MENA: 10 startups to compete to receive $100,000 grant from PepsiCo

The CEO of the American MNC’s Middle East business unit talks about the Greenhouse Accelerator programme



by

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Sun 27 Feb 2022, 3:32 PM

Last updated: Sun 27 Feb 2022, 3:37 PM

PepsiCo — the American multinational food, snack, and beverage corporation — has selected 10 companies for the first Middle East and North Africa (MENA) edition of the Greenhouse Accelerator programme following a rigorous multi-stage judging process. The programme was launched in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and formalized following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between three parties — the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), Food Tech Valley, and PepsiCo.

PepsiCo also became the first multinational company to partner with the Food Tech Valley — an initiative launched by the UAE Government to serve as a hub for future clean tech-based food and agricultural products.

A specially curated selection committee comprising high-ranking PepsiCo executives and members from the MOCCAE and Food Tech Valley ranked the startups across five key criteria, including sustainability alignment to PepsiCo Positive (pep+), strategic synergy with PepsiCo; scalability, relevance to MENA, and breakthrough potential.

Judges in this edition sought startups that are accelerating environmental sustainability in the food and beverage industry through disruptive technologies by way of sustainable packaging alternatives, reduced packaging, recycling processes, and sustainable recycling behaviour modification. The Greenhouse Accelerator programme aims to push for solutions and innovations in the packaging space that will help PepsiCo and other industries accelerate change towards a more sustainable food system.

The MENA edition of the PepsiCo Greenhouse Accelerator programme was launched last year and received nearly 70 applications from aspiring startups in the region. The six-month initiative will focus on an initial grant to support operations and help launch or scale up their innovation.

The programme also seeks to enhance innovation in the sustainability space through collaborations with purpose-driven brands from the MENA startup ecosystem that share PepsiCo’s vision for a more sustainable food system.

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The 10 selected companies will each receive an initial grant of $20,000 (Dh73,460) to support their business, along with guided mentorship from PepsiCo and Food Tech Valley experts. At the end of the programme, the final winner will receive a $100,000 (Dh367,000) grant from PepsiCo and have access to a growing network of influential experts and investors, logistics facilities, and have the opportunity for growth through capacity building.

“In the face of rising global challenges, innovative startups have proven to be rich sources of groundbreaking solutions to pressing economic and environmental sustainability issues. The MOCCAE is delighted to be a main partner of the Greenhouse Accelerator programme that seeks to harness the power of startups to make the food and beverage sector more sustainable. The initiative aligns with the UAE’s drive to shift towards a circular economy and is another example of how PepsiCo and the Food Tech Valley are inspiring positive change for the good of people and the planet,” said Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment.

Khaleej Times spoke with Aamer Sheikh, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), PepsiCo Middle East business unit, about the Greenhouse Accelerator programme.

Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview:

What is the Greenhouse Accelerator progamme?

The PepsiCo Greenhouse Accelerator is a global, mentor-led accelerator programme to help food & beverage (F&B) entrepreneurs grow through collaboration and nurturing innovation. The programme was launched in Europe in 2017, and with five editions under its belt, the PepsiCo Greenhouse Accelerator programme has seen 48 emerging startup brands deliver an estimated combined sales growth of over $20 (Dh73,460) million in revenue.

In partnership with the UAE’s MOCCAE, the inaugural MENA edition sought to support 10 companies from the MENA region who share the company’s vision for a more sustainable food system. The six-month business optimization programme will support companies with emerging and disruptive technologies and services with the potential to transform the way food and beverage packaging is reduced, reused, treated, and recycled.

As the region’s largest F&B company, we know we have a critical role to play to help build a circular and inclusive value chain that inspires people to make choices that are positive for the planet. Innovation is an important part of our efforts in building a more sustainable food system. We want to nurture the next generation of innovators by supporting startups and entrepreneurs to launch and grow new businesses that are changing the future of the global food supply chain.

Which are the 10 startups that have been chosen for this initiative and what was the methodology behind the choice? What are the USPs of these startups?

A specially curated selection committee that comprised senior PepsiCo executives and members from the Food Tech Valley and MOCCAE ranked the startups across five key criteria including sustainability alignment to PepsiCo Positive (pep+), strategic synergy with PepsiCo, scalability, relevance to MENA, and breakthrough potential.

Judges in this edition looked for startups that are accelerating environmental sustainability in the food and beverage industry through disruptive technologies focused on sustainable packaging alternatives, reduced packaging, recycling processes, and sustainable recycling behavior modification. The Greenhouse Accelerator programme aims to push for solutions and innovations in the packaging space that will help PepsiCo and other industries in accelerating change needed for a more sustainable food system.

