Agile start-ups and challenger brands have disrupted the food sector through their short NPD pipelines and close consumer relationships. Many an ambitious food entrepreneur launched businesses with an eye to becoming the next unicorn and investment in the years running up to the coronavirus crisis was relatively free flowing. But even before the world went into lockdown some cracks were starting to show.
Investors were reporting that returns were not all they hoped and profitability was a challenge for smaller brands who were unable to leverage scale. ‘Big food’ also responded in kind, shortening innovation pipelines and localising innovation processes. The economic consequences of COVID-19 are already weighing heavily on F&B SMEs, who have seen their cashflow hit as retailers rationalise SKUs and out-of-home channels go from hero to zero. What does the future look like for start-up brands? What criteria are investors still active in the space looking for? And how can they thrive in a post-COVID world?