F&A Next: Innovation - think like an entrepreneur

The third F&A Next conference takes place at Wageningen University in the Netherlands on May 30 & 31. Gil Horsky of Mondelēz International is due to speak on food and innovation at the event.

Gil Horsky is Director Global Innovation at Mondelēz International, home to brands like Milka, Oreo and belVita. He has developed and launched more than $ 500 million worth of new branded food products around the world.

What is the status of food and food-tech sectors?

Gil Horsky: “I don’t think there’s been a more exciting time to be in the industry. Consumers are more engaged with their food than ever before, and are demanding healthier, authentic and personalized food brand experiences.

“E-commerce and direct-to-consumer channels are growing rapidly and changing the rules of the game. And technologies such as 3D printing of food and digital printing of packaging have opened up new possibilities for food manufacturers to personalize products in an agile and efficient way.”

What do you see happening in food innovation in the future?

“In the past, most food innovation was around marketing, product form & flavor, and packaging. There was little based on science. But the industry now has a role to play in delivering more nutritious products to consumers. That means more scientists and researchers coming from disciplines such as biotech, chemistry and pharma, and applying their know-how to the food sector.

“I come from Israel and it’s been fascinating to witness the influx of Israeli researchers and entrepreneurs focusing on the challenges of the global food industry. This has enabled many recent breakthrough technologies and innovations, such as alternative proteins, cultured meat, novel foods with claimable benefits, and solutions to reduce sugar and salt levels.”

“Entrepreneurs must unearth consumer insights and unmet needs”

- Gil Horsky, Mondelēz International

What are your biggest challenges as an innovator in a corporate environment?

“Working as an innovator in the food industry – and at Mondelēz specifically – is exciting. A key part of the role is unearthing consumer insights and unmet needs. But to do that successfully requires empathy and deep consumer understanding. For example, three years ago we found consumers wanted richer tasting chocolate but without the bitter flavor they associated with dark chocolate. These insights led us to create DarkMilk, which combines the creaminess of our well-loved brands such as Cadbury and Milka with extra cocoa content. It has so far launched successfully in Australia Canada and Russia.

“But managing innovation isn’t always easy and there are many ups and downs. You need to be able to challenge the status quo while having enough persistence to pursue your vision. You need to think like an entrepreneur, but in the context of a large corporation.”

Can you give us a flavor of what you’ll be talking about at F&A Next?

“Although the traditional innovation process in the industry is robust, it’s also slow. The pace of innovation needs to match that of changes in consumer preferences and behavior. And now it can. For example, innovators once had to wait a month for market research results – now you can get consumer feedback within 24 hours.

“The same is true with product prototypes. R&D Teams don’t need to wait weeks; they can 3D print edible samples in hours. Innovators now need to challenge their own company’s processes to make them better able to respond to consumer demand.”

Innovation in the corporate environment is a key topic at F&A Next 2018. The conference brings together large corporates wanting to innovate and start-ups that need financing, advice, and clients. Buy your ticket now for F&ANext 2018 on May 30 and 31.