We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research, but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links.Advertising DisclosureThis is a user-oriented comparison website, and we need to cover hosting and content costs, as well as make a profit. The costs are covered from referral fees from the vendors we feature. Affiliate link compensation does not affect reviews but might affect listicle pages. On these pages, vendors are ranked based on the reviewer’s examination of the service but also taking into account feedback from users and our commercial agreements with service providers. This website tries to cover important meal, coffee and pet food delivery services but we can’t cover all of the solutions that are out there. Information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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Author Sarah Kirton
Sarah Kirton Writer
Updated on Apr 24th, 2024
Fact checked by Emma Vince

Catapult 2024: Turn Your Food Idea Into a Viable Commercial Product


James Valenti-Jordan, the Founder and CEO of Catapult, brings 17 years of experience in Process R&D, Engineering, and System Building with Campbell Soup, Del Monte, and Eat JUST. With a background in Chemical Engineering and a Certified Food Scientist, James plays a pivotal role at Catapult, bridging resources and needs, and vetting solutions. DeliveryRank finds out more.

What inspired the founding of Catapult, and how does the company approach its mission of enabling individuals to turn their food ideas into viable commercial products?

I founded Catapult as a natural progression in my career, which spans two decades in the food and beverage industry. Throughout my professional journey, I've focused on developing and commercializing products. This experience includes roles at Campbell Soup and Processor, the Dominic Foods corporate sharing group, and Hampton Creek. At Hampton Creek, I began as a food engineer and eventually transitioned to overseeing operations.

My career has been dedicated to bringing products to market sustainably, both financially and in a way that resonates with consumers' preferences. Catapult, which I established six years ago, is an extension of this work. Initially a solo consultancy, it has since evolved into a collaborative effort with colleagues, culminating in a business model that facilitates our continued collaboration.

Today, Catapult boasts a team of 19 professionals across the United States. We are deeply engaged in developing a wide array of food and beverage products, with the exception of those related to slaughter animal science and appliance. Our focus remains on bringing innovative and sustainable products to consumers, wherever they may be.

Can you walk us through the typical journey of a client working with Catapult, from the initial stages of research and development to scaling their brand and troubleshooting as they grow?

Typical clients are challenging to define as they approach us at various stages of their journey. However, I can outline a general path to market. Initially, most clients come to us with an idea that they want to validate in the marketplace. We analyze data and trends to ensure there is a market beyond the founder's initial concept.

Once the concept is validated, we engage one or more of our 40 product developers to create the product. This involves sourcing ingredients, determining possible claims and qualifications, and collaborating with our packaging and engineering team to ensure the product can be effectively preserved and delivered to the consumer. Our quality and regulatory team then ensures that the labeled ingredients comply with desired claims and meet food safety standards.

For the majority of clients, approximately 80%, we help find a contract manufacturer as they typically prefer not to own and operate their own facility due to the complexities involved. We assist in building a relationship with the manufacturer, including contract negotiation and overseeing product trials. If the manufacturer lacks necessary capital assets, we help source equipment and manage the installation process.

For clients who wish to own their own plant, we help define the process, system, and infrastructure requirements. Our team of engineers specializes in getting the facility up and running, ensuring equipment functions correctly during commissioning, and providing ongoing support for scalability and efficiency.

We also assist with policy development and implementation to prevent quality incidents and ensure future root cause analysis is easier. Occasionally, we assist in finding warehouses and scheduling trucks for product distribution, although we typically hand off these day-to-day operations to other specialized groups once the product is launched.

Our involvement spans from the initial idea to the full-scale production and distribution, focusing on building systems and ensuring our clients' success in bringing their products to market.

How does Catapult differentiate itself in the market, particularly in terms of guiding new clients who may be new to the food industry?

We collaborate with a diverse range of experts in the field, operating with transparency. Out of our team of 90 individuals, only 5 are employees, while the rest are seasoned contractors with 20 to 40 years of experience. This model allows us to engage specialists based on the specific needs of each project and also provides a learning opportunity for those new to the food industry.

One of our initiatives, called Slingshot, caters to smaller-scale projects. It serves as a stepping stone for individuals with more time than financial resources, helping them gain hands-on experience in various skill sets necessary for product development. Participants in Slingshot can perform benchtop testing, gaining insights into how their products work and the relevant food science principles. We provide guidance and connect them with industry contacts for sourcing ingredients, among other needs.

Slingshot streamlines the learning process, enabling small brands that might not otherwise have access to such resources to enter and grow in the market effectively. This approach applies not only to formulation but also to engineering, packaging, and regulatory aspects. While expertise is crucial, Slingshot is designed to empower brands to develop their products with our guidance, mirroring the pathway they would follow if we were directly managing their project.

How does Catapult stay updated with the latest trends and innovations in the food industry to ensure that the guidance and support provided to clients are relevant and effective?

Certainly, none of us at Catapult are solely defined by our work; we all lead lives outside of the business. Personally, I serve on the board of directors for the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a global organization representing food scientists. This role allows me to stay informed about industry trends and developments. Additionally, I regularly give presentations and attend conferences to further my knowledge and contribute to the field.

We all benefit from a wealth of resources that we constantly tap into. This includes learning from others, teaching, and engaging with various groups. The field of food science is dynamic, and none of us remain static. We are continuously involved in different organizations and activities to broaden our knowledge and connections.

For instance, I am actively involved in local sections like Wisconsin IFT and other organizations such as Naturally Chicago, which focuses on emerging brands and data-related challenges. Similarly, the American Association of Candy Technologists provides valuable content through annual updates and journal articles, which many of us regularly read.

Staying current in the field involves a multitude of inputs, including newsletters and other publications. For those seeking to enter the field or stay updated, I recommend subscribing to paper journals, as they are particularly useful for staying informed about current events and trends.

With the vast array of resources and partners listed on your website, how does Catapult ensure that clients are connected with the right external resources to meet their unique needs and challenges?

Each person featured on our website is someone we have a personal relationship with. We take the time to understand who they are, their professional journey, their skill sets, passions, interests, and what they aspire to learn and work on. This understanding forms a complex matrix for us; it's not as simple as matching a "candy person" with a candy project or someone experienced in plant-based meats with a plant-based meat project. We must consider whether their expertise aligns with the specific needs of the project, such as the necessary systems for the product.

Given the diverse nature of our team members and their extensive industry experience, we avoid pigeonholing them into specific roles like product developer or process developer. Instead, we rely on a sophisticated back-end database to manage our internal talent, capacities, and interests. When a suitable project arises, we typically have four to seven individuals who could contribute effectively. We then engage them in a discussion to ensure the project aligns not just technically but also in terms of their availability and other commitments.

Our team members have various commitments and interests outside of work, such as planning trips to Australia for weeks at a time. This dynamic nature means we must adapt to different schedules and energies, going with the ebb and flow of availability.

Currently, we have an additional bank of 30 individuals in our hold pen who do not have projects due to the current workload. However, this network continues to grow, allowing us to match people based on the right fit and the ideal mix of personalities and skills for each project.

If you would like to find out more about Catapult, please visit https://catapultserv.com/

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We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research, but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links.Advertising DisclosureThis is a user-oriented comparison website, and we need to cover hosting and content costs, as well as make a profit. The costs are covered from referral fees from the vendors we feature. Affiliate link compensation does not affect reviews but might affect listicle pages. On these pages, vendors are ranked based on the reviewer’s examination of the service but also taking into account feedback from users and our commercial agreements with service providers. This website tries to cover important meal, coffee and pet food delivery services but we can’t cover all of the solutions that are out there. Information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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