Kraft Heinz launches incubator program for on-trend new brands

Kraft Heinz has joined Big Food’s hunt for innovative, disruptive brands it can foster and has launched Springboard, an incubator program. Among its first five chosen candidates is one with a marked South African interest… biltong, nogal!

The idea of Springboard, it says, is to nurture, scale, and accelerate growth of disruptive brands. The program has been created to help nurture and develop the next generation of food & beverage brands, nurturing and being close to entrepreneurs, new ideas and consumer trends.

“Hundreds of applications were carefully reviewed to select authentic propositions and inspired founders within one of the four pillars shaping the future of food: Natural & Organic, Specialty & Craft, Health & Performance, and Experiential brands,” says Sergio Eleuterio, GM, Springboard Brands.

“We are excited to kick off our program with a group of great founders, amazing and purposeful products, that we wholeheartedly believe will succeed in the marketplace.”

Over the course of 16 weeks, the selected startups will participate in a dynamic program composed of learning, funding, infrastructure access and mentorship in Chicago.

Here are the candidates, with Kraft Heinz descriptors:

Ayoba-Yo (pictured above) introduces a high quality, nutritious, and delicious alternative to traditional beef jerky and meat sticks, known as Biltong & Droewors.

Founders and South-African native brothers, Wian and Emile van Blommestein, introduced their 400-year-old family recipe to the market in 2017.

Their 14-day air-drying process, combined with high quality meat cuts and spices deliver incredibly tender, savoury, and sugar-free products with no shortage of flavour. [Ayoba-Yo is a term used to express amazement, excitement, and approval.]

Cleveland Kraut is perfectly positioned to grow within the fermented foods market. A bold brand, grounded in and proud of its Cleveland heritage, dedicated to serving the great tasting healthy fermented foods at a fair price.

The team is led by Drew Anderson who, along with his brother Mac and brother-in-law Luke, aim to be the kings of fermented foods by expanding from their kraut roots.

Kumana, best known for its signature Venezuelan-inspired Avocado Sauce, is a Los Angeles-based company creating original sauces representing the diverse and delicious flavours from different regions of the worlds.

Venezuelan native, Francisco Pavan, and his partner Todd Vine channeled their passion for pure discovery into the core values of this brand.

Poppilu, a Chicago-based antioxidant lemonade brand, gives consumers permission to love lemonade again.

Melanie Kahn, Poppilu’s founder, has developed a truly irresistible, mouth puckering, high-antioxidant citrus refreshment.

It features Midwest-grown aronia berries, one of the highest antioxidant fruits in the world, and is one of the many reasons this brand will soar.

Quevos, believes the days of sinful snacking are over– it’s time to munch on snacks made from real food that taste great and are even greater for you.

Quevos are salty and crunchy egg-white chips, that are low in carbs and fat, and packed with protein. The disruptive brand was founded by young, ambitious University of Chicago students, Nick Hamburger and Zach Schreier. insights:

With sales across the food industry struggling, large CPG companies are looking for ways to boost growth and make their product lines more in tune with changing consumer tastes and consumption patterns.

One of the most popular in recent months is the incubator, with Kellogg, Campbell Soup, Nestle and Conagra Brands having undertaken similar initiatives.

In looking at the companies Kraft Heinz is working with in its first Springboard class, it’s evident that it is looking for fledgling brands that are convenient, flavourful or healthy. 

Quevos egg-white chips, for example, are a snack that can be consumed on the go and have eggs whites that are cholesterol-free, fat-free, and low in calories.

And Kumana, best known for its signature Venezuelan-inspired avocado sauce, is creating original sauces representing diverse flavors from different regions of the world. Spicy flavours do well in the US, and many shoppers are exploring beyond basic hot sauces as food makers highlight more authentic, ethnic flavours.

While consumers are trying to eat healthier, they are reluctant to give up taste in many of their favourite foods, increasing the market place for flavours, especially those that are new or unique.

Kraft Heinz’s decision to work with these five specific companies is an example of the strategy that Big Food needs to consider when creating these incubator programs and working to improve their long-term outlook..

While Kraft Heinz and other companies should be on the lookout for businesses and foods they are familiar with, they have been slow to innovate on their own to better align their operations with changing consumer tastes and opinions.

These companies should help Kraft Heinz learn more about trends and products that are outside their comfort zone, providing them with knowledge they can incorporate internally.

It’s also a low-risk investment. If the startup fails, Kraft Heinz loses some time and money but could gain valuable insight into a niche they didn’t know much about. And for those companies that succeed from the partnership, it would give them that same knowledge base but access to a brand they can build on — and potentially acquire in the future.

One thing is clear though, these smaller companies are not likely to be the answer in improving Kraft Heinz’s long-term fortunes.

It’s probably going to be one pathway, along with M&A and internal innovation, that will help better position them for the future.

Source: Kraft Heinz,