Following a tender procedure with the Israel Innovation Authority, Frutarom was selected to operate the new government-backed innovation lab, based in the north of Israel, for a period of three years.
"The innovation labs program launched recently by the Israel Innovation Authority enables seasoned and experienced corporations such as Frutarom to provide start-ups with the required platform to grow and establish their businesses with the right global market focus," said Anya Eldan, VP of the start-up division at the Israel Innovation Authority.
"Such a program enables the promotion of innovative ideas and technologies as part of a growing food related ecosystem in Israel."
Frutarom issued an invitation to Israeli food-tech and ingredients companies to join it for "mutually beneficial" collaborations. Frutarom added it is seeking food, nutraceutical and functional ingredient start-ups with a "strong passion" for health and innovation and a "clear mission" to improve food and wellness.
Start-ups chosen to join FoodNxt by Frutarom will be granted up to 85% of their approved R&D expenses, up to NIS1 million, with the aim of reaching proof of concept.
The innovation lab will be led by Gali Artzi, Frutarom innovation director. The FoodNxt team wil help selected startups formulate their products to meet all international regulations, develop patent strategy, build business plans and test the market. FoodNxt offers access to Frutarom’s portfolio for developing and testing on modular platforms, and connects Israeli innovation with the food and health ingredient markets.
Unlocking growth through collaboration
Addressing the ReThinking Food conference in March, Ilanit Bar Zeev, vice president of Frutarom Natural Solutions, said that working with the food industry to deliver natural, sustainable innovation was a core plank of Frutarom's four-fold growth strategy.
"We have four vehicles on our journey. One is our internal resources... We are great believers in collaborations of any kind... M&A is one of our biggest growth engines, not just bringing sales and customers but also expertise. Last but not least, is our food tech lab, a platform that connects industry on a global basis and Israeli food tech," she told her audience in Tel Aviv.
Speaking to FoodNavigator on the sidelines of the event, Zeev said Frutarom is building on projects to develop connections with smaller companies. According to data provided by the company, more than 80 food tech start ups are based in Israel with a "double digit" growth rate expected by 2020. "We see so much innovation and fresh thinking," the Frutarom executive explained.
The journey from synthetic to natural
Frutarom wants to leverage this potential as it continues to seek out natural ingredient solutions.
"We are producing clean, healthier alternatives – but we must also be responsible by providing accessible, affordable and sustainable solutions," Zeev explained.
To achieve this, the company is looking beyond its own operations to long-term planning in the broader supply chain. In order to manage supply and demand, for instance, the group has to work in advance with its farmer suppliers.
Collaboration initiatives can also bring productivity benefits, Zeev noted. By using the "right seeds" and altering harvesting and production methods Frutarom is increasing the extraction of the yellow colour from annatto seeds from 2.5% to 5%, she suggested.
"Bringing innovation and science to the value chain in the agricultural sector... we are able to increase our yield by [as much as] four times," she commented.
A history of cooperation
Yoni Glickman, president of Frutarom Natural Solutions, confirmed that the collaboration drive builds on previous work with start-ups and other industry players.
“In the past few years, we have collaborated with innovative startups and companies to identify novel ingredients and technologies," he said.
Detailing successful collaboration efforts, Glickman pointed to the development of Frutarom's ‘NutraT’ line of ready-to-use soluble powder formulas and its 'Frutaceuticals' nutraceutical range, incorporating the functional botanicals into real fruit pieces, developed with Taura URC Technology.
"Innovation is one of our key drivers to success in making better-for-you products based on our expertise in taste and health," he concluded.