Target Begins Testing Concepts from the Food + Future coLab

ABV-Food-and-Future-coLab-HeaderWalking past the nondescript brick facade at 80 Broadway near MIT’s campus, you would never guess that its basement holds a bustling lab full of bioengineers, students, nutritionists and farmers hard at work testing big ideas about the future of food. Welcome to the Food + Future coLab, a multi-year collaboration between Target, global design firm IDEO and MIT Media Lab, where a hand-picked team of entrepreneurs gather daily to talk food—specifically, how to create a future of complete transparency in what we eat as well as abundant access to good food.

Food-Future-coLab-working-teamJust last week, Target began testing two ideas from the spring coLab work. First, at the Fenway Target store in Boston, the team tested a private brand concept known as Good & Gather that flips the traditional food label on its head by boldly and clearly displaying ingredients on the front of packaging rather than in fine print on the back. A second concept, aimed at providing real time nutritional information, allows people to scan fruits and vegetables, learn the exact nutritional value and then pay based on freshness.

Food-Future-coLab-strawberry-scan“It’s hard to believe we just opened this coLab in January,” said Greg Shewmaker. Greg is one of Target’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence—a few team members tasked with launching new businesses for Target. “In a short period of time, we’ve already developed a pipeline of concepts ready for testing, we’re building disruptive technologies and—most important—we’re closer than ever to helping people know more about what’s in their food.”

Food-Future-coLab-Spectroscopy-food-scannerIn addition to these two tests, the team is also working on two food-tech projects in the lab. In collaboration with the Open Agriculture Initiative led by Caleb Harper at the MIT Media Lab, the team is looking at applications for the technology. And, the teams have been working with spectroscopy experts at Ocean Optics to build a platform that can “see” inside food to evaluate everything from nutrient levels to contaminants.

Food-Future-coLab-posterChief Strategy and Innovation Officer Casey Carl has visited the lab several times since it opened in January. “The progress so far has been incredible,” said Casey. “Bringing in Entrepreneurs-in-Residence for the first time has allowed us to have startup-minded leaders like Greg work quickly and be scrappy—with the resources of Target behind him. We’re working at a pace we could only achieve by putting all the right people in one room—from retail experts to bioengineers—and then giving them the freedom, autonomy and resources to make things happen.” Food-Future-coLab-whiteboard-post-its Food-Future-coLab-space Food-Future-coLab-Food-computer-1 Food-Future-coLab-Front-of-FFcoLab Food-Future-coLab-whiteboard

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.