With forty percent market share in the Italian pasta market, you’d almost forgive Barilla if they became complacent about the future.
But the 140-year-old, family held business is doing nothing of the sort. Instead, the company is embracing that future through a new venture fund and innovation hub called Blu1877, a name which references the company’s trademark blue pasta box and the year the Parma, Italy based company got its start as a small bakery.
Like its name, Blu1877 is an interesting hybrid. The new initiative combines an investment fund with an innovation hub that gives innovators access to the company’s pilot plant where they can take new food concepts and experiment with small batch production runs, as well as to a virtual expertise network of trusted advisors and other food and technology accelerators.
The first focus of the new VC/innovation hub is to make seed investments in food entrepreneurs creating new products related to Barilla’s core business and adjacent markets in pasta and meal solutions.
One interesting related development: With the launch of Blu1877, the company has transitioned the 3D pasta printer that we’ve been tracking from Barilla proper into Blu1877 under the name BluRhapsody. According to Blu1877 CEO & President Victoria Spadaro Grant (Spadaro Grant is also CTO of Barilla), they plan to develop BluRhapsody as “a portfolio of products aimed at high-end gastronomy applications and luxury catering only.” Spadaro Grant said the first line of products would focus, naturally, on pasta.
I interviewed Spadaro Grant about the launch of Blu1877 via email, which I have included below:
What are the investment themes/companies you are focused on?
Spadaro Grant: Blu1877 does have a total undisclosed amount that we are investing in selected areas related to Barilla’s core business and its adjacencies in the bakery and meal solutions like pasta, sauces, Italian style condiments, i.e. all types of pesti.
What is the stage of companies you are looking for?
Spadaro Grant: In this first phase, we are focused on seed-level investments.
Tell us about your Pilot Plant.
Spadaro Grant: With regards to piloting, prototyping and producing, Blu1877 does invite selected startups and accelerators to come to Italy to take advantage of our +100,000 square foot state-of-the-art pilot plant facility. We also collaborate with the US and European food accelerators and incubators.
What is the Open Innovation Hub?
Spadaro Grant: The Open Innovation Hub is a virtual center that we are nurturing along with other food accelerators and incubators in the food ecosystem. We are seeking to support and propel forward the creative thinkers of tomorrow’s food ecosystems.