Future Food-Tech, London: Scaling Solutions in Personal Health and Nutrition Security was a hybrid conference that welcomed local attendees at the Rethink Events studio and hundreds of online participants from across the globe. Senior Conference Producer, Oliver Katz, shares insights from behind the scenes and recaps the two-day event.
Nicole Astra: Welcome to Talking Plant Protein, I'm your host, Nicole Astra. Joining me today is a dear friend of the show, Oliver Katz with Rethink Events, the producer of FFT, and he is here to dish with us today. Oliver, welcome to the show.
Oliver Katz: Thank you for having me, Nicole, always a pleasure.
Nicole Astra: So my first question, of course, is congratulations. Tell me about your promotion.
Oliver Katz: Thank you very much. Yeah, so essentially I've become senior conference producer at Rethink Events. So I'll be taking a little bit more responsibility helping out a new conference producer who's just joined, showing them the ropes and hopefully passing a little bit of wisdom onto them as well.
Nicole Astra: How long had it been since Rethink has done an in-person event?
Oliver Katz: So our last in-person event was actually in September 2019, which was actually my first event joining the company. So I had had a taste of in-person, and then a couple of months later we were planning to go out to San Francisco to fly out there. And about a week before that happened, obviously the pandemic hit. So we had to shut that down and cancel that, which was obviously devastating. And obviously the team put in so much work into that event, but I think we've come back really strong and been delivering some really impactful virtual events. And now, slowly starting to see the return of physical events. Our September summit, that what happened last week was the first time where we actually welcomed people into the studio for the first time in two years.
Nicole Astra: And how many attendees, in-person and virtual, did we have last week?
Oliver Katz: There was around 575 attendees, and nearly 650 of those joined us in-person.
Nicole Astra: It had to feel so good. To be honest, as a virtual attendee, we could tell the energy from everyone in-person. It just is something different to welcome everyone back. So kudos to an excellent summit. I do want to ask about the topic. So you've just wrapped really focusing on optimal health, moving beyond just nutrition. Do you think the topics are going to continue to niche down in this space?
Oliver Katz: Definitely. I think so. I think as the sector matures and there's more to talk about, inevitably, we're going to be focusing on smaller aspects or different aspects of the whole supply chain. Of course, we're still going to have those larger meetings, which will cover a large breadth of what's been going on. And then obviously introductions of smaller, more focused events for people in specific categories or who want to learn more about a specific area. Much like alternative protein event that we did in June. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of those to come.
Nicole Astra: We've talked a lot about the robust interaction you guys offer through the website. So one-on-one meeting requests, really a lot of networking and round table opportunities. This time I was very privileged to host a panel discussion. So I got a little glimpse of what it takes behind the scenes, but you are used to putting on in-person events. This is drastically different. And I hope that the audience understands that you are producing a broadcast, a live broadcast, simultaneous broadcast. And so I want to learn a little bit about that learning curve for Rethink, but also what it takes to put that on.
Oliver Katz: Definitely. I mean, I'm just a person in front of the camera. So my job's actually fairly easy in comparison to our logistics team who were juggling not only that virtual world and getting all the speakers into the green rooms and running tracks simultaneously, the networking sessions, but also now having to implement it in person as well. So we, before the pandemic, didn't act actually run virtual events. So it's been a massive and steep learning curve, particularly for, for the amazing team that help us put on, put on those summits. So obviously shout out to AGS. To Erin, to Sophie, to Sarah, McKayla, there's a whole bunch of amazing talent at Rethink who are helping us to put on these quite polished streams.
Nicole Astra: Well, I'm convinced that your team never sleeps because the moment a session, a panel wrapped you guys were on social media, you were networking for your partners. Really, you have such a robust network and we really appreciate how you have embraced Talking Plant Protein and helped push us forward in the industry as well. So thank you. I'd like to know personal highlights from the two-day event. Any surprises or panels that you thought were engaging the most?
Oliver Katz: I mean, again, I think the two in-person panels followed by that networking piece, it was amazing. I'd forgotten how much I missed interaction with the audience, laughter and clapping. And just that support when speakers come on stage when they say something interesting, I think that's just really well needed and brings a whole nother dynamic to what we're talking about, makes it a lot more real. So definitely that was kind of my main highlight, was being able to do that again. The opening session was brilliant, so that was looking at nutrition security and we had some amazing kind of leaders within that space from Danone. Who else was on that session? It was Tufts University who was chairing Katie. She's an amazing moderator, as well as Huel, kind of that the meal replacement startup in the UK.
