Barilla launches global food startups accelerator as Uncle Nearest invests in minority-owned spirit brands

ITALY — World’s largest pasta producer Barilla through its venture group BLU1877 has partnered with KitchenTown, a San Francisco-based incubator launch the fourth Good Food Makers global accelerator for food startups.

According to a statement from the leading past producer, startups seeking to join the accelerator program will be required to have solutions for four specific challenges affecting food production today.

The challenges include promoting a circular economy, improving food delivery, developing digital nutrition guides and creating easy meal routines.

The circular economy challenge focuses on solutions to upcycle three specific side streams: pasta regrind, wheat bran and bread crust.

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The food delivery challenge aims to advance creative solutions in preparation, delivery logistics, automation, packaging and recipe development.

The nutrition guides challenge is geared toward startups developing digital platforms that provide nutrition, well-being and sustainability information.

Lastly, the meal routine challenge requires startups to create solutions focused on better-for-you meal services, kits and products.

“What makes Good Food Makers unique from other accelerators is that it is a real co-development program, meaning it helps our internal teams solve challenges and also fuels the startups’ growth by providing access to our best-in-class expertise from around the world,” said Michela Petronio, vice president of BLU1877. 

“One of the bright spots of the past year has been the flood of food innovators, and we can’t wait to unlock new talents and technologies while fostering a more resilient food system.”

The call for entries begins in June and runs through August and the criteria for selection include a specialization in one of the four challenge areas and proven business results.

One startup will be selected from each challenge area to work directly with a team of Barilla experts for eight weeks and will also receive a US$10,000 in grant funding.

The program is scheduled to kick off in September and take place virtually, with the possibility for in-person collaboration depending on the location of the teams and current COVID-19 public health guidelines.

Uncle Nearest invests in minority-owned spirit brands

Meanwhile Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has announced the launch of a US$50 million fund that will invest in minority-founded and -owned spirit brands.

The Uncle Nearest Venture Fund has already chosen its first two investments – Equiano and Jack-, with each company set to receive an initial investment of  US$2 million.

Based in London, UK, Equiano produces an African and Caribbean rum while Jack From Brooklyn is the first-known black-owned distillery in the US post-Prohibition, according to Uncle Nearest.

Jack From Brooklyn is the maker of Sorel Liqueur, a spirits brand founded by Jackie Summers in 2012. Summers has previously been unable to obtain the funding required to grow a successful spirit brand.

Through the investment from the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund, Sorel Liqueur will return to market this summer, initially as an exclusive offering via ReserveBar.com.

“America consists of approximately 40% people of colour, but they own an incredibly small percentage of spirit brands,” said Lindsay Held, CEO and co-founder of ReserveBar.

“We have to work collectively to change that so that we can unlock opportunity for all. We are committed to working with every minority-owned brand in the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund.”

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