At Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim last week, Mars began actively recruiting applicants for the first cohort of its Seeds of Change Accelerator, which will focus on promoting startups that share Mars Food's vision for “better food today, better world tomorrow,” according to Clarence Mak, the chief marketing, sales and innovation officer of global food at Mars.
“At Mars Food, we have this very exciting purpose we call it ‘Better food today. Better world tomorrow,’ so the Seeds of Change Accelerator program is actually a program for us to further the reach and really bring that purpose to life by working with the startups to make sure they can scale their business, but also lift the purpose,” Mak explained.
Participants in the program will receive a need-based grant of up to $50,000 per selected startup and the chance to work under Fiona Dawson, the global president of Mars Food, Multisales and Global Customers, as well as with a network of other advisers, including Stephen Badger, Mars’ board chairman, Rohan Oza, a brand builder and previous ‘guest shark’ on Shark Tank, and the design company JKR. With their help, participants will undertake a tailored four month program designed to help them with everything from scaling to brand storytelling.
But with so many incubators and accelerators to choose from, including programs hosted by Kraft Heinz, Chobani, Land O’Lakes, and Tyson Foods to name a few – why should entrepreneurs team with Mars?
“What makes us unique is Seeds of Change Accelerator is building on the brand we have called Seeds of Change, which was actually a 30 year old brand” that began as a family business and grew over time to become a big brand, similar to the growth of Mars Inc., Mak said.
“We [have taken] a lot of our brands from very small to billion dollar brands, so we just want to share that experience, and I think that will make us a little more unique than the other programs, because we know we have done it,” he added.
Mars’ program also is unique in that it is part of a privately held, family-owned business that wants to nurture the brands long term, he said.
Mars angles for a better consumer connection
While Mars has a lot to offer entrepreneurs, in exchange for its help, Mars is seeking insight into where the market is headed and how to better relate to consumers.
“The reason we are doing it, and we are really excited about it, is because in return we can learn from startups. We can externalize our innovation. It is most important for us to have access to what is happening in the food world so we can serve our consumers better, because we can know more about what is happening in the consumer space,” Mak said.
Mars’ wish list
With that in mind, Mars is looking for six startups in the US and four in Australia who share its vision for a for ‘better food today, for a better world tomorrow.'
Specifically, Mak said, Mars is looking for startups have a minimum of $250,000 in sales in the first year, one or two employees and that share its vision, but also that are focused on world flavors, plant-based eating, easy meal solutions, responsible food and creating with care.
“We are really looking for people who are bright, passionate about food, passionate about creating a better world for tomorrow by offering better food today. So, we are looking for people who want to share and live this purpose together with us,” he said.
The company is accepting applications through May 31 and interested companies can learn more at www.socaccelerator.com.