March 26, 2018

Branchfood Presents: The Future of Food Products Event Recap

On March 22, Branchfood held their second event in a four-panel series at CIC Boston. The subject of the panel was the future of food products, featuring a three-person panel moderated by Boston Globe Reporter Janelle Nanos.

The panel consisted of:

  • Marty Kolewe, Director of R&D at Incredible Foods and perfectlyFree (makers of allergy-friendly foods)

  • Risa Sherman, Philanthropy, Social Impact and Cause Marketing at The Boston Beer Company (makers of Samuel Adams and other products)

  • Adam Melonas, Founder & CEO at Chew LLC (a food innovation lab) and Nursery (a food and beverage product incubator)

They discussed various aspects of the packaged goods industry, especially as it exists in Boston. They discussed trends in food product innovation, as well as marketing and development.

Leading up to (and following) the discussion panel, a number of cool vendors were showing off their products to panel attendees. They included companies like Waku, Relativity Whiskey, Bohana, Rootastes, and Vicuña Chocolate.

During the discussion, the panelists touched on all kinds of topics, like the power of ingredients, the importance of brand, and the future of retail (which included a lot of interesting points on Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods). One of my favorite anecdotes came from Melonas, who was discussing how the rate of change among consumers has “never been so fast.” How, as he explained, a story will drop in newspapers around the country, and suddenly, “no one is eating kale or whatever it is.”

He described a focus test he was doing one day when one participant “derailed the entire room” because the very last ingredient in the product was organic, expeller-pressed canola oil. She refused to eat the product because the very last ingredient had canola oil, which she claimed disrupts one’s hormonal pathways.

“There was nothing about how much you would have to consume in a magnitude of leaders or the fact that it was the very last ingredient—I think it was 1% of the overall formula,” Melonas said.

Another one of my favorite parts came right after, when Nanos posed a question about the power of brands in the face of a company like Brandless, which bases its whole business model on having high-quality foods without the extra costs associated with name brand products.

“In a sense, that is the brand, if it’s the store brand, or it’s Brandless,” said Kolewe. “I think there is some truth to [the power of companies like Brandless], but I think it depends on who you look at. Are you looking at the niche markets, the food tribes, or are you looking at the average consumer? Because Oreos are still selling well. There are these things changing on the outside but, looking at the fringe versus the mainstream, I think there are a lot of truths that are still constant in the mainstream. Brands are here to stay.”

If you’re interested, the next panel in the series is "The Future of Nutrition" on April 26th. You can learn more here.

Alexander Culafi is a Staff Writer for VentureFizz. You can follow him on Twitter @culafia

Image provided by Branchfood.