Startups Boost The Prowess Of Nestlé’s ‘Digital Apostles’

Gerardo Mazzeo, global innovation director at Nestlé, believes FMCGs have no choice other than to embrace open innovation. Successful, established brands can either partner with the hottest startups with the most talented staff or find they have new, more agile competitors.

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We caught up with Mazzeo at the recent Festival of Marketing in London to talk about the company’s latest open innovation platform, HENRi, which just might help save the world from the blight of non-biodegradable plastic bottles.

Before moving on to his experience of working with startups and tips for those following in Nestlé’s footsteps, we started by asking why the company is so heavily geared towards open innovation for its future growth plans and how its new platform fits in with this strategy.

Mazzeo: HENRi means taking a new approach for us. It’s us setting challenges and asking the brightest, most exciting startups to put themselves forward as a partner that can help us find the solution to a problem we believe will make people’s lives better.

We already have a very successful programme in Silicon Valley that goes and scouts out the best ideas, the brightest talent, and the hot startups.

The other obvious new direction for us is that, if we’re running a request through HENRi, it’s a funded pilot. A team within Nestlé will get their request, and that means it’s already got $50,000 behind it—there’s no delay while we seek the money.

We’ve also got the NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) down to just two sheets of paper so we can start to act and think more like a startup. It shows how agile we’ve become as an organisation. In fact, HENRi was set up in just 150 days in July last year to celebrate our 150th anniversary.

Read the full interview on