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21 businesses join food scale-up programme focussing on product innovation

21 businesses join food scale-up programme focussing on product innovation

Valerie Pondaven, our Food Accelerator manager, welcomed 21 new food and drink businesses to this round of our four month programme. Here she talks about how the programme is bringing together entrepreneurs from across Kent to help build their network, solve similar challenges and innovate their products.

Kent is home to a vast number of creative and innovative food and drink businesses. With a long history of fresh produce growing and the presence of cutting-edge horticultural and food technology research organisations, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Kent is leading the way in sustainable and healthy food production.

I have the privilege to work alongside many of these upcoming businesses on our accelerator programme. And we are seeing more than ever, despite the difficult climate, how vibrant their ideas, products, and the people really are.

This February, we welcomed 21 new plant-based food and drink businesses to our Food Accelerator programme. This follows on from the 17 businesses in our first group that completed the four-month programme from September 2022. We will be helping them to scale-up and grow their businesses.

The industry itself is facing considerable consumer, food safety and regulatory challenges. In response, our new intake of businesses is coming up with some exciting products; from plant-based meringues and allergen-free vegan doughnuts, to jams, wine and rum using local fresh produce.

One of the aims of our Food Accelerator Programme is to help businesses solve their technical challenges, and to help innovate their products. A new hub for food science and technology, the Medway Food Innovation Centre, was launched at the University of Greenwich in January. It contains a suite of state-of-the-art R&D instruments such as cutting-edge gas chromatography - mass spectrometry to establish flavour profiles and a 3D food printer to create intricate food designs.

Through this facility, and making use of the research expertise across our network, we hope to boost the development of our member’s products, such as by increasing their shelf-life, improving texture and flavour or investigating new manufacturing processes. This helps to maintain and grow Kent and Medway’s position as a national leader in food innovation.

We also understand the unique pressures and challenges of running a business, and the huge resilience required to overcome them. So, not only do we want to provide the know-how and research facilities to help take their business the next step, we also don’t underestimate the value that can be brought from doing things together and collaborating to tackle shared challenges.

We bring together our businesses every month in person. We encourage them to solve their problems together and form collaborative goals.

Over the next few months we are looking forward to seeing how the ideas and knowledge of our new group of entrepreneurs grow and the new or improved products that may come to market as a result.

Hear what our members had to say

 “If you’re looking for solutions or you just want to meet others who face similar problems, the help is there. You will find that it will energise you to help solve your own problems further”. Sam Duong, CEO of Ming Foods

 “It’s been said over and over again that starting a business is not for the faint-hearted. It is a challenge that requires tenacity and an unfailing belief in your product and vision.”

 “To make that journey alone is even more challenging so when I was introduced to Valerie Pondaven and the team of the Growing Kent and Medway Food Accelerator Programme all the planets aligned. Not only does the programme and team offer incredible practical help and encouragement but meeting other entrepreneurs on the programme offers further support and new friendships.” Aleta Viljoen, Pretty Pink Potato

If you are a Kent based food or drink business and looking to scale-up, develop your ideas or just meet other aspiring entrepreneurs, find out more about our Accelerator programme and how to apply www.growingkentandmedway.com/business-support/accelerator/.


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