News Briefs


Mars Using AI to Innovate With Plant-Based Ingredients

Mars brand storefront

Mars, Incorporated is diving into the plant-based space, leveraging deep AI insights to discover new ingredients. 

The company has entered into a multi-year agreement with PIPA LLC, which powers LEAP, allowing Mars to use biomedical databases and pipelines to design new products and address the growing consumer demand for healthy foods, beverages, and dietary supplements. 

LEAP will be available to Mars associates over the next two years. They can use the platform to accelerate discovery when compared to more traditional methods of ingredient identification and screening. Using AI and bioinformatics, the tech can help predict connections between foods and microbes and diseases to better inform product development. 

[Read more: Mars' VP, Demand Analytics Named 2022 Visionary]

For example, the tech created the model that helped Mars develop the RENALTECH diagnostic tool that predicts kidney disease in cats.

Nici Bush, VP, of innovation, science and technology at Mars said that PIPA is an important research collaborator for Mars. “Their science and technology strengths will translate into business impact, opening doors for Mars and the wider food industry."

Dr. Abigail Stevenson, VP of the Mars Advanced Research Institute (MARI), said the technology will allow them to create new products and services that improve the lives of people and their pets. 

"By joining forces with Mars, we are placing AI at the center of food, nutrition, and health,” said George Nikolaou, VP of product at PIPA. “We are bringing to fruition new methods for science discovery that mean business teams empowered by AI can unlock novel, high-quality insights faster and more cost-effectively than previously imagined."


Creative Agency EIQ Brand Lab Wins 7 AVA Digital Awards

EIQ BrandLab image

Marketing and creative agency EIQ BrandLab, operated by CGT’s parent company EnsembleIQ, has won seven AVA Digital Awards for digital excellence. 

The AVA Digital Awards is an international competition that recognizes excellence by creative professionals responsible for the planning, concept, direction, design, and production of digital communications. They are awarded by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP).

Each of the award-winning entries were developed in partnership with clients ranging from CPG brands to enterprise technology companies. 

Platinum Awards

Gold Awards

Darren Ursino, vice president of brand engagement at EnsembleIQ said that EIQ BrandLab aspires to be “a true firebrand in business marketing.” He added the brand is honored to work with forward-thinking companies across the retail, healthcare, and hospitality industries. “We are very proud to have been recognized by the AVA Digital Awards for our work.”

Joe Territo, executive vice president of content and communications at EnsembleIQ stated that the company’s redesigned corporate website, which was created by EIQBrandLab, has been well received. 

“We are very pleased to have received this honor from the AVA Digital Awards,” he added.


Danone Is Modernizing Its Global Supply Chain With AI-Driven Insights

Danone logo on mobile phone

Multinational food and beverage brand Danone is looking to revamp its global supply chain by leveraging AI insights to bolster its decision-making capabilities. 

The company is tapping 09 Solutions, utilizing its Digital Brain platform to fortify its collaboration between commercial, operational, and finance teams. Additionally, users will be able to perform real-time scenario planning to shorten decision-making timelines. 

Chakri Gottemukkala, co-founder and CEO of o9 Solutions, said that by leveraging the technology, Danone will be able to run its planning processes across every function and time horizon on the integrated platform. 

Farzana Allegacone, vice president of technology and data for design to delivery at Danone, stated that rising consumer demand paired with supply chain disruption are creating a need to digitalize the company’s end-to-end supply chain planning platform so that all stakeholders can collaborate in real-time. 

[Read more: Danone, Kellogg’s, Yum Brands Tech Leaders Join Analytics Unite 2022]

“The fact that the platform can facilitate end-to-end connected planning, including demand, supply, production, integrated business planning, and multi-echelon inventory optimization, was one of the key reasons we chose to partner with o9,” added Danone. 


Walt Disney Company Opens Applications for Accelerator Program

Accelerator program graphic

Growth stage companies looking to transform the technology and entertainment space can now submit applications for The Walt Disney Company’s Accelerator program. Now in its seventh year, the program is taking applications until May 13, and is looking to accelerate the growth of innovative companies from around the world. 

Disney is focusing on companies that are innovating in areas such as artificial intelligence, data and analytics, immersive experiences, machine learning, personalization, robotics, sports tech, and web3. Program participants will be able to connect with experts at Disney to receive guidance on their tech.

