Collaboration breeds innovation

Traditionally the idea of collaborating with anyone was viewed with suspicion or fear of competitors stealing secrets. Companies are now working with competitors or like-minded brands to create dynamic new products and reach new markets.

In Europe and America, collaboration in food retail is extremely popular and has led to some quirky new products. Take for example candy company, Sugarfina and the fruit and veggie juice company, Pressed Juicery who formed an unlikely partnership to create ‘green juice gummy bears'. The gummy bears, packaged in Pressed Juicery bottles, were originally produced as a one-off April Fool’s joke. However, the product appealed to their customers so they were officially launched as a permanent product. Since then, the '7 Day Gummy Bear Cleanse' has also been created. It is packaged in a faux-marble box and includes a 'daily shot' of gummy bears for each day of the week. These products were a resounding success and sold out within hours of release.

Leading the way in Australia is the country’s fastest growing food cluster, the Food and Agribusiness Network (FAN). FAN’s mission is to grow their industry through collaboration and innovation.

Emma Greenhatch, General Manager of FAN says that the Aussie battler mentality, 'we can do it on our own', almost worn as a badge of honour, needs to change.   
“We are a small population and economy. There are huge benefits to embracing the concept as a way to grow your business,” says Emma.

There are few things that must be considered before going down this path though. Emma says "You need to be clear on your strategy. It needs to be right for your brand and sometimes you will have to say no. For it to work there needs to be an open and sharing mindset between both parties. But you also need to recognise that whilst you share the wins you also share the losses if they arise. Leadership is also key, and it is exciting seeing some of our members taking up the mantle".

Another example is the highly competitive coffee market. Montville Coffee has founded a new Roasters’ Guild on the Sunshine Coast with the idea of putting the region on the map as a coffee destination. Kevin Fraikin, Director of Montville Coffee says this has enabled them to piggy back onto government funded Initiatives and collaborate with food festivals.  Their philosophy is all about recognising that while everyone is competing to an extent, they can also work together.

Brigid Woolnough from Australian company, Kokopod Chocolate believes there is not only a bonus when you team up with others but that it gives you a story to tell. 

“We recently purchased a whole lot of strawberries from Lover Berries. They were going to go to waste because they were considered to be too small. We preserved them by freeze drying and created a delicious new chocolate. The small size was perfect for us and we were delighted not to be adding to the greenhouse gases. We do it lots.  It’s fun too.  You can come up with some quirky products. We have created a praline with Australian Native stingless bee honey company, Hive Haven and a camel milk chocolate which is good for those with dairy intolerance" says Bridget.

Collaboration can inspire you to look at things differently. By sharing resources, different skill sets and sometimes costs you can get more bang for your buck.