Mars in Food-tech Tie-up With Israel’s Jerusalem Venture Partners

The partnership will put money into startups and academic research

M&M promotes its new Hazelnut Spread flavor in New York, March 30, 2019.
Stuart Ramson/AP

Mars, the U.S. company whose brands include M&Ms and Snickers, is forming a partnership with Jerusalem Venture Partners to use high-tech in the food, agriculture and nutrition sectors, the two sides said Wednesday.

As part of the collaboration, the closely held U.S. company will invest in Israeli startups and help form new ones, and work with Israeli universities such as Hebrew University, the Weizmann Institute and the Technion on food-tech innovations, they said.

“Our ambition is to provide people around the world with consumer-centric products, services and experiences,” said Jean-Christophe Flatin, president of the Innovation, Science, Technology & Mars Edge program.

“One example is personalized nutrition solutions that fit an individual’s lifestyle by reconciling the food they want with the nutrition they need.”

The two described the collaboration as the first of its kind. Sources said Mars – which also makes Uncle Ben’s Rice and several well-known brands of pet food – would invest tens of millions of dollars in companies and R&D.

Food has become a hot area for global technology. Last year startups in agriculture and food raised $16.9 billion, a 43% increase, according to a 2018 AgFunder report. Israel has more than 230 active “agrifood” tech startups.

“After building global companies and solutions in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and big data, Israel has set its sights on food as the next frontier,” said Erel Margalit, JVP’s executive chairman. “And by partnering with Mars, one of the world’s most iconic brands at the forefront of innovation, we are confident in Israel’s ability to be the food-tech leader of the future.”

JVP said it had made the strategic decision to invest in the industry and has launched its food-tech initiative to turn Israel’s Upper Galilee region into the global food-tech center. The tie-up with Mars will be part of the initiative.