The Fit Kitchen ethos is all about creating prepared meals and snacks that are packed with goodness. Since working with the Nutrition Greenhouse program, they’ve taken the idea of high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods and extended them to chilled snacks and breakfast pots. Their mentor, Carolos Isusi, tells us what it’s been like working with them.

Being a mentor on the Nutrition Greenhouse program has been an amazing experience. I was open to the opportunity and hoped I would learn a lot, but one thing in particular really surprised me: how few things people actually need in order to succeed. At PepsiCo we are used to having so much expertise across every aspect of our business that we’ve come to believe it’s the only way. But small start-ups without all this support can do amazing things.

The Fit Kitchen people deserve all the credit of what they’ve accomplished. With little business training and commercial backgrounds, in the beginning all they had were good ideas and a great passion. Of course, without passion nothing happens. With these relatively limited resources they’ve achieved amazing things.

The fundamental idea of Fit Kitchen was to offer high-protein, low carbohydrate, prepared meals so nutritionally dense that each one contains three of your ‘five a day’. They’re also incredibly tasty – let’s not forget how important that is – and easy to cook. Six months ago, when I first got involved, they had a very small range of products but in the brief time we’ve been working together they’ve introduced entirely new segments such as salads and pots. It’s quite dizzying.

It has been fascinating to watch them develop and to compare how they do it with what our approach would be. They don’t depend on a huge structure to grow, create, and innovate. And they don’t have to meet as many demands from stakeholders, employees, financial markets, legislators, and activists and so on as we do. We may not always be free to work in the same way, but I’m convinced there’s much PepsiCo can learn from them. The idea of internal ‘greenhouses’ which are free of noise, interference and pressures could really accelerate our new product development, for example.

Another thing that struck me is how ready they are to make mistakes. They know they’ll slip up and they accept the fact. And when those mistakes happen, they simply learn from them – they find a new way to do things and move on. Sometimes we all perhaps forget the value of mistakes and it’s certainly something I’ve taken away for my own personal development. I’m not going to set out to make more mistakes, obviously, but I hope that when they happen I’ll respond more positively and learn from them without beating myself up.

Another thing that strikes me about the way these small outfits work is that these guys know everything about their business. Imagine the impact at PepsiCo if everyone here decided to understand our products and our operations from every angle. How powerful that would be.

Nutrition Greenhouse is such a valuable program. Keeping track of nutrition trends and how we develop ideas in this space is going to be fundamental to our future. Being so closely involved with start-ups in this way and understanding how they make things happen is going to be really good for us. This could be just the beginning. Why not extend this concept to start-ups who are doing interesting or disruptive things in other areas such as marketing, logistics, go-to-market, digital, e-commerce and so on? Who knows!