The Nutrition Greenhouse program’s inaugural class of 10 companies in the US, announced today, includes an “innovative assortment” of food and beverage brands ranging from popped water lily seeds, plant-based seafood alternatives, high-protein milk alternatives and a nutrition bar focused on cognitive energy, function and health.
The diverse selection underscores PepsiCo’s dedication to cultivating “progressive, open innovation” as well as its approach to discovering and better understanding at a ground level how consumer trends are developing across categories and how early-stage companies are responding to those demands to create successful businesses, Daniel Grubbs, the managing director of PepsiCo Ventures Group, explained to FoodNavigator-USA.
“We are eager to support these companies’ growth and what they are trying to achieve in the market,” as well as learn and be inspired by them, he said.
To do this, he explained that as part of the accelerator, each startup will receive a guaranteed $20,000 in grant funding, access to mentors from established and emerging brads, and will participate in a 6-month “business optimization program designed to accelerate growth.”
As part of that program, PepsiCo mentors will share lessons they have learned around starting a business, including the importance of focusing on narrow, achievable goals, he said. In addition, they will share their knowledge around scaling and building businesses.
At the end of the program, one participant will win an additional $100,000 in funds and an opportunity to work with PepsiCo more longterm.
What PepsiCo is looking for in applicants
Competition for the inaugural US cohort was stiff, despite there being multiple high-profile accelerator programs already are established here.
“The number of applicants we received for the North American program greatly surpassed our expectations, garnering at least 50% more applications than the second year of the European program,” Grubbs said. “The launch in North America is a testament to the great benefit of having a global footprint as ours, where we can easily lift and shift great ideas from one geography to another.”
The 10 startups participating in PepsiCo’s Nutrition Greenhouse accelerator’s inaugural US class, include:
- Bohana - Reinvented an ancient high-protein snack with popped water lily seed.
- Hapi Drinks – Sugar-free kids drink founded with the mission to fight childhood obesity and type II diabetes.
- IQ BAR – A nutrition bar formulated for cognitive energy, function, and health.
- Remedy Organics - Plant-based beverages made with potent superfoods, ayurvedic herbs and botanicals as well as protein and probiotics.
- Rule Breaker Snacks - Better-for-you brownies and other baked goods made from beans.
- Sophie's Kitchen - The first company to make plant-based seafood alternatives which are 100% gluten free, 100% soy free, Non-GMO Project verified, and Kosher.
- TooFIT - A lifestyle brand dedicated to crafting and delivering the highest quality nutritional supplements to inspire, educate, and fuel the passions and journeys of adventurers, athletes, and weekend warriors.
- Torii Labs - A health product company creating herbal elixirs.
- Wildway - A better-for-you breakfast and snack food company that inspires others with products that provide real nutrition from real food to fuel life’s wild adventures.
- YoFiit - A plant-based company focusing on functional, clean and innovative meal solutions, one of which is a patent-pending high protein, high omega and gum-free chickpea and flax milk alternative offering 40 grams of protein per container.
This strong interest underscores how PepsiCo’s model and proposition for startups is different than that offered by other accelerators and incubators.
“In the US marketplace, there are a lot of other accelerator programs and also a lot of large strategic organizations. We are not trying to necessarily, say, compete in that same light. We think that from a PepsiCo perspective, our brand product range across food beverage snack and our knowledge in how to play across the consumer occasions and ingredient processes … is something that really no one else can provide. So, for us, we feel confident that companies that come into the program will be able to leverage and partner together with our network and we can create something beneficial for them,” Grubbs said.
When evaluating the applications for the first cohort, Grubbs said that PepsiCo placed an emphasis on finding companies that offered products with greater nutritional density and clean labels but that also did not compromise on taste and texture.
He said the company also looked for brands that were “straight forward” both with what they offer and their larger values.
For example, the startups’ “ecosystem perspective” was an important factor that PepsiCo considered in the evaluation process, Grubb said. He explained PepsiCo wants to work with startups whose approach to sustainability and the environment aligns with its own approach.
“We are looking for kindred spirits to work with in the program,” Grubbs added.
PepsiCo also based its decisions on how the entrepreneurs could help it, he acknowledged.
“Nutrition Greenhouse is a great, direct way for PepsiCo to engage with entrepreneurs who are pushing a nutrition and wellness agenda with progressive ideas. It gives us front-row seats to the most innovative startups seeking to address every-changing consumer needs. Just as importantly, the program helps foster an entrepreneurial spirit among our colleague-mentors, giving them a unique leadership experience as they work closely with these startups to address challenges and help them grow,” Grubbs said.
While the US program is just getting off the ground, PepsiCo is eager to reach and help more startups, Grubb said, noting, “We hope to continue expanding the program throughout the rest of the world.”