Liftoff
AI brand culture Data Product Launch startup technology

And We Have Liftoff!

I’m super excited and proud to announce the public launch of the Spoonshot platform today. It’s a hub for those responsible for front-end innovation at food & beverage companies who need to identify upcoming trends and opportunities. It’s a world of exploration, a source of inspiration, and a center of ideation.  

We’ve gone from an idea, which was originally to build an analytics platform for restaurant menu development, to a fully-fledged solution for the CPG and foodservice industry in just 18 months. It’s been an incredible and intensive journey. It all started on March 1st, 2018, when I received an email from Ferrero, manufacturer of the always awesome Nutella. The leadership team was planning a management off-site in London, and one of the themes was AI. We were asked to come and present how we were using AI to predict taste. 

Of course, we jumped at the chance to build a relationship with a great company like Ferrero. The only problem was that I wasn’t sure how to position our technology in a relevant way for them. At that time, our core product was a personalization and recommendation API for the growing digital restaurant industry, think Spotify Discover playlists as a service, for online food delivery. We decided to focus less on the application of the technology as it was back then, and instead showcase the principles of our technology i.e., combining food science with AI to predict individual consumer taste preferences. 

We also took this opportunity to test the water with an idea we were starting to explore around that time, regarding food intelligence. For us, it was essential to impress Ferrero, and we thought the best way to achieve this was to produce some sample insights for them. So we held a hackathon and challenged our team to come up with some novel and meaningful insights that we could share with Ferrero. The team did not disappoint. They discovered a high flavor match between Nutella and soy sauce by combining data on flavor relations, ingredient substitutions, and recipe connections, and that Nutella’s customers in certain parts of Southeast Asia were using this combination in their noodle recipes at home, evidenced on various social media platform. All this, in just under 24 hours. 

While we found this to be quite an interesting discovery, we had absolutely no idea what Ferrero’s reaction would be. Fast forward to the presentation where I revealed the pairing of Nutella and soy sauce to a boardroom of their execs… silence, total silence for what felt like an eternity but was likely just 4-5 seconds. Then came laughter, followed by “really?” and “tell us more.” 

Relief. I’m pretty sure many of those in the room went home that evening and tried this combination for themselves. Ferrero’s positive response to this teaser insight was the genesis for the platform we’ve launched today. I don’t believe in coincidences or luck, so I want to acknowledge and thank Ferrero for their role in starting our journey. 

Over the next year and a half, we continuously made giant positive steps towards investigating and validating the challenges and opportunities concerning innovation insights in the food industry. Here are some highlights:

  • We were accepted into the first cohort of the Techstars food and agri tech accelerator called Farm To Fork. The experience itself was phenomenal and game-changing!
  • Through Techstars’ incredible mentor network, we were able to conduct interviews with more than 100 industry professionals who gave us the lay of the land, the good, the not so good, and the downright ugly. 

Systems brainstorm

An early brainstorm on designing our data architecture and systems

  • From these interviews, one theme of feedback that stood out was that no one wanted another (new) platform to login to. So the head-scratcher was how to build a platform for people who don’t want one? Hint: conduct a design sprint!
  • We built our first insights prototype and tested it with a great food startup, Milkful, now called Nourisher
  • From the positive feedback we received on the prototype, we secured our first fully-fledged insights project with Cargill, who have been incredibly supportive from day one. Delivering value to an industry titan is a very steep and fulfilling learning experience. 
  • It was only after successfully completing the Cargill project that we had the validation we required to build our insights technology into a platform, and when I presented the industry with the opportunity to join our private beta program at a food tech event in San Francisco, more than 40 companies jumped at the chance. 
  • Since June, we’ve been working closely with our beta customers, onboarding them, gathering both quantitative and qualitative feedback, and iteratively improving the platform. 

Reflecting on this journey again now, there are so many other milestones we achieved, and I wanted to mention a select few:

  • Our data collection and processing capabilities have grown almost exponentially, where we now examine data from over 950 diverse sources (and this is growing every week). I still remember when we started building our very first pipeline in August last year. 
  • The domain expertise we’ve developed. I don’t mind saying that 19 months ago, my Co-Founder, Sai, and I knew very little about the CPG world. We’re both from the online restaurant industry, which is significantly different. Only one of our team members at that time had any CPG experience, but this just made everyone work twice as hard to get into the mind of our target customers. In fact, our lack of CPG knowledge actually helped us in not making false assumptions about the problems or the users. 
  • In October 2018 we switched names, from dishq to Spoonshot, and today we’re revealing our new brand position and philosophy, Be The Trendsetter and The Explorer Mindset respectively. These really speak to the heart of the problem of new product development, and allow us to take some bold and hopefully memorable positions in terms of our intelligence and thought leadership. Watch this space!

Early logo concepts

Shortlist of Spoonshot logo concepts

  • As a result of our detailed study of this industry, I believe our 4 differentiators truly resonate with our target audience, and when combined give us a genuine edge over other insights providers. These pillars are a focus on long-tail data, the application of food science research to our algorithms, the primary lens of novelty, and the personalization of intelligence. Our intention is to double down on these, such is our belief in them.
  • We’ve built a fantastic team who are so passionate and curious about the problems we’re solving. This also includes several new expert advisors who have been great sounding boards and a much-needed compass. 

There are just too many individuals to thank for helping us to get to this point, and I will be reaching out to you if I haven’t already. Though I would like to specifically say a huge and sincere thank you to the Spoonshot team! You have worked night and day for so long, you have kept pushing to get superb results, and you have kept smiling the whole time. You guys rock!

As a final note, I wanted to highlight that today is only a milestone, another goal achieved, now on to the next one. We plan to make this a globally relevant platform for food trends– To be the industry standard for innovation intelligence. To Be The Trendsetter.

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