Mondelēz’s CoLab Tech accelerator seeks startups with ‘cutting edge technologies of the future’ focused on personalized nutrition, sustainability

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Mondelez
Source: Mondelez

Related tags Mondelez International

Mondelēz International wants to team with early-stage startups through its CoLab Tech program to develop “groundbreaking” technology that can accelerate its Vision 2030 Growth strategy and meet consumer demand for personalized nutrition and products that are sustainably produced and packaged.

Applications opened yesterday for the second year of the accelerator program, which is led by Mondelēz’s global R&D team and offers participants “full access to our deep technical innovation expertise and global ecosystem of partners” through an eight-week program that includes virtual sessions, one-on-one mentorship and the potential for proof-of-concept testing, Ian Noble, VP of R&D at Mondelēz International, told FoodNavigator-USA.

This year’s CoLab Tech priorities include more sustainable packaging materials that are recyclable, high performing, flexible and can support premium products; ingredients that are “clean” and “free from” and which support sugar and calorie reduction, are plant-based, offer “functional actives” and “elevated sensorial experiences” in Mondelēz’s core categories of chocolate, biscuits and baked snacks; and technologies that can produce products more sustainably, including ingredient mixing and forming technology that is “water and energy optimized,” more efficient heating processes, novel bio-gas generation and supply solutions that can help with “efficient selective concentration and recovery of compounds.”

Consumers want healthier, more sustainable snacks

These priorities reflect emerging consumer demands revealed in Mondelēz’s 5th​ State of Snacking report​ released earlier this year, Noble said.

“In this year’s State of Snacking report, it became clear that snacking continues to grow as the predominant eating occasion around the world. It also tells us consumers are making more conscious choices as it relates to sustainability, nutrition and their food – so we need to make those options more readily available to them via the snacks they already know and love – as well as developing new snacks for them,” he explained.

According to the State of Snacking report, 63% of consumers look for snacks that “minimize their environmental impact with actions such as carbon offsets” and by prioritizing local ingredients and optimizing supply chains for sustainability. An additional 67% said they prioritize snacks with less plastic packaging, and 66% said they believe plant-based snacks are better for the future of the planet.

Likewise, the report found consumers increasingly are interested in healthier options and portion control, including 67% who said they want portion control – a five percentage point increase from last year.

Even as sustainability and nutrition gain importance for consumers, most Americans still select snacks based on taste and experience. According to the report, 81% of US consumers prioritize novel flavors and textures when choosing a snack and 59% of global consumers consider themselves “snack adventurers.”

Armed with these insights, Noble said Mondelēz is “looking to disruptively accelerate our growing innovation capabilities in these focus areas to lead the future of snacking.”

What can participants expect from the CoLab Tech program?

Participants in the eight-week CoLab Tech program can expect tailored education sessions with Mondelēz’s internal innovation subject matter experts and external partners, which will allow them “more information and understanding from manufacturing and science to marketing and storytelling,” said Noble.

Mondelēz also will help participants build their networks, he said.

“One of the biggest outcomes of the program is relationship building. Whether we work with a company directly or help them build connections and relationships that can take them to the next level it is very important to us that participants complete the syllabus with opportunities to grow their business,” he added.

This year’s program will build on the success of last year’s cohort, which included nine companies, all of which Noble said, “had such a positive experience.”

He noted that Mondelēz is “always challenging ourselves to do better and so one learning we identified [from last year’s cohort] is creating the potential for companies to do proof of concept testing in our labs, and so we are building that possibility this year.”

In addition, this year’s program is open to companies from more regions of the world.

“After having after a successful first Colab Tech where we focused on Europe and North America, we're taking the program global," Noble said.

The basics: Who qualifies and how to apply

Participants must have at least five employees and a minimal viable product in their development process, according to Mondelēz. The company also will consider startups with diverse and minority board members “a plus for selection.”

Up to 10 companies will be selected to participate.

For more information and to apply visit Snack Futures Ventures​.

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