MARKET & TECHNOLOGY

A new kind of collaboration

Symrise supports food startups and gains valuable insights into the scene

KitchenTown was founded in 2014 in San Francisco. Since 2019 KitchenTown Berlin has been located in Mollstraße, where they also regularly organize events.

For startups, the path from a business idea to a market-ready product is often expensive, laden with obstacles and exhausting. What’s more, it can take many years. Though they begin with ingenious ideas, many startups fall by the wayside. To prevent this, startup incubators have been giving a helping hand to new companies in the tech industry for several years. This model now also exists in the area of food: KitchenTown Berlin helps creative thinkers develop their ideas into successful market products.

Located right near Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, KitchenTown’s “Maker Space” is a coworking space, test kitchen and mini production site all in one. Since its inception in November 2019, KitchenTown Berlin has already welcomed more than 30 partner companies on board. Some of them are concerned with new raw materials and processes; others bring experience with consumer brands to the table or have established direct-to-consumer models. As the sole flavor manufacturer involved in the project, Symrise is providing its know-how regarding taste and its technical implementation. The startups receive not only access to innovations but also to experts who help develop applications. This allows the new companies to use natural ingredients, technologies, or Symrise processes in a targeted manner. “Startups profit from our know-how, and in return we already have one foot in the door of tomorrow’s product categories,” says Regine Lueghausen, VP Global Marketing Flavor Division.

Jan Eckhardt from Symrise with the co-founder of KitchenTown, Lucas Neuss, and KitchenTown product developer Katharina Rütze.

The dynamism that comes from combining fast tracks at the “Maker Space” with the expertise of external partners like Symrise is just now becoming clear. During a trip to the USA in the fall of 2019, a young entrepreneur noticed that an increasing number of beverages in the new category of low-alcohol soft drinks were being introduced to the market. These are fizzy drinks with small amounts of alcohol, natural ingredients and fruity taste notes, but with little sugar and few calories. His goal: to develop a similar alcoholic mixed drink especially for the German market.

Because a tendency toward natural flavors is becoming apparent in cold beverages, Symrise has proactively established its broad expertise in this area and anticipated the trend. The startup also benefited from this. In the fall, the small group started working at KitchenTown in Berlin: In January 2020, KitchenTown Berlin contacted the Symrise beverage experts in the Bavarian town of Nördlingen.

That same month, the founders traveled to Nördlingen for a development workshop, which included sampling their first creations. “The beauty of it was that instead of waiting for weeks, they received immediate feedback on their ideas,” explains Sylvia Hini, Technical Manager, Beverages EAME. Based on comments by the tasters, the prototypes of the new beverage were optimized with Symrise flavors on the spot. The same pace continued after the workshop: Fine-tuning followed in February until the final recipes with natural flavors and a natural taste-balancing solution by Symrise were completed. In March, the first batch of drinks was bottled; the online shop went live shortly thereafter. The decision to distribute online was made due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it turned out to be the perfect decision. The first batch was sold out one only one week after the launch of the online shop. The founder had not expected to need to expand his production capacities so quickly.

With the support of KitchenTown Berlin and Symrise, a successful new product grew from an idea in less than a year. The new low-alcohol soft drink will soon be available not only online but in select supermarkets, from beverage distributors, and of course in bars. And this is only the beginning: Many other promising startups look forward to collaborating with Symrise.


You can learn more about the Food ­Incubator at www.kitchentown.de

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