Ahead of Future Food-Tech in San Francisco, we spoke to Scott May, Head of MISTA at Givaudan and asked him to share his insights on the critical question, what does the Future of Food look like and the importance of innovation – creation in action at MISTA.

It’s 1989. You’re sitting in a movie theater with friends, indulging in an overly large bucket of popcorn smothered in buttery goodness. The movie is “Back to the Future” and is filled with a plethora of future food innovations – everything from dehydrated pizza, to soda enriched with vitamins, to kitchen-grown fruits and vegetables. You turn to your friends, laugh and say, “that will never be possible.”

Now fast forward to present day. We may not have dehydrated pizza, but vitamin-enriched drinks are here and everyone from the urban hipster to the suburban yuppie is growing fruits and vegetables inside their homes. And while the movie’s plot had little to do with the future of food, it at least got us thinking about what that future may look like. And now, more than ever, it is imperative that we not only think about the Future of Food, that we create it.

Why is creating the Future of Food so important? To put it simply – the times, they are a changin’. The pace and magnitude of disruption within the food and beverage industry is at unprecedented levels. And while this rapid revolution brings with it challenges for food manufacturers and brands, it also brings with it opportunities. An opportunity to innovate. An opportunity to solve today’s toughest food system challenges. An opportunity to create the Future of Food.

What does the Future of Food look like?
Today’s food systems are so complex, and the challenges so large, that no single company can address them alone. The disparity between large and small companies has never been greater. Smaller companies are nimble and able to bring disruptive ideas to market, but they struggle to scale. On the other hand, the larger companies have significant assets and the know-how to scale, but because their focus is typically concentrated on optimizing “the known,” they lack the ability to be nimble enough to address new opportunities and conditions.

That is why the Future of Food shouldn’t be about the food and technology alone. It should also be focused on the entire ecosystem. This is the problem that Givaudan is addressing with the creation of MISTA, a platform designed to do just that.

At MISTA, we are creating the future of food by minimizing the large gap that currently stands in the way of great ideas not only coming to market, but disrupting the entire industry. To do this, we are leveraging the entire ecosystem of small and large companies – connecting CPG, Ingredients, Food Technology, Bio Technology and Ag Technology together. From start-up to industry titans, from private to public sectors, MISTA has created a hyper-connected platform to deliver solutions that address the health and wellness of both people and the planet. The result is sustainable impact and value for customers and business alike.

How does MISTA’s hyper-connected ecosystem work?
Every ecosystem must be cultivated and nurtured to build a solid foundation. That is why we started with a group of founding members – Givaudan, Danone, Mars Inc. and Ingredion – that span across the value chain of the food system. From there, we then started building out our ecosystem with a host of strategic partners. From partners with strengths in strategy, innovation and leadership, to those providing funding, to those executing product services such as NPD and manufacturing.

The final layer of the ecosystem is our start-up members. When reviewing start-ups who are interested in becoming members, MISTA is looking for those who want to disrupt the food system as we know it – whether that means they are still in the idea phase, or already have a product ready to go to market. Depending on the goals and needs, we will provide strategic direction, as well as facilitate and help establish relationships within and throughout our ecosystem. This includes support in areas such as product development, supply chain, technology applications, co-manufacturing, market research, marketing strategy and execution, organizational behavior, sales and distribution, and identifying sources of capital.

Innovation at our core
At MISTA, innovation means creation in action. These actions are focused on delivering solutions that accelerate speed to market and help organizations learn how to innovate. One way our members learn this is by bringing their innovation challenges in front of our partners and other members to explore, test and commercialize or scale solutions.

Not only do we teach how to innovate, but we also we bring process and structure to innovation. We do this by leveraging proven innovation models to identify conditions and opportunities. We then combine that with regenerative innovation practices to drive new ways of thinking in organizations.

Finally, we tap the collective wisdom of our experienced partners and members who bring the skills, capabilities, mindset and a strong desire to explore the unknown, unlocking potential for both our members and partners, and leading to a new future of food.

Is MISTA just another incubator?
At MISTA, we don’t see ourselves as just another incubator or accelerator. Instead, we view the company as an optimizer – a platform designed to optimize ideas, products, people and investments. We are a membership-based platform that focuses on a reciprocal ecosystem. Large companies helping start-ups. Start-ups helping large companies. All with the intent of disrupting the industry by bridging the gap that exists in the current food system structure. There is no regimented program. There is no financial stake. Our vision is simply to create the future of food … and working together with our partners, that is exactly what we intend to do.

Want to learn more?
Scott May is the VP of Innovation at Givaudan and Head of MISTA. Scott will be speaking on the panel Accelerating Innovation: Are we Reacting Quickly Enough and Collaborating at a Rate that can Truly Transform the Industry? at Future Food-Tech, March 21. Come find him after the discussion or connect with him on Linkedin. You can also learn more about what MISTA is doing, and who is involved by going to mistafood.com.