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"Expectation management is essential for cooperation between start-ups and companies"

Interview with Fabio Ziemßen, NX-FOOD

NX-FOOD is METRO’s innovation hub for new food solutions. As part of the NX-FOOD initiative Start-up Shelf grants access to start-ups and their innovative products to selected markets of the wholesale and food specialist METRO in Germany and Austria as well as the hypermarket chain real, as part of a three-month market trial run.

Fabio Ziemßen is one of the leading figures in the German food start-up scene. He mediates between start-ups and companies in the food industry across Germany and, as Director of Food Innovation at NX-FOOD, is responsible for concepts in the areas of E-Food, FoodTech and AgTech. In the run-up to Farm & Food 4.0 in Berlin, we interviewed him about the start-up scene in the FoodTech and AgTech sectors.


Fabio Ziemßen, what is the concept of the NX-FOOD initiative and how do you support start-ups in the food sector?

Fabio Ziemßen: “NX-FOOD is part of METRO AG and is the innovation hub for new food technologies and products. At the same time, we are an important contact for food start-ups. Our goal is not only to further develop the food industry and to help bring new products to the market, it is above all, to help young founders to find the right distribution channel and the relevant target groups. With our various initiatives start-ups gain access to the business and can gather initial trade experience. We make sure that we not only offer next-generation food products - products that can only be produced and scaled by new technologies, such as Invitro-meat - but also everything that falls into the New Food category - that is, products that are reinterpreted or recultivated, such as Slow-Food products or sustainably produced chocolate.”

How does METRO AG benefit from this concept?

“Of course, the Metro AG benefits from this initiative in many ways. With the Start-up Shelf, we underline our claim to offer a trend platform especially for catering customers. We want to inspire them and give them access to new products. The response has been great: The Start-up Shelf is well received by customers and employees in the selected markets. We also use food innovations to raise awareness of certain topics. For example, when we look at alternative proteins and offer specific products or solutions, we can also provide our customers with more information on these topics.”

How can companies and start-ups best organize their cooperation?

“By creating a clear understanding from the outset. Expectation management is of vital importance. We at NX-FOOD were ourselves entrepreneurs and are still active as entrepreneurs. We have a special understanding of the start-up market. We are very familiar with the needs. We also know the situation of founders when it comes to financially positioning themselves. We have a founder mindset through which we can operate expectation management. Accordingly, we build bridges and moderate the whole process of cooperation between start-ups and companies. With us, everything is handled on equal terms and in partnership. If we cannot help at one point or another, we look for suitable partners from our network.”

Why is Pioneering Ag Tech an exciting / relevant format and what do you expect from your participation?

“Through Pioneering Ag Tech, I expect an interchange with experts within the Food and AgTech systems, a high-level dialogue on the challenges and solutions in the agri-food sector. As far as the traders are concerned, I hope that the dialogues will not take place in silos, but rather that the whole food system will be perceived as a coherent system.

In the future, we will no longer talk about horizontal value chains, but more about decentralized networks in which all market participants can communicate with each other and transparency and traceability are the top criteria. I am looking forward to an event with good interchange, interesting participants and, of course, a very high level of knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange.”