Dec 10, 2018

Is Panasonic too slow?! Food and innovation professionals gather at Food Q to discuss the future of food and realization speed

Game Changer Catapult

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Is Panasonic too slow?! Food and innovation professionals gather at Food Q to discuss the future of food and realization speed

Written by Game Changer Catapult Deputy Director Kaoru Manabe/

Hi, this is Kaoru Manabe. I'm in charge of business development at Game Changer Catapult. Over eight days in September 2018, Food Q*, a forum for discussing the possibilities of food, was held at Tokyo Midtown Hibiya. I participated in the session held on September 28, and today I would like to report on the discussion that was carried out, and my impressions.

Reason that Food Q offered feedback to Game Changer Catapult

The session to which I was invited involved a discussion about what kind of projects are going on by multiple players; large companies, co-creation community management, and venture enterprises; in order to bring out innovation through a combination of food and technology. Many participants told me that they feel Game Changer Catapult is very unique initiative for a large company, as we are launching various new business ideas to create new value while also helping to solve social issues. The following people spoke at the event.

Issey Maeda, CEO, Agri Holdings, Inc.

Shun Hashimoto, CEO, Base Food, Inc.

Hirotaka Tanaka, Director, SIGMAXYZ Inc.

Kaoru Manabe, Manager of Game Changer Catapult Business Development, Panasonic Corporation

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What I talked about at Food Q

My main topics were: 1) History and vision of Game Changer Catapult; 2) What is the food field for us?; 3) Our business projects that would be suitable for collaboration with specific companies represented by the other speakers

Game Changer Catapult was established based on a sense of urgency and a desire for Panasonic to contribute to society in new ways. Panasonic has long been known as consumer electronics company. But the world has now changed dramatically and basic business conditiona have also evolved accordingly. Therefore, in order to make Panasonic more sustainable, the mission of Game Changer Catapult is threefold: 1) To maintain the sense of urgency necessary for continual creation of new value through innovation, 2) to make a special frontline inside Panasonic, Game Changer Catapult, to rapidly pursue co-creation with external organizations, and 3) to create models for future home appliances that can also help solve social issues and create new lifestyle and cultural trends.

Game Changer Catapult has selected food as one of its priority areas. Food is an important part of life, and is something that everyone enjoys. We all face challenges in our daily food lives and hope for solutions, and we have a strong feeling of involvement in food culture. So Game Changer Catapult is strategically focusing on this area and trying to create models for future customer value.

On the day of the event, I had lively discussions with the other speakers about how they could partner with Panasonic. Agri Holdings is working to promote innovation in the value chain that extends from farms to eating and drinking establishments. I suggested a collaboration project with Agri Holdings based on one of our business ideas, OniRobot, which aims to make onigiri (rice balls) a global phenomenon. Also, I mentioned that totteMEAL, which can offer individualized recommendations to customers for their daily lunch needs, would be a good starting point for collaboration with Base Food, a provider of complete-nutrition foods. Although Base Food has already started a new lunch service for office workers, totteMEAL would still be useful, because it comes with a whole series of solutions, such as inventory management and transaction settlement.

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The four of us had different perspectives on food innovation, and here are some topics I discussed with them.

"What kind of food-related information can be made visible through technology advancement?"

Digitization is proceeding in every area of food. For example, in the areas of production, distribution, and retailing, electronic information for ingredient traceability will be gathered to help promote food safety and security. Meanwhile, a wide range of facts including meal data and cooking process information is also gathered for consumers. By seamlessly connecting these sources of data, we could provide value in the form of individualized information on the nutrients consumed by an individual or family. We call this technology, "Life Log".

By combining food information such as nutrients, place of origin, and cooking methods, with personal health information and data obtained at points of customer contact, we can create new experiences and value for consumers. This is because by focusing on food and becoming closer to consumers through food lifestyles, we can also get insight into changing basic values and social issues. Game Changer Catapult understands the importance of always starting with issues faced by consumers and society.

"How will the significance of meals change for people through the advancement of technology?"

I think the significance will change differently for each person. Living habits and food culture vary by country and region, and even for the same individual, the important aspects of food will change depending on mood and physical condition. I always try to remember the importance of unlearning past approaches in order to avoid stereotypical thinking. With past technological advancement for home appliances, the emphasis was placed on convenience and time saving. That made sense when you consider the conditions and values of those times, and they also represent necessary value going forward.

