Rethink Events Conference Producer, Oliver Katz, sits down with Talking Plant Protein to recap the virtual Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins Summit. The topics that sparked the most conversation? Air Protein, Quest Love, Innovation Challenge Winners, Whole Cuts, Fermentation Technology, Scale-Up Challenges, and more.
Nicole Astra: Welcome to Talking Plant Protein. My guest today leads the team at Rethink Events who just closed the massive event, future Food-Tech. I'm so excited to be talking to you. Welcome, Oliver Katz.
Oliver Katz: Hi, Nicole. Nice to be here. Thank you very much.
Nicole Astra: Thank you again for joining us. What a success the summit was and a major networking and information hub for so many of us in our industry. Let me first ask you who attended and where were they from?
Oliver Katz: So, yeah. And over 40 different countries attended yeah. Ranging across the United States and Europe all the way through to Asia, Australia, South America. There was over a thousand people in attendance. So it's amazing to see such a vibrant audience turn up for this first Future Food-Tech focus specifically on alternative proteins. We typically focused on certain proteins in some capacity, but this is our first dedicated summit, and it didn't disappoint. It was amazing.
Nicole Astra: Was that a surprise? The number of attendees?
Oliver Katz: I mean, we were probably planning for around 800 to 1,000, and it was amazing. It surpassed that. I think in terms of surprising, probably not just because as you've seen particularly the stuff that you cover, but also a lot of the other publications. You just see it as a daily occurrence, if some record being broken or a new company being started within this space. So there's just so much opportunity and loads of challenges, but a lot of excitement for what the solutions are in this space. So it's just amazing to have that amount of people really invested in making sure that this industry is moving forward positively.
Nicole Astra: As an attendee, I really appreciated the opportunities to network. Our journalists found it so easy to use the website, and we have had many attendees already on the show. So I'm sure they're curious. Do you have any stats on the network opportunities utilized?
Oliver Katz: Yeah, so we had sort of over 3,000 connection requests on the platform. We also had over 12,000 different messages being exchanged over the two days. So it just shows that everyone was really utilizing that platform. And there was a very strong focus on the network and opportunities and how people who like to connect, to create partnerships, to build a better food system.
Nicole Astra: And let's talk the innovation challenge. We know what it does for the businesses and companies that you've included in the challenge, but what does it do for Rethink Events as far as bringing the buzz and press and attendees?
Oliver Katz: Yeah. So I guess there's a really exciting challenge that we first implemented for our San Francisco event, partnering with Kellogg's and Unilever, two of the Titans of the food industry. And it just shows that they're very willing to collaborate with other startups in the space. And obviously for Rethink Events, for Future Food-Tech, it positions us in a place where we are the go-to for people, a company of that caliber to push out a challenge such as something around plant based or gut wellness. And use our network and our capabilities to find startups. And then they go on to partner with, to create really exciting new products or to help their portfolio of products to become nutritious or sustainable. So we've been really excited to do those innovation challenges over the last two events. We're definitely going to be continuing that innovation challenge, but for the next few events, that's for sure.
Nicole Astra: I think it was evident that this industry really does focus on collaborating to find real solutions, particularly for climate change and sustainability, as we look to the future. But of course there were some hard questions asked and proprietary info that they didn't want shared. But what would you say was content that really rose to the top, the most popular or exciting pieces delivered?
Oliver Katz: Yeah. So the sessions again, saw a big corporate and one of their partners, or a start up come together to discuss the challenge. So for example, ADM and Air Protein around scaling fermentation, that was a really well attended session. And rightly so. Obviously it's one of those really hot topics at the moment. As people start to commercialize technologies in this space. Air Protein really exciting. ADMs one of the largest agricu businesses in the world. So that really commanded quite a lot of attention. The innovation challenge of course. We had the fireside chat with Pat Brown and Questlove as well, which was very, very fun. Great to have someone of such cultural importance. There's Questlove, speak with Pat Brown, who's a visionary within the space. Motifs food tour challenge, food tour, sorry. That was really well attended as well.
They've just raised a massive series B, breaking a lot of records. It was really interesting to see in behind the screen, as it was. To understand a little bit more about their lab space. And then finally, I think the creating whole cuts panel as well was really, really interesting with Miki Foods and Finless, and Vivera. That was amazing. And I think it's one of the big challenges of particularly plant based, but across all of the alternative protein categories. We saw corn. Put out a challenge for that innovation challenge around treating whole cuts. And we have a lot of solutions within mints and things like that. But in order to create the texture and juiciness of things like steak and chicken breasts, that's a really exciting area. So I think a lot of people were already keen to hear some of the solutions there.
