From Cricket Cookies to Juice Hacks: FoodInno Launches at Berkeley-Haas

Bacon-infused chocolate? Been there. Gingerbread Guinness ice cream and cricket salsa and cookies are where it’s at. Not to mention workplace vending machines that stock local coffee and kombucha.

Those were among the latest food trends showcased at the inaugural Berkeley-Stanford Food Innovation & Design Symposium.

The sold-out gathering, held at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation at UC Berkeley on May 26, brought together entrepreneurs, scientists, investors and academics to share the latest on food entrepreneurship, science, design, and technology, as well as the global-local food movement.

“Berkeley is a pioneering, creative hub of food innovation, and food activism,” said symposium organizer Soh Kim, who serves as executive director of Food Design Research at Stanford University. “It was the perfect place to launch the FoodInno conference.”

In recent years, a host of food-related startups have come out of Berkeley and Haas—including Caviar, Krave Jerky, Revolution Foods, Back to the Roots, Boba Guys, Farmcation, and Byte.

To organize the symposium, Kim tapped into her Berkeley-Haas ties. As a Berkeley PhD student, Kim had sought out Henry Chesbrough, director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation. Chesbrough advised her in the development of her thesis about how Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters used open innovation—Chesbrough’s pioneering theory that companies benefit by drawing from both internal, external, and collaborative ideas and technology.

Chesbrough has applied his paradigm to industries from technology to consumer goods to food—including a case study of Spain’s quirky El Bulli restaurant. Kim, working with Chesbrough and Prof. Alice Agogino, published her Chez Panisse/Building an Open Innovation Ecosystem case in California Management Review in 2014.

After Kim (pictured) landed the Stanford job, she continued to collaborate with Agogino, a UC Berkeley mechanical engineering professor who also lectures at Haas on innovation and product design, and Prof.  Larry Leifer of Stanford Design on FoodInno.

This year’s speakers included Andrew Chau, BA 04, MBA 11, who is opening his fifth Boba Guys location in San Francisco this month. Chau discussed everything from the high cost of labor at his locations to why the time he spent working at Walmart and Clorox was integral to helping him become an entrepreneur.

Rob Trice, founder of The Mixing Bowl and Better Food Ventures, which invests in food-tech startups, said the food industry “is the last great vertical that hasn’t been digitized.” Trice warned that food-delivery services have been overhyped and oversaturated, but there are plenty of other innovations for investors to discover.

The Mixing Bowl co-sponsored the Food Founded 2016 event last month in San Francisco, where Megan Mokri, EWMBA 16, founder of Byte, won the judge’s choice award. Byte supplies local food in RFID-enabled refrigerators supplied to companies like Sephora, Autodesk, and CBS Interactive.

Keynote speakers included Michael Frost, director of the Nordic Food Lab, and William Rosenzweig, who invests in food startups, including Rev Foods, as managing partner of Physic Ventures. Rosenzweig, founder and dean of the Food Business School, launched The Food Venture Lab at Berkeley-Haas last July.

FoodInno also hosted a juice hackathon that a team of undergraduates won by creating a healthy breakfast drink alternative to coffee.

Juice Hack Winners: John Lim, Nina Krishnan, Osvaldo Romero, Ellen Chan, Melanie Silva.

A beer hackathon, which will be open to the public, is planned for November. The 2017 FoodInno Symposium will be held at Stanford next spring.

Photos: Po Bunyapamai