Nine of the world’s largest food industry players, including Danone SA (DANOY), General Mills Inc. (GIS), Campbell Soup Co. (CPB) and Kellogg Co.(K), have launched venture capital arms over past 18 months, according to a recent Reuters’ sector analysis.

Looking for VC Magic

The goal of the industry players’ investment strategy is to buy into and learn from startup innovation, tapping into new consumer trends that big names can’t seem to crack. At the same time that M​illennials​ seek local, natural and organic produce over the center-aisle brands of their childhoods, food and beverage companies have spent significantly less on research and development (R&D) than their counterparts across sectors. As a result, sales have taken a bite out of share prices and resulted in weak earnings reports as traditional packaged food players struggle to meet a rapidly evolving demand profile. (See also: Major Trends Disrupting the Food Industry.)

While some of the major players have tried to revive demand for their signature products through buzzworthy campaigns and weird collaborations, many have decided that the best way to muster the creative power to reach their new market externally through the startup space.

“It’s difficult for companies to have the persistence and to replicate the energy and the passion that these early-stage entrepreneurs have,” said the head of General Mills’ VC arm, 301 Inc.

Challenger Brands Steal Market Share

Researchers at Bernstein say small “challenger” brands could comprise 15% of a $464 billion U.S. packaged food market compared to just 5% now, pointing to upstart brands such as Chobani‌‌, which has grabbed more than half of General Mills’ market share in yogurt.

As a result of heightened competition, unlikely food and beverage players such as America’s largest poultry processor, Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN), have experimented outside of their comfort zones. The Springdale, Ark.-based meat giant launched its own VC arm in order to invest directly into meatless food startups, while also pledging to try out new alternatives to antibiotic use.

Major food players have started to look at venture capital as an extension of their R&D departments, as well as a less risky option to M&A deals. (See also: World’s Largest Food and Beverage Players 2017: Nestle, Pepsi, Coke Topple Peers.)

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