We had Abbot on there, and of course, ADM as well. So it was really dynamic.
Nicole Astra: Powerhouses. Yes.
Oliver Katz: Exactly, yeah. From different angles as well. So it's really interesting to see all of their points of view, but also discussing collaboration there. The step up to the plate session as well, with Blue Heron Creamery, looking at their new cheese through fermentation. It's just great to see food actually being showcased. And hopefully soon we'll be able to actually try it at the events. So fingers crossed to that. And then finally things like the business hours networking as well, just bringing people together again on a virtual platform. But it's really nice to see that interaction.
Nicole Astra: I have to tell you a behind the scenes moment. So I do, I truly enjoy the virtual platform, because I get to connect with more people, had I been in person. And I was a table with someone, connecting, and they were on their cell phone, in a cab, on the way to the in-person cocktail hour. And so one, it just shows that the importance of soaking up every ounce of what you have to offer. And so he was networking even in the taxi cab and I absolutely loved that. So a highlight for me was the Kraft Heinz Challenge. 128 submissions, they narrowed it down to three. Those women were so dynamic and so innovative. It was inspiring, I mean, I thought it was entertaining, but it was also inspiring. So tell me a little bit about what those competitions bring to these events.
Oliver Katz: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think it AGS validation, obviously to the event, but also it's great to work with industry leaders in a space like Kraft Heinz. We've had Kellogg's, Unilever, Corn, all have that capability and capacity to scale innovation. And I think that is crucial for these young entrepreneurs who obviously have an amazing idea, they have a proof of concept, but they need someone with the contacts, with the production capacity, with the learnings of what they've done for over a hundred years to be able to scale it worldwide. And so I think it's really great to be able to give opportunities like that, to startups, who have an amazing idea to be able to kind of pitch in front of our audience, but also then one of them to end up partnering with a massive corporate and so really excited to see what Full Wrap has to offer as the winner, but also kudos to [Jess Lapina 00:08:54] and Cusina who are both amazing companies as well. And also to, obviously, all of the applicants as well. 128 is a massive feat.
Nicole Astra: Well, all of those women are going to be on Talking Plant Protein, so stay tuned. You know we love to continue the conversation. And what about Gone in 60 Seconds? Was this a new idea for you? It added some excitement to the event and then of course those presentations were a phenomenal opportunity for startups as well.
Oliver Katz: Yeah. So that was a new, a new thought process, at Rethink just to kind of jazz up the typical tech showcases that we do, where we bring on startup founders to pitch in front of dragons. And so it also gave the audience an opportunity to be involved in that kind of decision making process. So to begin with, kind of very quick, kind of elevator pitches as it were 60 seconds, and then the audience has your opportunity through the polling application to vote for their favorite or four of those that they want to then bring through to the next round. And then the second round later on in the afternoon, obviously two dragons, much like what we typically do at our events. Listen to longer pitches and then decide a winner. And so YO-Egg obviously won that vote from the judges. They've got an amazing product and they'll be there in San Francisco. They get a tech booth as well as a couple of passes, just to network and hopefully create more business contacts.
Nicole Astra: It was an exciting moment. And honestly, that's what you guys do best is network and connect those leaders in this industry. What's coming up next for Future Food-Tech. We want to make sure the audience knows how to get involved.
Oliver Katz: Yeah, definitely. So we have our flagship San Francisco summit. Again, that's going to be fully in-person, that's on the 24th and 25th of March, and it's part of the wider Agri-Food Innovation week that we do. So we'll have Animal AgTech, World Agri-Tech and Future Food-Tech all throughout that week. So that's very, very exciting and a chance for Rethink is to also go to San Francisco, which is a nice park. And then on top of that, we have protein coming up the 21st and 22nd of June, again, building upon the success of this year's launch event, looking at everything from microbial fermentation, plant-based cellular agriculture. And I'm sure there'll be other things popping up within the space by that time as well.
Nicole Astra: There surely will. Oliver Katz Future Food-Tech. I always enjoy my time with you. Thanks so much for joining us.
Oliver Katz: Thank you so much, Nicole. I appreciate it.