Dinsh Guzdar is the Director of Rich’s Corporate Venture Fund, and the President of f’real Foods (a wholly owned subsidiary of Rich Products)

Firstly, let’s get to know you. What does the Rich’s business ecosystem look like?

Rich’s, also known as Rich Products Corporation, is a family-owned food company that takes great pride in our innovations and solutions that foster customers’ growth around the globe. Our portfolio includes creative solutions geared at helping food industry professionals compete in three marketplaces: foodservice, retail and in-store bakery and deli.  From cakes and icings to pizza, appetizers and specialty toppings, our products are used in kitchens and in bakeries across more than 100 countries. Beyond great food, our customers also gain insights to help them stay competitive, no matter their size. Rich’s delivers annual sales exceeding $3.7 billion and has over 10,000 associates.

You’re speaking on the panel discussing: ‘Corporate Venturing: Investment Strategies to Scale Future Food Innovation’. Tell us more about Rich’s Corporate Venture Fund. What makes you different from a consumer-facing Brand Corporate Venture?

I formed Rich’s Corporate Venture Group in 2017, and was joined by Sarah Williams as Director. We are a $100 million dollar venture fund focused on investing in early stage food companies.  Our approach is different from other branded CPG funds in that we have significant expertise in the B2B food segment which encompasses Food Service and the In Store Bakery segment of traditional supermarkets.  We want to work with companies and brands that have an interest in driving growth in these channels both domestically and globally. As a private family owned company, we also have the ability to be flexible on our deal structure, move quickly and we bring the same long-term perspective to our portfolio companies as we do to our overall business.

What are the main challenges facing investors in food innovation technologies?

Investing in food is very different than investing in technology companies. The growth curve in food is slower, the requirements on food safety are more stringent and the ability to scale eventually will require significant capital investment.

How does Rich’s address those challenges?

Being a privately held business enables Rich’s to take a long-term approach to our investments. Our interests are in helping these business grow quickly while being smart about how growth is achieved. We also look to make sure that the lead investors on any deal share our mindset on how to build lasting strong food companies.

What are the main drivers of tech innovation in the food manufacturing sector? What emerging trends/areas of innovation are you focused on right now?

We are focused on 4 main areas:

Health and authenticity: That really is about delivering what today’s consumer wants in food… transparency, real ingredients and a true story on the brand and the purpose of the company.

Plant based products: Rich Products Corporation was founded in 1945 by developing the first soy based dairy free products. This product line was what enabled Rich’s to move into retail, bakeries and food service. We are interested in plant based products that deliver on authenticity and have functional benefits.

The intersection of food and equipment/technology: We are interested in companies that make it easier to deliver quality food to consumers through automation. f’real foods is a great example of this where we enable retailers and food service operators to deliver real freshly blended milkshakes and smoothies with limited labor required.

New Business Models: We are interested in companies that leverage technology and data to enable new business creation through direct to consumer food delivery services and business to business food systems, such as food service etc.

What’s next? 

We’re excited about connecting with the above profile of companies and technologies at Future Food-Tech, and seeing what’s coming up next for the industry!

Find out more about Rich’s at Richs.com or join their conversation on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.

Rich’s are Gold Partners for the Future Food-Tech summit in San Francisco (March 22-23). See Dinsh speak in the panel session on Corporate Venturing: Investment Strategies to Scale Future Food Innovation at 9.15am on March 23 (Day Two).