Food Edge delivers powerful menu for Canadian food start-ups

March 15, 2021

Food Edge is focused on the unique combination of food innovation, sales and marketing. Founded by Branchfood in Boston, the virtual event is now more accessible than ever to Canadian companies looking to gain new intel and connections to help them expand into the US market. We talked to founder, Lauren Abda about the event and what people can expect.

You have two main streams of content: food science & innovation, and sales & marketing. These are fairly diverse topics. Why do you think they’re important?

Lauren Abda
Founder, Branchfood

There is so much happening in the food industry right now. Pre-COVID we were already seeing this major shift in food. People were looking for clean label and wanted to understand the social and environmental impact of what they purchased. Plus all the innovations that are happening – major game changers like cellular agriculture and the prevalence of plant-based foods. All of that was shaping how companies were needing to invent and reinvent themselves and their sales and marketing efforts. Then COVID came along, and brought another wave of change. We see food science, innovation, sales, and marketing as the areas of greatest change and ones that have the most potential for helping our food industry evolve to a more sustainable, environmentally friendly, healthier place.      

And the dates are May 4th & 6th. What is the thinking behind this?

I think we’re all pretty tired of being online all day, yet people still crave some way to learn and connect and build their business. Given the broad range of both topics we wanted to cover, we knew we needed two full days for the conference – but we wanted to give people a chance to take a breath in between, catch up on work, network, and then dive in to the second day. At an in-person conference, it can be difficult to justify an extra night in the hotel or added time away from the office. But now we’re in a very different environment, and so we’ve adapted for the benefit of attendees and their busy schedules. 

You mentioned the impact of COVID on food. What are some of the issues there?

COVID has changed the way people source and consume food, and accelerated technological developments that will change the industry forever. These changes have been challenging, but they also present opportunities for entrepreneurs to bring solutions to the inefficiencies of the food system and transform it into a better one.

In a sense, a food revolution has started: new markets are being created; more sustainable practices are being put in place; consumption preferences and habits are changing; investors are more aware of the impact of their investments. Our speakers will highlight those changes and provide a window into the growth opportunities they might bring.

Your speaker list has some pretty heavy hitters. Tell us about them.

Yes, we’re very excited! We have Gil Horsky, Director of Innovation SnackFutures at Mondelez International, John Pattison, Co-founder at Cultured Decadence, Kate Krueger, Founder at Helikon Consulting, Sharyn Murray, Senior Investor Engagement Specialist at The Good Food Institute, David Kaplan, Director, Tissue Engineering and Research Center at Tufts University, and many others. We’re also thrilled to be partnering with CA Fortune, the brand agency that works with start-ups such as Beyond Meat and Kind Snacks. There’s just so much food companies can learn from the collective experience of the speakers, and attendees! We’re very fortunate to have them all.

You have a pretty pronounced New England focus. How do you think Canadian companies can benefit from that?

Like everyone at the event, Canadian companies can learn about the latest trends and technologies that are shaping the future of food such as cellular agriculture, regenerative agriculture, novel ingredients and plant-based foods. They can also connect with fellow entrepreneurs, CEOs, innovation leaders, and experts who can help with all aspects of expanding their business in the US. Though we are a virtual conference, we have many representatives from New England, so if this region is of interest for expansion, this event is the best opportunity you’re going to get to learn about the industry here.

Food Edge happens virtually May 4 & 6

What specifically do you think companies will take away from the event?

I’d say three things:

  • Key Insights to help inform future product and branding decisions 
  • Meaningful connections with industry stakeholders to support business development goals
  • Understanding the market and what it takes to succeed in the US, specifically in New England and the Midwest

You mentioned connections – how are you facilitating that?

The majority of the event is speakers sharing content through panels, fireside chats, and presentations hosted on Hopin, a platform for administering virtual events. The sessions are short and concise, giving attendees key learnings that they can implement quickly. But on the networking front, Hopin has a feature where attendees can jump in and get paired with fellow attendees for connection and opportunity discovery. It’s kind of like bumping into someone at the coffee bar – it lets you start a conversation with someone and see very quickly if there’s an area of mutual interest. There are also the typical features where people can review the info of other members and reach out to request virtual meetings. That can be incredibly valuable if companies register early enough to take the time to review and pick the people that might be of interest.

What do you think is the most beneficial aspect of the event? What are you most excited about?

This is our 4th year hosting Food Edge. Each time I’m struck by how much – even as a virtual event – food entrepreneurs can learn from experts in the field, make important connections, and hear how leaders across the industry are synthesizing information and translating that into action. Having that ability to glean insights from industry leaders and ask them questions in the live Q&A sessions is the most beneficial aspect of the conference. Personally, I am looking forward to the panel discussion on cellular agriculture. It’s amazing to be at the beginning of a whole new segment of food. It’s a truly remarkable time to be in the food business, and the speakers at Food Edge are at the heart of it. We can’t wait!

Food Edge is happening virtually May 4 & 6. Learn more or register here.