Three interesting concepts for plant-based products, new millennial consumer insights and lots of inspiration are the outcomes of a two-month collaboration project between Swiss-based M-Industry and a multidisciplinary team of Wageningen Masters students. M-Industry has integrated the input into their strategic analysis and is establishing a follow-up project.
M-Industry, part of the Migros Group – Switzerland’s largest food retailer – produces over 20,000 high-quality food and non-food products, making it one of the largest own-brand producers in the world. “We are currently expanding our plant-based portfolio and have joined Foodvalley to accelerate our innovation efforts”, says Innovation Program Manager Stefania Bellaio.
Academic Consultancy Training
It was via the Foodvalley Update newsletter that Bellaio and her colleagues learnt about the possibility of a collaboration with students from Wageningen University. “Most Masters students in Wageningen follow an Academic Consultancy Training, in which they work together in a project with students from different backgrounds and nationalities,” she explains. “Industry partners can submit a project, and students who are interested can show their interest. The university then puts together a team.”
Foodvalley NL facilitated the contact with Migros and Wageningen University, and helped increase the company’s brand awareness in and around Wageningen.
Next generation of plant-based products
‘Develop a next generation of plant-based products, come up with innovative concepts, suitable ingredients and processing technologies, and provide an outline for a communication and marketing strategy’ was the company’s request to the 7-person student team. The students, with skills covering nutrition and health, food technology, and communication & innovation, had two months to do their research, compile a report and present their findings.
They impressed Bellaio and her colleagues with their end findings and their academic knowledge and professionalism. “The students presented three very interesting product concepts, substantiated by solid scientific insights and statistical analyses, and gave us a better understanding of the motivation and behavior of the millennial and “Z” generation –important target groups for us”, she illustrates. “They were also very innovative in how they collected consumer information. For example, they organized a survey, via Facebook, and announced it via different social media. They also held interviews with local restaurants to gain a better understanding of the specific market and consumers preferences when it comes to plant-based ingredients.”
M-Industry has integrated the students’ input into their strategic business analysis. “Their work has also inspired us to initiate new initiatives targeted at their generation Z,” says Bellaio.
For the Innovation Program Manager, the Foodvalley membership has already proven its value. “Foodvalley has been the catalyst for this student project as well as connecting us with interesting start-ups, within and beyond the field of plant-based proteins”, she says.
The new academic year will see, for certain, another ACT project provided by M-Industry. “We are looking forward to yet another new perspective.” Bellaio advises other Foodvalley members to follow their example. “Get involved, give the students the freedom to come up with their ideas and discover what will happen.”