The 10 selected startups include:

The UAE

  • Nadeera is a social enterprise that leverages technology to promote waste sorting at source. Their product – Return, is the first Trash for Cash system in the MENA region that is not fully automated. They focus on citizen engagement, proactiveness, and building sustainable habits that contribute to reducing domestic waste.
  • Cycled Technologies AS, provides an Artificial Intelligence powered SmartBin that sorts recyclables from general waste at the point of disposal. The technology also offers rewards to users based on the quantity and quality of their recyclables.
  • Tridentech (Terrax) can transform your waste into Terrax durable products, such as pallets, logistics containers, flooring, shelving, furniture, and waste pipes.
  • Al Tabeeah is a trading company dealing in compostable, biodegradable, and eco-friendly products and packaging solutions. Their products are mostly made of compostable materials such as Areca Leaves, Bagasse, Sal Leaves and Kraft paper to meet three intents – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  • We4Recycle is a platform for packaged sustainable initiatives for households, and targets initiatives surrounding Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

  • Okeanos® is a sustainable innovation company developing calcium carbonate technologies to immediately reduce plastic pollution. This reduces plastic content by up to 65% and CO2 by up to 67%.

Jordan

  • MEHNA (Faya Largo) MEHNA’s main activities revolve around finding and implementing sustainable solutions for the industrial sector, with a specialization on the recycling sector in Jordan and the MENA region.
  • eRecycleHUB is a disruptive innovation that introduces a new value, product, or business for managing recyclables. It proposes to digitize the scrap trading business and use technology in waste management and recycling.

Lebanon

  • Diwama provides an AI-based image recognition software that automates waste analysis to drive recycling revenues for waste management companies.
  • Live Love recycle (LLR) was created in 2017, as a response to the waste crisis that happened in 2015 in Lebanon. Its core mission is to simplify recycling by digitizing the waste management sector.

Which are the Arab nations from where these startups have been chosen?

We received over 70 applications from across the MENA region and the finalists represent the UAE, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon.

How is PepsiCo contributing to sustainability drive in the MENA region? Illustrate with examples how PepsiCo is committed to green initiatives in this part of the world.

Sustainability is integrated into, not separate from, our business. For us, delivering on our vision of ‘Winning with Pep+’ means becoming a better company, and therefore embracing the purpose as part of our sustainability agenda, which is to help build a more sustainable food system. Our contribution to sustainability is essentially part of our purpose – which is to build a more sustainable food system. By improving ourselves, we can not only meet the needs of our stakeholders and position ourselves for long-term growth – we can also help build a stronger, more sustainable future for us all. We believe that there is an opportunity to change how the world produces, distributes, consumes, and disposes of foods and beverages in order to tackle the shared challenges we face.

And that’s why we launched pep+, the future of our company — a fundamental transformation of what we do and how we do it to create growth and shared value with sustainability and human capital at the center. As part of pep+, we are driving action across three key pillars — positive agriculture, positive value chain, and positive choices.

In MENA, we’re also driving positive environmental impact by investing in innovative offerings that engage and encourage people to make sustainable choices throughout the day. We have created drinks and snacks that taste good and do good. We have also been deliberate about reducing our packaging footprint globally.

This includes our fully and infinitely recyclable Aquafina cans co-branded with Expo 2020 Dubai and our Sunbites compostable packaging, launched exclusively at Expo 2020 Dubai, made with 85 per cent plant-based materials and a 40 per cent lower greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint compared to traditional snack bags. Another example is our Aquafina water station, which also made its debut at Expo 2020 Dubai. As part of Aquafina’s ongoing commitment to reduce single-use plastic, the innovative hydration platform Aquafina® Water Station was designed to provide a personalized and great-tasting experience, while encouraging good water stewardship.

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, PepsiCo is already committed to an accelerated, sustainable growth agenda. It has placed focus on enhancing market recycling rates and triggering recycling behavioural change by placing key infrastructure in compounds, malls, schools and sports complexes across Jeddah, Dammam, Abha and Riyadh. Moreover, in 2021, PepsiCo installed 15 smart, solar-powered sorting machines to collect and sort empty plastic bottles in Makkah, placed 80 recycling stations at the race start in Jeddah of the Dakar Rally, and in 2021 Aquafina was the official hydration partner of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in Diriyah, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, installing several recycling stations on-site to encourage visitors to recycle.

PepsiCo is committed to safeguarding the environment by increasing waste management efficiency and establishing comprehensive recycling projects and investment in the region to support circular economies, which forms the central focus of our sustainability agenda.

joydeep@khaleejtimes.com


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