In an attempt to stay ahead of the trends, many large strategics, such as General Mills and Campbell, are building out venture capital arms to hunt down and invest in enterprising, adventurous food and beverage startups. While some of the benefits are financial, the arrangements also allows older brands to have a seat with the hip kids of the category.
In March, beloved cracker brand Triscuit decided to take a different approach, reaching into the crowdfunding world to create the Triscuit Maker Fund in partnership with crowd funding site Indiegogo. The fund then “flash funded” 55 food makers’ Indiegogo campaigns, spreading a total of $250,000 across their campaigns.
The program was an expansion of a 2015 exercise in which the company, funded five artisanal food businesses that made “real food” based products that paired well with Triscuits. Some of the 2016 companies that received funding included X.O.I. Gac Fruit Beverages, Five Point Coffee Roasters, Southern Heritage Jerky, and PB & Jams.
This year’s funding went to makers of artisanal food, culinary-based small businesses (such as food trucks), or small scale farmers. Within that broad space, Julia Nathan, Brand Manager for Triscuit, tells NOSH that “the successful food campaigns on Indiegogo are the ones that have a product that resonates with an audience because it solves a need and fills a white space.”
Triscuit turned to crowdfunding because it allows them to fund companies that are earlier in the development process, a group that sometimes is overlooked and struggles to raise capital. “[Triscuit] itself was launched in 1902 by an enterprising small business owner,” Nathan says.. “So we recognize and admire the kind of hard work that goes into making more from something simple.”
The relationship also establishes Triscuit as a contributing member of the food community during a time in which older brands are sometimes viewed as stodgy and out of touch. Brands that succeed on crowdfunding platforms are skilled storytellers, exactly what a brand would want as an advocate.
Nathan says that the relationship won’t end with just the funding. Triscuit will “follow the funded campaigns closely” and “tell their stories of transformation.” A formal business relationship was not discussed.
“These smaller markers are so passionate,” Nathan says. “As a larger company, we can learn from that by continually challenging ourselves to channel the passion behind our brands into driving forces in the category.”