The Organic Food against Climate Change Challenge is aimed at impact-driven entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. Over 2 months, participants will accelerate their food businesses through an intensified collaboration with experts from Wessanen, a Dutch multinational food company with an organic focus, and Impact Hub Amsterdam. With one week to go before the Wessanen Food Challenge application deadline on 10 April, we sat down with Ingrid Cayet, founder of Madaga, and talked about how Wessanen helped grow and scale her baby food company.

 

Madaga creates delicious organic recipes for real food that babies and toddlers need

madaga logoA carrot which tastes like a carrot, and looks like one, too. Babies and toddlers explore food with all their senses. And our task, as we see it, is to help you make your little one fall in love with real food.

Vegetable and fruit purees, meals, snacks, sandwich spreads for lunch and sauce for the pasta. Everything we prepare is freshly cooked in our kitchen. We take pure and natural ingredients and transform them into finger-licking recipes. Our dietician makes sure that every recipe they come up with contains all the ingredients that your baby needs.

Wessanen helped Madaga understand their market, share their story and scale their business

In 2014 – a time where I was looking for inspiration and hints on how I could move my company from start up to scale up – I got in touch with Wessanen.

We had 3 years of operations behind us and were still looking for the way forward. We had launched our brand and our product with a B2C focus but sales had developed in the B2B market (day care, nurseries, hospitals). What do we need to build on this unexpected market opportunity? What did this mean for our strategy? How could we preserve our growth options in the B2C market for a later stage? The question was how to go about this repositioning at such an early stage?

Christophe Barnouin (CEO Wessanen) and Klaus Arntz (EVP Marketing & Sustainability) were a great help in sorting it out.

The first thing both identified was that our extremely innovative concept (product + story + distribution channel) can be a bit overwhelming. People were asking us: “Why do you need to do all this? Can’t you just sell it in the supermarket?”

But Christophe and Klaus saw tremendous growth potential in our market and brand story. This was a very important input for us because Wessanen is working on the same issues as we are: sustainability, health, social responsibility and, at the same time, reaching a critical mass.

They understand the dilemmas, and from where they are, they can determine which proposition stands a chance and what is just going too far. That also allows them to see very clearly which levers are available and what it will take to grow the proposition.

With that at the back of their mind, Christophe and Klaus took the time to help me sort out the questions and focus on the most important ones. Christophe as a seasoned organic food professional and CEO was able to help figure out what my top 3 priorities were in terms of focus, product and organisation. Very simple, very actionable and, therefore, very effective.

Klaus challenged our brand essence, helped us make our brand promise clear and accessible yet bringing in a lot of finesse. It’s a very important foundation: the company cannot grow properly without that. Once we were standing on solid ground, we looked together at how we could make the switch from direct sales to communication generated sales.

What really impresses me is the rigour of Christophe and Klaus. When you are an early stage entrepreneur you deal most of the time with either super enthusiastic or sceptic people. With the former group, it feels good – and you need their recognition and energy – but they cannot help you challenge your own assumptions. Meanwhile, the latter’s basic message is “Don’t try, it will never work. The wheel has already been invented.”

With Christophe and Klaus, I got the best of both worlds. They don’t take anything for granted, they have seen it all and have no complacency. On the other hand, they are genuinely interested and open to innovation because they stand behind what they do. They have a purpose.

If you are a Benelux-based social enterprise that addresses key challenges of the global food system and its impact on climate change, such as the replacement of conventional food with organic alternatives and reducing food waste, learn more about the Wessanen Food Challenge and make sure to apply before 10 April

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