Henri@Nestlé Sign of Times as Big Food Focuses On Innovation

One of the most interesting trends in tech over the past few years has been the emergence of innovation initiatives within large corporations who are trying to keep pace with change brought on by technology disruption.

Not only has this been the case in the home appliance space with GE (hear Taylor Dawson of FirstBuild on the Smart Kitchen Show here) and Whirlpool, but also with large food brands that are exploring ways to ways to stay ahead of the innovation curve.

While some of these efforts have taken the form of investment funds or crowdfunding, others like Nestlé have started innovation centers in Silicon Valley. Nestlé's innovation center opened in 2013, but things are just getting interesting as they're launching an innovation platform called Henri@Nestlé (named, naturally, after company founder Henri Nestlé) for startups and entrepreneurs to pitch product concepts.

In a story in the San Francisco Business Times, Stephanie Naegelli, Nestlé's senior global digital innovation manager, outlines the thinking behind the new platform:

"The platform, externally, is just a platform. But internally, it will completely change Nestlé’s innovation processes. It’s a new mentality and a new way of thinking about innovating much more quickly and much faster. And we really believe we’re going to build a competitive advantage through this new way of working."

Our Take:  Expect more large food brands, retailers and appliance manufacturers to try and tap into startup and innovation culture through a variety of initiative formats, whether that's innovation centers and accelerators, open innovation platforms like Henri@Nestlé, crowdfunding or through direct investment as is the case with Campbell's or General Mills.

Nestlé is particularly interesting as they are considered to be the largest food company in the world. When a company the size of Nestlé starts taking innovation this seriously, it's a sign that technology disruption has hit the food market.

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Mike WolfComment