On the other hand, once we unlearn this set of values and see the world through fresh eyes, we realize that technology is also important for addressing the deep-rooted needs that customers and society actually have, for which there are small indications now. For example, through technological advancement, in the future it may become even more enjoyable to cook and eat, to improve one's own cooking skills, and to discover food stories. Personally, I think that people want to improve communication with family members, and to make their home lives even more enjoyable.

"Will Smart Kitchens become widespread? Wouldn't it be very challenging to develop such a business within a large company?"

For Smart Kitchens, it seems important to bring together individual services starting with essential customer value, beyond the areas that have already been connected. However, the best thing is to try first, and see how it goes. Although it is common for large companies to just investigate a new business idea and not actually do anything due to uncertainty, Game Changer Catapult progressively implements actions based on hypotheses. We accumulate expertise through trial and error every day, and our speed continues to increase.

For the market approach, since new value first arises from a long-tail retailing strategy, we need to narrow down the target segment rather than looking at a large existing market. We dig deep to uncover issues and values, and seek to obtain customers by setting the first 100 users as an essential requirement. Although this is hard to promote in a large company, I think the important thing is to stretch the future expandability of the business. For the immediate term it is key to promote market communication according to a detailed timeline, and ensure a lean startup.

After participating in Food Q, thoughts on what Game Changer Catapult needs to do now

It was a very valuable experience to have in-depth discussions with wonderful people regarding food and innovation. Since various helpful suggestions arose concerning the business ideas that Game Changer Catapult is advancing, we will make use of them. In addition, I learned the following three points.

1. Skills to improve for presentations: Organizing thoughts, honing ability to convey information, and obtaining feedback

As audience different back grounds and knowledges, we must consider the participants and how to best communicate our thoughts and activities. As a result, I feel my thoughts are organized even further. It is beneficial to also obtain feedback directly from participants during the Q&A and while socializing, rather than just making a one-way presentation. Various suggestions can be gained, and you can get a sense of how the audience is moved by our ideas. With rapid value verification as our aim, I think we need to further hone our abilities to convey information in order to obtain high-quality feedback as quickly as possible. Also, we should continue to actively get the chance to convey our thought to others such as the Food Q event.

2. Search for knowledge: By giving first with one's own actions and commitment, deeper connections can be forged

In the search for knowledge, one of the good way is to go to interesting and relevant events. Then you can verify the value of business ideas by connecting with people. However, I think it is important to give something first. This means giving something first. By applying this approach to our daily activities, I feel we can connect more deeply with the people we meet, allowing us to receive their feedback and expand the beneficial cycle. Actually, through my casual suggestion to Agri Holdings, an OniRobot demonstration meeting was arranged. One method in the continual search for knowledge should be to consider what you can give and who you can give it to.

3. Further acceleration of execution speed: Looking for Speed Stars befitting a special frontline of a large company

I sensed that the speed of business development is really fast at both Agri Holdings and Base Food. Though there are differences in company size, they seem to have better understanding of the market, and we are still too slow. In addition, SIGMAXYZ, which organizes the Smart Kitchen Summit Japan, has quickly formed a community where various players can participate, thereby creating new value in the form of hubs for people to interact and exchange of information. I think it is our role as a special frontline of a large company to stay in touch with these kinds of people and speed up new value creation through co-creation. Although there are various restrictions, Game Changer Catapult should aim to become a group of Speed Stars who can act autonomously.

Finally, it might seem obvious, but I realized again the need to continually learn. We are conscious of the need to enhance our knowledge acquisition on a daily basis, and make external contacts. However, we still need to try, reconfirm the issues, find the unexpected possibilities, and make the connections. Going forward, we will continue to learn actively and take on the challenge of business creation with a sense of urgency. Please stay tuned.

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* What is Food Q?

BASE Q is a place for business creation where a wide range of talented individuals can gather. Using the Q KITCHEN as a stage, Food Q forums will be held to pursue the possibilities of food. With eight separate topics discussed over eight days, participants will think about the future of eating by approaching food from various angles. The aim is to bring together the diverse perspectives of people from different industries and fields, and forge a sense of unity among them through talking, eating, and trying. It is hoped this will lead to new ideas for addressing social issues and shaping the future of food.

Source: Food Q official website https://www.hibiya.tokyo-midtown.com/foodq/

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