Nicole Astra: In the world of plant protein, from your end, do you see equal interest across the board or what's rising to the top?
Oliver Katz: So I think fermentation is by far the most talked about technology at the moment. I think we're at a stage where plant-based in general has been spoken about a lot. It's still really exciting. There's a long way to go there, but particularly with the people that attend our events, they're looking for the next big thing. And I think that in the next sort of one to two, to three years fermentation holds some really exciting solutions of not only creating and producing food in a sustainable way. But also in terms of bolstering the nutritional density and profile of foods as well.
So we'll see. We've seen obviously Perfect Day with Clara Foods as well, but also people like Nature's Find as well, who all are commercializing products within this area. And I think that we'll just see more and more companies in this space put out products, work with each other in the short to medium term. I think things like cell-based are really exciting and we're starting to seek outside foods as well start to hopefully commercialize just obviously in Singapore. But I think there's still quite a few hurdles to overcome with that technology. So I think it will take a little bit longer.
Nicole Astra: And you put out a survey asking for some testimonials from attendees. What stories did you receive?
Oliver Katz: We just received some really heartfelt messages around finding not only new insights from our events. But also I think it's when you meet people who have a very similar objective to you or a passion around creating better food for the planet. So it's just really nice to see that we're being able to accomplish that, even given the restrictions that we're under at the moment. And people have been crying out obviously for physical meetings to actually go to meet people face to face. But in the interim, I think there's the virtual platform that we offer. Events we put on have been able to nearly replicate the way that people have been able, who are able to meet face to face at our events. So that's been a really nice outcome to continue to bring people together, to share insights and common goals and really push forward sustainability and nutrition within the food space.
Nicole Astra: Well, as an attendee, I can tell you, I met more face to face opportunities than I would have had I been there in person. Again, you did an exceptional job with this event. Oliver, how long have you been with Rethink Events and what brought you to their team?
Oliver Katz: So I've been with Rethink Events just over two and a half years now. And before Rethink, I'd started a company working with electronic music and music venues around the UK, as well as festivals to educate people about hearing health, particularly tinnitus. And also to provide them with a solution, an earplug solution that allowed them to hear the music really clearly without damaging their hearing. And so within that, I developed a lot of skills around working with businesses to raise awareness to consumers around certain challenges. And I found a lot of similarities and synergies with this current role, Rethink regards to bring together people to solve a problem within the world. And obviously sustainability and climate change is a massive issue at the moment. And so I've really enjoyed this. I'm really enjoying this role in terms of bringing together businesses to tackle sustainability to work together, to solve a big problem.
Nicole Astra: Well, as the producer of the conference, and one of the hosts, people can rest assured that you understand the work that it takes for these startups and networking and really getting the word out about what they're doing. So we can all appreciate that effort. And tell me what's next for Future Food-Tech. I know you have a couple of events on the calendar. I want to make sure our audience knows about them.
Oliver Katz: Yeah. So we've got a lot to keep ourselves busy here. So our next Future Food-Tech summit is taking place on the 30th of September and the 1st of October. And that's focusing around scaling solutions in personal health and nutrition security. So it's our second deep dive into a specific area. Obviously the first being, alternative proteins that we just had, and spoken about. It's a very timely topic given COVID and the emphasis around nutrition. So everyone from the likes of the founders of Brightseed and DayTwo, clean-label, plant-based CPG company called, Nowadays all the way through to the big heavyweights like the chief growth officer of Danone, and the chief medical officer of PepsiCo are joining.
So that's going to be really exciting. We're also going to have our APAC average food innovation summit taking place in Singapore, as well. So that's the 16th through the 18th of November, looking across the whole of the average food supply chain with a focus on that particular region. Both of them will have in person elements, which is really exciting given that restrictions are being lifted in a number of areas. And then looking to 2022. Fingers crossed our San Francisco innovation week taking place in March will be fully in person, but I don't have a crystal ball. So we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
Nicole Astra: We will definitely keep our eye on that as well. Thank you again for joining us today. We wish you all the best. And again, congratulations on such a successful conference.
Oliver Katz: Thank you so much, Nicole.