(Interview) Christophe from Vitagora on the new rules for food businesses

Christophe BREUILLET, managing director of Vitagora, a sponsor of our last report on the State of Europe’s FoodTech, answers our questions on the new rules food businesses (incumbent and innovative ones) are facing.

Vitagora is a French agri-food innovation cluster, with the distinction of having launched its own FoodTech acceleration program, ToasterLAB. Since 2017, Vitagora has accelerated 50 SMEs and startups via this program.

What was behind your decision to launch ToasterLAB?
Young agri-food companies in Europe, often in the post-incubation stage, urgently needed a support program to acquire the stability of generating their own revenue to sustain their development, and thus avoid lurching from investor to investor. We focused our program on allowing entrepreneurs to connect to an ecosystem of experts and food professionals and make the transition from a “start-up” to a “business” with products or services, a market and a reliable revenue stream. Working with agile startups has provided Vitagora with a huge insight into how companies can reinvent themselves in the face of disruptions.
We are currently working on applying those lessons to increasing the ability of larger food businesses to adapt to game-changers in our industry.

What are some of these game-changers?
The coronavirus crisis has been a major wake-up call regarding how the basics of our business can be upended, even though food remains an essential component of a functioning society. Beyond current events, other game-changers could include the transitions towards a plastic-free industry, the progressive rejection of unsustainable food productions (either through government regulation or consumer pressure), or indeed the radical reconfiguring of our distribution channels, which we are seeing right now thanks to the coronavirus.

What scope is there for larger food businesses to match a startup’s agility?
Understanding the central role played by your business model is the first step. We have been working with the Burgundy School of Business for two years to develop reliable decision support tools to help our members to strategize new agri-food business models. The next step is to disconnect an innovative business project from the cumbersome corporate processes that weigh it down and to reconnect it to an agile support system of experts. The “intrapreneurship” model is a proven means of doing so. As the rules of how we do food business are being rewritten, this is a timely lesson in agility for us all.


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