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How F&B Start-Ups Can Innovate in Southeast Asia

The food and beverage industry can be a fickle one. Learn how to keep reinventing your start-up so it doesn’t just survive but thrive.

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BY Melissa G. Bagamasbad - 24 Oct 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The food start-up industry can be one of the trickiest to navigate, especially with many factors to consider like the changing tastes of customers, food fads to keep up with, and so on. The industry is, of course, still one of the most lucrative industries since Asians especially love to eat.

Stuck in a rut? Here are insights shared by a food entrepreneur veteran and winners of the Food Start-up Summit organized by The Spark Project and Globe Telecom last October 11 in Manila.  

1. Educate yourself on food trends

RJ Ledesma of the Mercato Group suggests selling artisan food because people just don’t eat your food, they want the story behind it as well. Another trend is the heritage or heirloom business, where recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

One other trend is quality Filipino food. Ledesma notes Anthony Bourdain saying that Filipino food is good, but it just needs to be of good quality. Ledesma recommends looking at recipes coming from Filipinos in provinces. An area that one can innovate in is fusion cuisine, such as French-Japanese cuisine.

2. Give a classic recipe a modern twist

Food Start-up Summit People’s Choice Winner, Aiza Mesina of La Carnita Modern Mexican Cantina says this was the principle she kept in mind when she came up with her bestseller, the nachos ala bomba.

“Based on my experience, I just combined my classic recipe together with a modern procedure. And I made sure that [my nachos ala bomba] would be of high quality and would taste good. It’s going back to the basics but with a little tweak in the procedure,” she says.

3. Always be on your toes

Food Start-up Summit Grand Prize Winner, Joshua Antonio of Bagwings says that if there’s one word he wants to eradicate, it’s “complacency.”

“Because once you become complacent about what you have and then you think that the product that you have is the bomb, that’s when things start going downhill,” he says. “You need to know who the market is, you need to know the new people, you need to know the taste that people have right now. If you’re doing expansion, you need to know about the next place — like if this place is saturated, things like that.”

Antonio says one has to realize how fleeting and fast-moving the food and beverage industry can be. “You need to continuously do something about your product and your brand,” he says.

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