[More on tech: Yum Brands, Danone, Kellogg’s Tech Leaders Join Analytics Unite 2022]

Past participants include CAMP, the Family Experience Company, which launched in December of 2018 and was an RIS Hot Retail Startup in 2020.

“The Disney Accelerator introduces us to visionary companies that are leading innovators in their respective industries,” said Bonnie Rosen, general manager of Disney Accelerator. “We are looking forward to this year’s program and can’t wait to connect with the next generation of talent that will help us make bold decisions and identify new opportunities for innovation at The Walt Disney Company.”

The Disney Accelerator program will kick off in July, closing with a Demo Day in the fall. Applications are being accepted here

This article was first published on the site of sister publication RIS. 


Crocs Taps Danone’s Deanna Bratter to Lead Sustainability Efforts

Deanna Bratter headshot

Casual footwear brand Crocs, Inc., has created a new role: vice president of global head of sustainability. 

Deanna Bratter will assume the new role, responsible for helping the company achieve its goal to be net zero by 2030, as well as enhancing commitments and impacts across environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and corporate governance (ESG).

Prior to joining Crocs, Bratter was the vice president of sustainable development/One Planet. One Health at Danone North America. In that role, she oversaw the company’s push to address climate change, focusing on responsible sourcing, the restoration of natural ecosystems, sustainable packaging, and community support. 

Bratter also previously led corporate sustainability for WhiteWave Foods, managing the company’s annual CSR and ESG reporting. 

"Consumers are keenly focused on purpose, inclusivity and a sustainable future, and Crocs has set clear ambitions to integrate sustainability into every part of their business and products," said Bratter. "This is an iconic brand, and I am thrilled for the opportunity to apply my experience in creating more sustainable systems to Crocs, bringing collaborative and innovative solutions in an effort to ensure we meet our commitments and create a more sustainable and comfortable world for all."

Last year, the company committed to reducing its carbon footprint to become a more sustainable brand, outlining its strategy. Since then, the brand has transitioned to sustainable ingredients across its product lines. Changes were also made across the company’s packaging, looking at new ways to give Crocs a second life, transitioning to renewable energy, and investing in responsible resource use. 

Crocs CEO Andrew Rees said that climate change is an urgent issue that requires “meaningful and rapid action.”

"We have an equal responsibility to ensure we're doing our part to create a more comfortable world," added Rees. "We are excited to welcome Deanna into this key leadership position and are confident that her deep experience and expertise will help Crocs achieve its ambitious sustainability goals."

This article first appeared on the site of sister publication RIS News.


General Mills Investing in Food Tech VC to Advance DEI Commitments


General Mills’ venture capital arm, 301 INC, is investing a combined $15 million into two early-stage venture capital funds — Fearless Fund and Supply Change Capital — as part of its commitment to promoting racial and gender equity in representation through economic opportunity for minority and female food entrepreneurs.

The investments focus on supporting founders from underrepresented groups and will be designated for food-related businesses that seek to drive systemic impact and financial returns.

Supply Change Capital, a women and Latina powered venture firm, invests at the intersection of food, culture, and technology. It catalyzes early-stage food and food tech founders with a focus on sustainability, health, and diversity.

[See also: General Mills Leans Into Predictive Experiences]

Fearless Fund is a fund built by women of color that invests in women-of-color-led businesses seeking pre-seed, seed-level or series A financing. Its mission is to bridge the gap in venture capital funding for founders building scalable, growth-aggressive companies.

Previous investments from 301 INC include the plant-based food company known as Everything Legendary that targets the Black community, a decision made after 301 INC identified Black Americans as the largest and fastest-growing vegan demographic in the country, at nearly 8%.

“We experience firsthand the expertise and passion of the diverse and female founders within our 301 INC portfolio, and yet there is a systemic gap for minority food entrepreneurs looking for early-stage venture capital funding,” said Doug Martin, chief brand and disruptive growth officer, General Mills. “We’re excited to join forces with these amazing partners to uncover and accelerate more founders, at earlier stages. Closing this gap means more great innovation in our food system — from new concepts to emerging food technologies — and more inclusive cycles of opportunity for entrepreneurs, companies and communities.”