FMI, The Food Industry Association, hosted its third-annual FMItech Pitch Competition live at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference last Friday, in addition to the FMItech Lounge, which included booths for conversations with industry professionals showcasing their capabilities.
Designed specifically for FMI Midwinter attendees, FMItech is dedicated to discussing timely topics such as e-commerce, customer experience, inventory management, and automation strategies.
During the FMItech Pitch Competition, three finalists presented their food retail technology start-up solutions and event attendees voted on the winner.
Doug Baker, VP, industry relations, FMI, kicked off the competition, before handing the stage over to Robert Grey, director, FoodTech, Plug and Play Tech Center. Grey leads Plug and Play Tech Center's Food & Beverage program and the company connects technology startups and founders with corporations to bring products to market faster. Plug and Play offers accelerator programs, works as an extension of a corporation’s innovation team, and invests in over 250 companies a year alongside VCs. Grey reviewed different ways of engaging with startups and talked about potential outcomes, such as piloting.
Grey handed it off to Alex Davisson, ventures associate, Plug and Play, who spoke on the overall VC landscape going into 2024.
Davisson noted that the VC landscape change from 2022 to 2023 was a deal count down 28.4% and capital invested down 32.7%. But if we look at the grocery tech landscape change from the same time period, the deal count was down 42.1% and the capital invested was down 68.6%. He noted if interest rates come down we can expect to see more capital deployed, but grocery tech was hit hard in 2023.
Looking ahead, he said Plug and Play thinks there’s opportunity in employee enablement. “I think we’ll see a lot of robotics and process automation.” He questioned the audience, “how do we change the company to be able to accept innovation and except change?”
He also noted that the industry should expect to see hiring and training become more automated, especially with the integration of AR and VR technologies. He then brought up the first company for the pitch competition.
The FMItech Pitch Competition
Thirteen contestants submitted video nominations that were reviewed by a panel of food industry judges.
The first pitch finalist was Augmodo, a technology solution for augmenting the retail workforce. CEO Ross Finman explained how the company offers wearable tech (associate dashcams that they can wear on hats for example) to help associates as they do their jobs in grocery stores capture data in a passive way. The technology helps capture data on out-of-stock detection, compliance, and product location data. Finman claimed the tech is 100x cheaper compared to other computer vision solutions and there’s no training.
Next up was Katie Hotze, founder & CEO of Grocery Shopii, a meal planning and recipe media tool that increases engagement and sales in-store and online, while prioritizing private label sales. The company harnesses the power of recipes to drive sales for brands and retailers, she explained. The company works directly with retailers to turn recipes from brands that are on the retailer’s shelves into shoppable, omnichannel content. Content is curated by in house food bloggers and editors. “This is retail media, with recipes,” she said. Shoppers can find recipes both in-store and online, for example in a digital circular or on Facebook. They are launching in-store “right now” she noted.
The last finalist was GreenChoice, a food nutrition and sustainability data platform. Founder and CEO Galen Karlan-Mason explained how healthier diets are more sustainable, but shoppers needs have never been more complex. Consumers are shopping for a diet, for allergies, and for sustainability, he noted.
“How can you make healthy shopping easy?” he asked the audience. GreenChoice gives grocers a way to offer customers “a personalized healthy and transparent shopping experience in store and online in just sixty days, without a team of engineers, without a team of data scientists,” he explained. GreenChoice has built nutritional and sustainability product attribution and ratings technology for food, with a database of 500,000-plus products and shelf-edge and e-commerce plugins that enable food retailers to provide enriched product content, personalized healthy shopping, and food as medicine for consumers. GCTag QR codes help shoppers see how healthy a food is and offer a score and the tech can be white labeled.
At the end, attendees were asked to vote on the three competitors and Augmodo was announced later as the winner.
“Congratulations to Augmodo for being recognized with the FMItech Pitch Competition award this year,” said Baker. “Their technology solution of augmenting workforce using AI and wearable cameras to improve e-commerce inventory and picking is a real game changer for the industry.”
FMI members have access to discovering these Pitch winners and other technology companies on the member-only FMI Tech Directory.