Open Innovation Challenge: Innovative Products from Millet (and Other High Fibre Grains)

Unilever Kenya is seeking innovative solutions to produce millet food products with consumer appeal and zero waste, using circular economy principles.

Opportunity Details


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Successful applicants will be given the opportunity to pitch their solution to Unilever Kenya. The winning applicant, as selected by Unilever Kenya will get the opportunity to collaborate with them on a trial project. Up to GBP 40,000 seed funding is available to the successful finalist/s for this collaboration.

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This Open Innovation Challenge, delivered by the Global Alliance Africa project, is supporting Unilever Kenya to find innovative ways to process millet (and other grains) to produce convenient, fortified consumer products. Due to this nutritious grains’ physical variability, processing can be inefficient, and there are challenges in producing preferable formats. Unilever Kenya is seeking innovative solutions beyond commonly used/existing technologies to produce millet food products with consumer appeal and zero waste, using circular economy principles. They are also open to wider use cases involving other grains.
Solutions are invited from, but not limited to, the following sectors:

  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing
  • Chemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Design
  • Health
  • AI

Entrants to this competition must be established businesses, start-ups, SMEs or individual entrepreneurs. Africa-based entrants, UK-based entrants and those from RoW are invited to apply.

Click here to watch the recorded briefing and download the slides.

  • Millet has been identified as a Future Fifty food product that will fare well with the effects of climate change. It is grown locally and may be used to produce a wide range of nutritious food products.

    However due to the grain’s physical variability, processing can be inefficient, leading to challenges in producing formats that are preferable to consumers. The high fibre content of millet can also make it hard to digest.

    Innovative ways to improve the preparation and processing of millet are desired, which can replace or advance commonly used methods such as fermentation, decortication, milling, sieving, etc.

    There is particular interest in ways to enhance the availability of micronutrients such as fibre, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals.

    Unilever’s goal is producing millet food products with consumer appeal and zero waste, using circular economy principles. Solutions involving primary and secondary processing of millet (holistic solutions) will be preferred.

  • Millet has not featured in Unilever’s portfolio before, and they have yet to find reliable technology to produce appealing, nutritious products (such as instant porridge, cookies, noodles, etc.). They are seeking to solve 2 specific pain points:

    • It is difficult to process millet to retain nutrition and maintain consistent quality
    • Finding a convenient product format for consumers with an appealing taste and texture

    Applicants may focus on one or both of these issues. Key areas of interest are cereal and snacking use cases. They will consider adding diverse/additional ingredients as part of the final product offering.
    Applicants will need to offer credible information/technical data for any manufacturing technology involved. This should include end-to-end supply chain solutions, or if they do not have a complete solution, then outlining where they fit into the supply chain.
    The goal is to unlock new millet production possibilities, creating a new supply chain of this nutritious, Future Fifty product. These plant-based foods that can increase dietary nutritional value and reduce environmental impacts of the food supply, promoting sustainable global food systems.

    The identified solution must/should address the following:

    • Solution must apply to millet or other nutritious grains
    • Solution must support the production of appealing consumer products
    • Preference for instant, convenient products
    • Solution must suit cereal and/or snacking space
    • Additional ingredients will be considered
    Technical Requirements
    • Solution must not significantly reduce inherent nutritional values
    • Solution must follow circular economy principles
    • Solution may be delivered by external contractor or via in-house technology
    • Please detail basic engineering requirements
    Operating Conditions
    • Solution should operate in context of normal temperatures and humidity
    • Solution should be applicable during normal working hours
    • Versatility and capacity to scale are desirable
    • Solution may be integrated at any point in supply chain
    • Up to GBP 40,000 seed funding (Subject to T&C)
    • Opportunity to pitch your solution to Unilever Kenya
    • Collaboration/partnership with Unilever Kenya
    • Technical support from Unilever Kenya team
    • Mentorship programme facilitated by KTN
    • Sector expertise from KTN
    • Support in the development of a prototype or pilot
    • Invitation to attend or present at KTN events
    • Investor introductions (if investment is required)
    • Application support for any Innovate UK or similar competitions that are relevant.

Related Events and Recordings


Unilever Kenya Open Innovation Challenge Information Session and Q&A

12.00 - 13.30 GMT | Online

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