PepsiCo launches North American startup accelerator program

PepsiCo announced on Thursday it will be launching a North American branch of its accelerator program, aimed at fostering collaboration with innovative startups that focus on health and wellness.

Through the program, called Nutrition Greenhouse, Pepsi will work with 10 start-ups based in the U.S. or Canada – which will be given $20,000 in grant money – during a six-month “business optimization program.” The program includes mentorship from executives heading company-owned brands like Quaker, Stacy’s and Naked. At the end of the six months, one company will be awarded an additional $100,000, and the opportunity to continue the collaboration.

Qualified startups will have a demonstrated sales track record, but no more than $5 million, Pepsi stipulates.

The company launched similar programs in Europe about two years ago.

Not only is Pepsi giving up-and-coming industry trendsetters the chance to gain new exposure, but through its program, it can also learn from innovative companies as it seeks to adapt to shifting consumer tastes.

“Through this process, we can give back but also ... learn a little bit more about the consumer and the broader landscape,” Daniel Grubbs, managing director of the PepsiCo Ventures Group, told CNNMoney. "It gives us front-row seats to the most innovative startups seeking to address ever-changing consumer needs."

Grubbs added that the fund will focus on start-ups with products and purpose that center around nutrition and wellness.

Pepsi is far from the first company to launch such a program, as the need for innovation and understanding niche markets grows in importance within the sector. General Mills launched a venture capital fund, through which it invests in emerging brands, while Tyson Foods also has a VC branch, called Tyson Ventures, which it uses for similar purposes.