Accelerating the Food Tech Revolution – Insights from the 2024 Food Tech Congress

WARSAW—On May 28-29,2024, over 800 food and beverage industry leaders, innovators, executives, investors, corporations, and policy shapers from 40+ countries assembled in Warsaw, Poland, for the Food Tech Congress.

With the expressed aim of gathering like-minded organizations and individuals looking to accelerate the food tech revolution, the two-day event agenda revolved around various vital themes, ranging from food as medicine to fighting food waste, alternative proteins and precision fermentation, regenerative agriculture, circular food systems for sustainability, and more.

According to Edlong’s Global Director of Strategy & Innovation, Anne Marie Butler, there was also a palpable emphasis on the necessity for startups, large CPGs, and venture capitalists to work in concert to improve innovation and enact real change by bringing it to the masses.

Anne Marie Butler, Edlong Global Director of Strategy and Innovation

Anne Marie Butler, Global Director of Strategy and Innovation

Connect with Anne Marie on LinkedIn!

“It felt like there was a collective acknowledgment that if we want to see innovation that really moves the needle, it’s going to take active collaboration and partnerships. The reality around this conversation was captured incredibly well in a panel discussion titled – Synergizing Strengths: Fostering Corporate Innovation in Food Tech through Collaboration and Partnerships.”

She adds, “One of the key takeaways was if you want to innovate quickly work with a startup; if you want to achieve scale, you need to partner with a CPG. Working in isolation, each has limitations, but together they unlock the ability to make the impact we need. After all it’s not just about innovation; the goal is to get those products and technologies into the hands of consumers.”

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Perhaps nothing exemplified this more than the Food Tech Challengers competition, of which Butler was one of the judges.

Out of 400 startups that applied, only 60 were selected as finalists to participate in the event. Participants were sorted into the following categories (10 each):

  • New Proteins
  • Enhancing Well-being via Nutrition
  • Food Transparency, Safety & Security
  • Fighting the Food Waste Battle
  • Digital from Farm to Fork
  • Regenerative Agriculture

After pitching to the judges, one startup was selected from each group to compete in the finals. 

This year’s winner, or Ultimate Challenger, was Koolboks, a company that focused on making refrigeration affordable and accessible. Their product’s superior insulation and innovative ice battery technology provide reliable long-term storage as both a refrigerator and freezer for those who would otherwise be without.

In addition to her role as judge, Butler was a panelist in the discussion “Consumer Acceptance and Price Dynamics in the Alternative Protein Market.”

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Along with fellow panelist Gabriela Alcat de Lima, Project Manager, Spanish Food and Drink Federation (FIAB), they discussed the role that price dynamics play in a consumer’s willingness to adopt novel products in the alternative protein space.

Speaking on the panel, Butler says, “I believe that there was consensus with us and the audience that price absolutely has to be a consideration from the start. It’s inextricably linked with everything else. Especially in our current climate.”

She continues, “My personal takeaway is that not everyone thinks that way. However, whether you’re talking about how innovative a product is, how nutritious it is, or how great it tastes, none of these exist in a vacuum. Price also has to be part of that equation. In fact, if you can’t check all of these boxes, you have to ask yourself if the product has long-term viability.”

Another takeaway from the talk Butler felt could be applied to the conference as a whole was the need to understand that each company comes from a different starting point.

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“It’s not just whether we’re talking about a CPG or a startup; it’s recognizing that the point of origin can dictate the solution, but it can also silo you off from the larger market.”

Digging deeper, she explains, “Each market has compounding factors that can determine the trajectory of product or innovation. Still, when it comes to scaling or expanding, one needs to understand the competition and the markets beyond their own. Otherwise, you could end up watching something promising fall flat, and never reach consumers the way it could have.”

Butler sees this holistic and sometimes global understanding of market needs as carrying over to other critical areas of attention from the conference, including hybrid animal/plant-based products, sustainability and circularity in food systems, food as medicine, and transparency across the industry.

“It’s clear we need innovation in all these areas to get us to where we want to go. Yet, innovation itself isn’t enough if it doesn’t translate to consumers in a way that resonates, and it’s not just them. One thing that impressed me about this event was the stress on collaboration and synergy. Addressing the issues facing us here and now and those on the horizon will only happen if we do it collectively. Conferences like this one show we are taking a step forward in the right direction.”

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Find out how to partner with Edlong on your next innovation, and get started today! 

Click here to learn more about this event and its sponsors

About Edlong Flavor Solutions
Edlong has the world’s largest portfolio of authentic dairy and dairy-free flavors that improve classic taste profiles for Cheese, Butter, Sweet Dairy, Cream, and Milk. Working closely with our customers, Edlong can apply the right building blocks to create tastes that uniquely differentiate a brand. At Edlong, we believe the taste of dairy can be innovative, inspiring, a sales booster, and even a game changer. That is why Edlong believes in Everything Dairy Can Be. 

Contact us or visit edlong.com.


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