Foodregio Startup Lab points to three trends in food industry
Globalisation has left its mark on the food industry in terms of procurement and sales and this is tangible in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region as well. "You can buy baked goods from Lübeck in New York and cereals from Lübeck are exported to the home of corn flakes. Spirits from Schleswig-Holstein can also be found in duty-free stores worldwide," said Professor Björn P. Jacobsen, a member of the Foodregio e.V.'s Board of Directors, and contact person for the Foodregio Startup Lab. The lab has lent its support to founders since 2019 and now aims to set up and expand an ecosystem for food start-ups in the north. Founded in 2005, Foodregio now counts Schwartauer Werke, Bäckerei Junge to Niederegger Marzipan among its members as its network spans all five north German states. Scientific institutions such as Fraunhofer IMTE or Lübeck Technical University are also members of foodRegio.
Boosting potential for innovation
Stable growth and potential for innovation have made the food industry a key economic development sector in northern Germany and especially Schleswig-Holstein. There, the focus is mainly on meat processing and dairies as well as bakery and confectionery production. "A workforce of 37,000 people work in insurable employment across Schleswig-Holstein's food industry," said Jacobsen. The Foodregio Startup Lab was set up to harness the industry's potential for innovation and targets start-ups with an advanced prototype. "To put it in a nutshell, our work is guided by three concepts: individual, honest and trustworthy," he pointed out, as founders' needs cannot be condensed into a template.
Emphasis on establishing contacts
The individual approach involves telling founders quite bluntly whether the companies involved in the Startup Lab see a real market opportunity for the respective start-up's product or service. Promising start-up approaches are supported above all by mediating valuable contacts. "Who can help with further development and production? How do I sell the product? This is how an honest investment partner is usually found," said Jacobsen, who has vast experience with companies in international trade and industry. The advice given is absolute confidential, he stressed.
Topics with great potential for future
And where is the journey heading? Which current trends is the foodRegio Startup Lab focusing on? Emphasis is on innovation and project management, said Jacobsen, who also lectures in Management Studies and International Management at Stralsund University of Applied Sciences. The lab will focus on resource efficiency, healthy food and digital transformation in future.
Recyclable food packaging or strategies for replacing fossil raw materials have long challenged the industry. Jacobsen points to another aspect, adding: "If you want to sum up what we do in the food industry, we heat and cool. That is energy-intense. Thus, the issue of resource efficiency and decarbonisation is pretty high on our agenda."
"At its core, nutrition is becoming more personalised and is used for prevention," said Jacobsen. "Everyone has individual needs, and individualised nutrition concepts are often based on analyses of metabolism, health status, lifestyle, personal preferences or even a genetic profile. The nutrition industry must respond to that. We have to develop skills on how to bring together large-scale production with individualisation."
Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) are paving the way for other topics. "Our member companies, for instance, use AI weather forecasts based on micro-locations for AI-supported production planning. The goal here is to prevent food waste from occurring in the first place, which in turn has an impact on resource efficiency."
Food Foresight offers glimpses of future
Jacobsen also refers to the foodRegio Trend Radar and the annual foodRegio Trend Day, which was held in May under the motto of "Everything remains different - the new tomorrow of the food industry". The agenda featured talks and expert forums on resilient food systems, globalisation as an economic factor or trends such as neo-ecology among other issues. "Our Foodregio knowledge yard offers all those who want to look even further into the future an online course on 'Food Foresight'."