US foodmaker Mondelēz seeks to tap into Israeli foodtech ecosystem
US maker of Oreo cookies and Toblerone announces collaboration with Israeli incubator The Kitchen to get access to cutting edge innovation
Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter
Food and beverage maker Mondelēz International, the manufacturer of much-loved brands such as Oreos and Toblerone chocolate, will collaborate with tech incubator The Kitchen to tap into Israeli food tech scene.
The collaboration will expose Mondelēz to Israeli startups that are part of The Kitchen incubator. For its part, the US-based firm will provide the local startups with technological and commercial expertise. They will be able to work at its global Technical Centers, hold pilots within its plants and get access to internal experts across a variety of areas such as R&D, food safety, marketing and operations.
Mondelēz’s R&D and SnackFutures teams, the company’s innovation and venture hub aimed at finding new snacking opportunities around the world, will lead the initiative. The collaboration will allow the Nasdaq-traded US firm to get “unparalleled access and visibility to one of the world’s leading FoodTech ecosystems,” the US firm said in a statement on Thursday.
“With over 6,600 active start-up companies and a steady growth year on year, the Israeli innovation ecosystem is one of the most dynamic in the world and we’re thrilled to be part of it,” said Tim Cofer, executive vice president and chief growth officer of Mondelēz International, in the statement.
“We’re looking to collaborate with the best and brightest talent in advancing the future of snacking. We know we don’t have all the answers within our four walls, so we’re on a mission to create an unconventional ecosystem of partners. The collaboration with The Kitchen is another great example of this ecosystem at play.”
With 12 portfolio companies, The Kitchen nurtures and invests in technology startups in the food sector. The goal of the incubator is to create “promising FoodTech ventures that can disrupt the global food system — making it more productive, more affordable, more sustainable, and healthier,” the statement said.
“The Kitchen, as a ventures builder, constantly seeks to bring value to its portfolio companies,” said its CEO Jonathan Berger. “Partnering with an industry leader such as Mondelēz International will bring tremendous value to The Kitchen and our portfolio companies. We look forward to working with their dedicated team and to introducing Israeli FoodTech innovation from seed to shelf around the globe.”
As part of the collaboration, Rob Hargrove, executive vice president of research, development and quality at Mondelēz, has joined The Kitchen Advisory Council.
“There’s no doubt that Israel is a world leader in food and agricultural innovation, and we’ve been truly inspired by the talented entrepreneurs that are part of The Kitchen,” said Hargrove in the statement. “We’re looking forward to collaborate with those start-ups, be it to jointly develop new technologies or to provide help and expertise in specific fields.”
Founded in 2015 as a part of the incubators program of Israel Innovation Authority, and owned by Strauss Group, The Kitchen is Israel’s only foodtech-focused incubator, aiming to nurture startups in a variety of areas including supply chain technologies, efficient food processing, sensors for food safety and quality, prolonged shelf-life and reduction of food spoilage, smart packaging, ingredients and products with new health benefits, improved nutritional profiles,and reduction of environmental footprints.
Among its portfolio companies are Yofix Probiotics, Amai Proteins and Aleph Farms.
Agrifood tech is a small but growing segment of Israel’s startup and venture capital world, aiming to change both the food and the agriculture industries.
From 2014 through the end of 2018, Israeli firms operating in the food and agricultural industries raised some $800 million across more than 250 deals, according to data compiled by Start-Up Nation Central, which tracks the industry. And whereas Israel has always had an edge in agricultural innovation — thanks partly to its lack of natural resources and its kibbutzim, the farming communes it pioneered — it is now starting to produce food technology, including meat alternatives, new ingredients, plant-based proteins, restaurant booking and other technologies.
Investors internationally are starting to notice. In March, McDonald’s Corporation said it would acquire Israel’s Dynamic Yield Ltd., a startup whose software enables the personalization of content to specific users. Last year, beverage maker PepsiCo signed a deal to buy home seltzer machine firm SodaStream for $3.2 billion in a bid for healthier, alternative drinks.