MassChallenge’s Sustainable Food Solutions Challenge identifies later-stage startups or scaleups and matches them with a MassChallenge partner to accelerate innovation in the food sector. Startups work directly with key stakeholders within a global food corporate where they get access to co-development opportunities, product validation, customer connections, strategic investments, or advisor introductions.
As part of 2021 program, the startup PlantJammer teamed with the plant-based sweetener solutions company Südzucker to quickly integrate a new digital tool into Südzucker’s web presence that allows consumer and website visitors to decrease their food waste by providing a variety of recipes to use based on the ingredients they have.
PlantJammer is a dynamic app that allows users to input food ingredients (rice, bell peppers, avocado, etc.) to produce different recipes and meals that could be made with them. The goal is to decrease food waste by providing users creative food preparation options without them having to pour over cookbooks or do web searches.
PlantJammer’s team saw opportunities to grow at scale by expanding their app to a B2B customer base, however they also knew that there was a level of risk involved in this without knowing for sure if they could obtain the right customers and support around the expansion. This is where they saw significant advantages with MassChallenge program.
“Expanding to a B2B market was something we did have in our product roadmap,” said Michael Hasse, CEO and Founder of PlantJammer. “We knew that we had a product we believed in and one that could make a real impact in fighting food waste, but in order achieve that impact, we’d need to get the product in front many more millions of people than we could as a downloadable app.”
For PlantJammer, the idea behind expanding to a B2B2C market was to allow big brands to provide the PlantJammer app to their audiences, giving them a personalized tool to help them minimize their food waste and have an enjoyable experience finding new recipes.
“However, we like to move fast and we wanted to do this fast, but we knew that we couldn’t be sure that businesses wanted this product,” said Hasse. “We didn’t want to spend a lot of time, budget, and effort without knowing we’d have a customer market. MassChallenge alleviated a lot of the risk in our development.”
Südzucker is a leading provider of plant-based sweetening solutions. One of the company’s biggest priorities is advancing towards food sustainability and biodiversity supporting measures. Südzucker joined MassChallenge as a partner in 2018 with three goals in mind: believe Florian has a better definitions here
- Maintain an eye on cutting edge technologies and collaborating with innovative startups
- Drive creative support for the development and implementation of meaning sustainability initiatives
- Inspire their teams and employees with bold ideas and approaches while creating true customer value
With the Sustainable Food Solutions Challenge, Südzucker had an opportunity to achieve all three.
The partnership began after the Sustainable Food Solutions Pitch Day. From Südzucker’s team, Van Aelst and Marketing Manager Anna Pietraszek, saw strong potential with PlantJammer. They quickly teamed up and began work on a SaaS relationship where PlantJammer found their sought after B2B customer, and Südzucker got a dynamic tool that aligned with their brand’s mission in driving sustainability efforts. It also gave them a new path to both customer engagement and customer learning.
Led by Pietraszek, Südzucker launched a marketing campaign around their new branded app. Südzucker drove traffic through their social media channels to a dedicated landing page and featured the app on their website, providing their large customer base a new opportunity to engage with their brand and discover new ways to use stray or abundant ingredients either from their garden or grocery store.
Südzucker also used the app for segmentation and targeted seasons, like jam season for instance, where their audience can explore new ways to preserve fruits. However, Pietraszek thinks they are just getting started with possibilities created with PlantJammer. “We still have a lot to learn and many more ways to optimize the technology,” said Pietraszek. “For example, expanding the app to extend the consumer journey and allow users to easily share produced recipes on social media, helping to promote ways to mitigate food waste.”
“The ability to work and move as quickly as a startup does is one of the greatest components of working with MassChallenge,” said Van Aelst. “Our goals with PlantJammer was to test new methods and tools and see what we can learn from the tests and how we can improve on them. We didn’t want to wait until something was a perfect innovation, we wanted to be involved with the innovating ourselves. For me, the magic of working with MassChallenge is how it changes your approaches, leading your team to discover new ideas.”
For both PlantJammer and Südzucker, they are seeing a tremendous path to new data and UX learnings.
“For the app, we’re seeing net promoter score above 70, which is tremendous in the tech space, double of what is typical,” said Hasse. “This is a big metric for us to make sure we’re building a product that gets people excited. We want to provide strong value in the long term. As people are engaging with the app, they’re emptying their fridge, using what they have and fighting food waste.”
Another data point that is being captured is the data density of a session, which is basically how many times a user substitutes ingredients or picks new ones. This can help reveal customer preferences, which can also have a huge impact on the production side of big food brands. “35% of food products that are put on the supermarket aisle are taken off within 18 months,” said Hasse. “With more sophisticated data, new product formulations can have a higher likelihood of success, which decreases costs for the company, but also decreases food waste in production.”
A longer-view metric that both organizations are striving for is integrating sustainability into a businesses brand and operations. “Sustainability is not always easy to be priority for a business,” said Van Aelst. “But when you start to position into the customer experience and into the brand, that’s where it can become a true commitment, and how we work with PlantJammer is one example of how to start doing this.”
At Plant Jammer, our vision is to fight climate change by stopping food waste and by empowering people to cook more plant-based food. How? Through artificial intelligence and machine learning, we unleash peoples’ creativity in the kitchen. Using the Plant Jammer technology, people learn to love cooking and discover food pairs they never imagined existed. We are a team of food- and data scientists, and we strive to be world leaders in combining data science and gastronomy. The existing food chain is inefficient, unsustainable, and too focused on “convenience at all costs”. Building a new, sustainable food chain centered around reducing food waste, increasing plant-based cooking, and self-empowerment is the driving force behind our work. Visit our website to learn more about how we leverage this technology: https://www.plantjammer.com/
About Südzucker Group
Südzucker is a major player in the food industry with its sugar, special products, starch and fruit segments, and Europe’s leading ethanol producer with its CropEnergies segment. In the traditional sugar business, the group is Europe’s number one supplier of sugar products, with 23 sugar factories and two refineries, extending from France in the west via Belgium, Germany and Austria, through to Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bosnia, and Moldova in the east. The special products segment, with its consumer-oriented functional ingredients for food and animal feed (BENEO), chilled/frozen products (Freiberger) and portion packs (PortionPack Europe), operates in dynamic growth markets. Südzucker’s CropEnergies segment is Europe’s leading producer of renewable ethanol, with production sites in Germany, Belgium, France and Great Britain. Other products in this segment are protein food and animal feed products as well as biogenic carbon dioxide. The new starch segment comprises AGRANA’s starch and ethanol activities. The group’s fruit segment operates globally, is the world market leader for fruit preparations and is a leading supplier of fruit juice concentrates in Europe. In 2020/21, the group employed about 17,900 persons and generated revenues of EUR 6.7 billion.