Breaking Down Trends in Business Models: BigCo Innovation Ecosystems & Regenerative Agriculture | The Garage Group

Breaking Down Trends in Business Models: BigCo Innovation Ecosystems & Regenerative Agriculture

Through holistic research and client interaction, we are continually taking note of the impact that trends have on business models across categories. We’ve been reporting on these, especially ones impacting food & beverage and CPG companies, and those drastically disrupting/impacting BigCos across categories. Here, we double click into the impact that BigCo Ecosystems for Innovation and Regenerative Agriculture are having on brands and their ways of doing business.

Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture – a natural ecosystem – is an attempt to encourage biodiversity in farming practices resulting in an earth that is thriving; this helps to reduce greenhouse gases and replenish soil while having a positive impact on both farm workers and animals. CPG and food & beverage brands are embracing the concept and heeding wisdom from agricultural leaders such as Phil Taylor, the founder of Mad Agriculture. The mission of Mad Agriculture is to restore the relationship between people and planet and also to reimagine it — through the lens of stewardship and love for the earth and its inhabitants.

Brands putting Regenerative Ag into practice include Patagonia Provisions which is seeking solutions to repair a food chain it deems broken. Working with Dr. Bronner’s and Rodale Institute, Patagonia Provisions created Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) to establish a standard and pave the way for agriculture that enriches the soil and respects and values animals and people. Patagonia Provisions is at the forefront of Regenerative Ag with products like their Long Root ale brewed with Kernza®, a perennial grass that stores nutrients in the soil. Most grasses are annuals that deplete the soil and require replanting year after year.

BigCo Ecosystems for Innovation

New product development and innovation within BigCos are being propelled by intertwined communities – internal and external – who are sharing ideas, breakthroughs, and lessons learned in their efforts to deftly produce new solutions. This is in contrast to previous methods where research and development were executed in isolation and considered proprietary. This approach brings to mind the belief of entrepreneur (Sun Microsystems) and software developer Bill Joy, “there are always more smart people outside your company than within.” As BigCos develop these innovation ecosystems, their business models become more inclusive and less insular.

Japanese biopharmaceutical giant Takeda relies on a vast ecosystem of partners and collaborators to push innovation and deliver transformative therapies to consumers worldwide. They partner with biotech startups, pharmaceutical companies, governments, and academic institutions and leverage the expertise of each to turn ideas into solutions. While an ecosystem, by definition, may seem to be a closed system of related entities, brands such as Takeda demonstrate open-handedness in the interest of learning and growth for all.

Food & beverage giant, Mondelez, is creating an ecosystem with its SnackFutures innovation hub, which brings together internal talent and external partnerships to work on their integrated directives of invention, reinvention, and venture. The creators of SnackFutures believe in donning a startup mindset each and every day as they seek to fundamentally change the way consumers think about and behave in the snacking space. In line with this thinking, Mondelez actively invites small brands and entrepreneurs to submit their ideas to SnackFutures. This spirit of outreach encourages individuals and startups to think big and potentially pair their scalable ideas with the resources of a BigCo. 

Would it make sense for your company to lean into an ecosystem to fuel innovation and/or embrace regenerative agriculture practices? What questions do these trends raise regarding your existing business model? How might we explore these trends together, ideate, and better understand the impacts and possibilities?

For more insight on trends in natural and organic products and their impacts, download our 2019 report from Natural Products Expo West.

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