BEIJING, CHINA — COFCO’s Nutrition and Health Research Institute (NHRI) announced on June 5 that it has entered into a partnership agreement with Chinese food tech venture capital fund Bits x Bites. This engagement will be COFCO NHRI’s first with a start-up investor.
COFCO said its goal is to power the development of agriculture and food tech innovation in China by opening up its resources to qualifying tech companies. In addition, it aims to bring more creative startups and technologies into the COFCO organization.
COFCO Group is China’s state-owned and largest food processor, manufacturer, and trader for rice, oil, corn, sugar, and other staples. Its portfolio also includes Mengniu Dairy, Womai.com, and JVs such as COFCO Coca-Cola. In 2018, total revenue of COFCO was $70 billion. COFCO NHRI is the R&D engine to help COFCO develop new technology, products, services and food experiences.
With a goal to elevate health and wellness in China and improve efficiency of agricultural and food processing, COFCO noted that its research spans across consumer preferences, human nutrition and health, animal feed, food formulation and food safety, as well as biotechnology and chemical engineering.
Bits x Bites said it invests in six to eight early-stage food tech start-ups a year to tackle systematic food system challenges in China. To date, Bits x Bites has funded Chinese and international companies advancing technology from gene editing to cellular agriculture to clean-protein pet food to smart packaging and low-GI rice.
Through the partnership, Bits x Bites portfolio companies will have access to 50,000 square meters of COFCO NHRI lab space and scientific equipment across 12 R&D centers in China. They can also earn potential pilot opportunities across COFCO’s extensive supply chain covering 140 countries.
“Our entrepreneurs impress us all the time with their vision, execution, and persistence,” said Matilda Ho, founder and managing director, Bits x Bites. “But their journeys are littered with challenges, from the point of proof of concept, there are tremendous learnings to be had as they test their hypotheses, refine their technology to get to product-market fit and commercialization. With COFCO NHRI agreeing to lend R&D resources and pilot opportunities, we hope we can make their road to success a bit smoother and faster, whether it’s from 0 to 1 or 1 to 100.”