Nestlé’s Open Innovation Model & Future Of Food & Beverage Consumption

We had the pleasure of talking about the future of Food Packaging and related innovation with one of the premium providers in the industry, Nestlé. In this Mind the Chat interview, our CEO and founder Marco Marinucci speaks with the Chief Innovation Technology Officer of Nestlé, Goran Kukic, who received the 2020 Global Corporate Startup Stars Award by Mind the Bridge and ICC, the International Chamber of Commerce.

Nestlé is present in almost every market with about a billion product sales per day with just under 20 brands! With more than 24,000 employees and 90 billion dollars in sales, it is the world’s largest food company by revenue. To get to these impressive numbers, Nestlé has invested a billion dollar in R&D with the notion of open innovation deeply embedded into their organization.

“… at one point in time, there was a big shift.  If you wanted to be in the heart of innovation, you were going after universities and then that switched. Now if you want to be in the heart of innovation, you’re going after VCs and startups.”

Goran is currently based out of Nestlé’s Innovation Outpost in Silicon Valley, where, based on  technology trends, he provides IT best practices to Nestlé’s employees, startups and partners. He reports directly to the Chief Innovation Officer and manages Nestlé’s technology portfolio. In the conversation, Goran explains how he manages R&D verticals as an IT product organization, and how his team supports their flagship open innovation programs from a technology perspective.

“We started probably five years ago in the technology space, where we adopted the mantra of bringing technology outside in […]  instead of trying to reinvent the wheel by ourselves internally.  It brought significant gains in time and efficiency and route-to-market.”

Nestlé mainly has four major programs focusing on Open Innovation and Intrapreneurship: InGenius, R&D Accelerator, Henri Platform, and Mass Challenge.

Here are more details about these programs.

InGenius: an Intrapreneurship Program

InGenius is an employee-driven innovation platform, where anybody from the company can submit an idea for an open standing challenge. Goran’s team selects the best of them and presents them to Nestle’s management. Nestle would then provide funding the selected ideas to bring it to realization. For a deepdive, follow our Mind the Chat with Nick de Blasio, who has been running the program for many years since its inception.

“The key point is that anybody can submit an idea. Then, there’s a crowdsourcing mechanism that allows other people to comment and build on top of that idea to make it better.”

R&D Accelerator: Open to Internal and External Teams

This program focused solely on food & beverage and is a typical three to six months accelerator. The idea can come from Nestlé’s employees, their university partners, technology partners, startups or other external teams. The ideal outcome would be a new product launched onto the shelf. Follow the video to hear Garon explain some of the KPIs, success stories, management structure and budgeting. 

Henri: Open Challenge Platform

Named after the founder, Henri Nestlé, this platform publishes Nestlé’s challenges calling anyone to submit their ideas and taking social responsibility. It is a new channel where Nestlé can leverage external ecosystems to solve their internal challenges to meet with their sustainability goals. Some of the challenges are for example related to plastic elimination, water reduction, packaging, recycling, etc. 

Mass Challenge: Switzerland

Nestlé has been a Mass Challenge partner in Switzerland for close to 5 years, with an initial goal of filtering startups around food and beverage and providing them with Nestle scientists as mentors. Today, Garon and his team provide extended mentorship on finance, supply chain, technology and R&D.   

Post-Pandemic Food & Beverage Trends

One of the biggest trends that Garon’s team is looking at is the manufacturing of “Personalized Nutrition” food products. This trend is a potential new revenue stream that goes beyond food and beverage from a technology perspective as it requires micro batch manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain, etc. To follow this trend, Garons’s team launched a project called Within – a B2C personalized nutritional coaching platform. Thanks to Within, Nestlé helps people to achieve their health goals by giving them recommendations and following them up with a nutritionist to help them achieve those goals.

 “But, then you can go further and say hey, I can do personalized meal plans. I can do personalized nutritional coaching to help you achieve your goals and to stick to your goals.” 

The next biggest trend he sees is in IoT and wearables. pre-pandemic, the biggest driver was convenience, where people would go to eat something that was convenient instead of taste or quality of food. With the pandemic, people have become more mindful of what they eat and therefore going to wearables to track their intake, personalized recipes, which further goes to connected kitchens and so on. 

Watch the full video for more details!


02:56 – Garon Kukic’s background, job role and responsibilities
05:38 – Nestlé market share
07:08 – Nestlé R&D and Innovation Structure
09.27 – Nestlé Innovation Organization Structure
12:10 – InGenius program
14:25 – R&D Accelerator and Henry platform
17:35 – Measuring R&D accelerator success and KPIs
21:06 – Budgeting for R&D vs IT organization and KPIs
23:41 – Personalized Nutrition,
26:42 – Henri platform project details
28:53 – Nestlé’s commitment to Sustainability
30:24 – KPIs within the framework of sustainability
31:26 – Mass Challenge Switzerland
34:00 – Internal tool (Startup Flow) to track Innovation activities
36:33 – Two big future trends – Personalized Nutrition and Connected Kitchens

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Author: Jyotsna Kadimi | Innovation Advisor, Scaling Manager, and Product Manager
Jyotsna has 4 years of experience in the media and creative tech industry. She worked in the R&D labs of Disney ABC, Warner Bros., and USC before starting her career in Silicon Valley as a Product Manager for a Virtual Reality startup. At Mind the Bridge, she is building their internal data platform, supports global startups with US market entry and focuses on advisory activities for corporate clients on verticals such as energy, smart cities, mobility, and digital media. Feel free to schedule a call with her HERE.