Food + Enterprise Summit 2016

Food+City's own Robyn Metcalfe headed to Brooklyn for Food + Enterprise Summit 2016 and brought back some fantastic snacks and a full report.

By Robyn Metcalfe

Slow Money NYC’s Food + Enterprise Summit, held April 8-9, teemed with food entrepreneurs, funders and experts dedicated to improving the food system. Food startups met with professionals in logistics, financing and food safety, in breakout sessions that enabled close-up access to experts in their field.

The Meet and Eat hall brimmed with startups and small enterprises offering creative, healthy food, such as rose petal–infused ice cream, ice cream without cream, vegetarian snacks that taste better than non-vegetarian food, juices and smoothies, kale, insects, granolas with goji berries, cider from Upstate New York, matcha drinks, luscious jams and breads both celebrating and eschewing gluten. A highlight of a food conference is always the food.

Brooklyn was the location of this event, and New York products dominated the offerings among other regional products. Local food, produced by artisans, slowly, has always been the focus of the Slow Money community. Other cities in the U.S. share a similar enthusiasm for their regional food producers, but Slow Money brought together an impressive collection of dedicated and hopeful New York food entrepreneurs: Ciders from Hudson Valley, apples from Upstate New York, wines from Long Island, fish from the Jersey shore. 

On the last day of the summit, the much-anticipated Pitchfest — a fast-pitch session for the 10 finalists previously selected by the Slow Money judges. Competitors told their stories in five minutes for the chance to win this year’s Pitchfest competition. The judges represented all the relevant players in the food enterprise ecosystem, including finance, regulators and buyers. Rajiv Singh of RaboBank, Tapan Shah of Accel Foods and David Hanold of NYBDC represented funders; Elly Truesdell of Whole Foods contributed a buyer’s perspective, and Cassie Abrams of the Relish Food Project shared her marketing strategic planning skills with the finalists. 

The finalists were:

These companies shared the desire to merge business with social causes, whether through education, job training, minimizing waste, or utilizing labor and ingredients local to the New England region. And they illustrate the diversity of opportunity for improvements within the food system.  

The winner was Julia van Loon of Slate Foods with her deep commitment to healthier options for beef for public schools. 

Judging from the growing interest in good food, Slow Food NY may need to find a new gear in order to keep up with the increasing flow of food startups that are seeking funding and advice. That’s a good challenge for the food industry. Congratulations to the Food and Enterprise Summit team and Slow Money NYC for attracting and supporting such a broad range of food entrepreneurs this year.