Held for the first time at Vitafoods Europe from 9 to 11 May 2023, the inaugural Vitafoods Europe Startup Innovation Challenge offers health, wellbeing, and nutraceutical startups the chance to win a host of high-value prizes as well as unparalleled exposure and networking opportunities with key industry stakeholders at Europe’s leading nutraceutical trade show.
Startups can apply for free to one or more of the following categories: most innovative finished nutraceutical product; most innovative nutraceutical ingredient; most innovative service or technology supporting the nutraceutical industry; and most innovative digital solution supporting the nutraceutical industry.
As the 5 March deadline for submitting an application fast approaches, we asked one Startup Innovation Challenge judge, Raphaelle O’Connor, what she was looking for in the winning startups. Founder and director of nutrition consultancy iNewtrition, O’Connor gave us her nine-point checklist, offering startups invaluable tips when preparing their application.
“This lies at the heart of innovation. How does your product stand out against its competition? An insightful innovation opportunity that can be communicated to consumers in a clear and engaging way is essential for success,” said O’Connor.
2. Functionality and health through nutrition
“This topic matters more and more to consumers. Bioactive ingredients that add value to the wellness space are becoming increasingly hot commodities,” she said. “I’ll especially be looking for concepts in the mental well-being space – such as cognitive function, energy, focus, relaxation, and sleep – where there are enormous opportunities.”
“I am particularly interested to see how the purpose-driven aspects of each startup are represented in their brand. From the management of authenticity, to supporting local producers, to sustainable packaging, the potential initiatives are unlimited. How is the brand contributing to the greater good, environmentally, or socially?”
“Honesty and transparency are essential to building trust and loyalty among consumers. Consistent messaging, meeting the startup’s goals and commitments, and the clear communication of progression are key,” O’Connor told us.
“Sustainability is a modern competitive edge. The economic, social, and environmental costs of ingredients and packaging must be seriously weighed and honestly communicated to consumers, so that they can make conscious decisions about how their purchases impact the planet.”
“Each product concept must show awareness, insight, and diligence in its approach to its ingredients, product format, supply chain, wellness, target audience, communication, environmental impact, and delivery.”
7. Market awareness
“Branding and packaging that are clearly based in a knowledge and understanding of how the product or range is positioned within its category is fundamental in delivering something that stands out on the shelves,” she said.
8. The experience
In other words, “How does the product feel to actually use?”
9. People and team
“I am interested to see how each startup team addresses the multi-disciplinary approach that is required to build a sustainable business. Synergistic combinations of skill- and mind-sets can make all the difference between innovation that is merely incremental, or truly disruptive.”
‘You can only win or learn’
Other judges encouraged startups to send their applications to the free competition.
“Not only do you get a great podium to showcase your start-up to a broad audience but also, you’ll be scrutinised by some very experienced people,” said Nard Clabbers, chief science officer at personalised nutrition startup Happ, lead of the personalised nutrition and artificial intelligence community at the Dutch FoodValley, and Startup Innovation Challenge judge.
“I know all too well that it is never too early to get an outside view on your ideas and sharpen them,” he added. “As they say, ‘Just do it’. You can only win or learn.”
Meanwhile, Michael Stott, partner at legal firm Mathys & Squire and Challenge judge, said the competition was a great opportunity for startups to gain valuable industry insights and exposure, expand their network, and have their growth strategies pressure-tested by industry experts.
“The nutraceutical and nutrition industry is a challenging landscape to navigate, particularly from an [intellectual property] IP and regulatory standpoint, and the Startup Innovation Challenge is a chance for startups to learn from their peers and receive invaluable guidance from industry leaders,” he said.
To submit your application to the Vitafoods Europe Startup Innovation Challenge, click here.