JETRO Global Connection -Accelerate Innovation with Japan-

The Results of The Big Idea Food Competition

December 23,2022

*This article was originally published in Japanese. All information in this article is as of October 13, 2022.

The Big Idea Food Competition, a national pitch contest for food tech startups hosted by Big Idea VenturesExternal site: a new window will open., SaladaplateExternal site: a new window will open., GourmetProExternal site: a new window will open. and Sustainable Food AsiaExternal site: a new window will open.(in Japanese only), was held online on October 5th. For the fiscal year 2022, national preliminary competitions will be held in six Asian countries, including Japan, and the winners of national competitions will compete in the final competition. In the national competition in Japan, four startups engaged in the development of alternative protein food products participated.

The four startups include SydecasExternal site: a new window will open.(in Japanese only), who developed NinjaPaste, a konjac paste that is useful for making various foods and Misola, a company producing oat milk from US oats to sell in Japan. Okara TechnologiesExternal site: a new window will open.(in Japanese only) is upcycling waste from okra to develop low-sugar, gut-friendly food products.UwamukiExternal site: a new window will open.(in Japanese only), another food startup, has created Soycle, a product of highly nutritious soybean flakes that can be easily used instead of meat.

Contributing to an environment-friendly society using familiar food ingredients

The winner of the contest was Uwamuki. The company president, Daisaku Shirasaka, founded the food tech startup to create an environment-friendly society and make a bright future for children based on his experience. Uwamuki has developed soybean flakes that are an alternative sustainable protein, and he is working to promote a sustainable lifestyle in combination with food products from other companies.
The contest judges pointed out the product’s difficulty in marketing, and Uwamuki suggested a strategy of subscription services by combining the product with products of other companies under the slogan “environmental issues should be solved by teamwork.” For international markets, they intend to have overseas production bases to promote their products through local procurement and production instead of transportation from Japan.

Soybean flake developed by Uwamuki (photo by JETRO)

Soybean flake developed by Uwamuki (photo by JETRO)

How Japanese companies and organizations support food tech innovations

JETRO and well-known companies like Marui department stores外部サイトへ、新しいウィンドウで開きます, food innovator SIGMAXYZ Holdings外部サイトへ、新しいウィンドウで開きます, and general trading company ITOCHU Corporation外部サイトへ、新しいウィンドウで開きます participated as judges in this competition. They also presented their initiatives to support food tech startups. Marui introduced a sales promotion event held at its department store for various food tech startups. Uwamuki, the winner of the competition, participated in the event, promoting sales of products that contribute to an environment-friendly society.

Marui introducing its sales promotion event for products of food tech startups (photo by JETRO)

Marui introducing its sales promotion event for products of food tech startups (photo by JETRO)

JETRO served as the presenter and introduced key points for startups in the competitive overseas food tech market based on its experience of assisting a Japanese startup in conducting research for product-market fit* overseas.
In the competition, judges pointed out the difficulty in the overseas deployment of food tech businesses. JETRO will continue to support Japanese food tech startups, including the four companies in this competition, to help them accelerate their overseas business expansion.

* Product-market fit (PMF) is a term indicating a state where a company’s own product fits its targeted market or customers, or satisfies them. If a company with an excellent product does not conduct PMF research and cannot offer the product in the appropriate market, the business will not succeed.

Report by:
KAGA Yusuke, Innovation Promotion Division, JETRO

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