide geographic access to markets, access to R&D expertise and the capital to invest, but in any large organisation speed & agility can be challenging. Conversely, start-ups offer innovation speed & intensity, rapid prototyping, agility  and the ability to take fast decisions. It’s this true value exchange that allows for a successful partnership.

Inside FMCG: Nestlé has ventured into alternative meat products and plant based coffees; what are some more big trends you see on the horizon in FMCG?

GM: Like all FMCGs, Nestlé is always looking ahead to find out the next big trends within the food industry.

Personalised nutrition will become a significant part of the food landscape. Consumers are becoming more conscious about their consumption, and recognising that there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’.

Sustainable packaging is also hugely important.

On the supply chain side, we are also seeing innovation within agriculture, specifically data driven innovation. Precision farming, vertical agriculture and automated farming will have a huge impact on the efficiencies of FMCGs in the food industry.

Inside FMCG: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing FMCG companies right now?

GM: Environmental changes, including climate change, land degradation, water scarcity, and biodiversity loss – that are predicted to become more profound. For these companies to stay relevant, they must look at making their processes more sustainable across the entire value chain.

Inside FMCG: What advice would you give FMCG businesses on staying innovative and not falling into old habits?

GM: Personally, all consumer facing business should:

  1. Continuously focus on understanding how to meet and address consumer circumstances of struggle and their aspirations in the most unique and differentiated ways to truly provide seamless branded experiences
  2. Foster open collaboration both internally and externally, and offer true a value exchange mechanism
  3. Create a culture of teamwork with a mix of multi-functional talent within innovation teams fostering diversity of thought leadership and creativity in challenging conventional thinking
  4. Gain senior executive / C-level support for innovation initiatives

Inside FMCG: Where do you draw inspiration from in terms of staying innovative?

GM: HENRi works with some great external partners who have, over time, become true extensions of the team, helping HENRi to stay innovative.

Regularly attending events which focus on innovation within the food sector has also played a significant role in opening us to new possibilities. We have already attended a number of events this year, such as CES, SXSW, Seeds & Chips, Food Tech Matters & Mobile World Congress spending time meeting and discussing potential business opportunities with start-ups and entrepreneurs. 

Gerardo Mazzeo will be speaking at the Global Table conference which takes place from September 3-6 in Melbourne.

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