News for May 13, 2020

Samantha Ownby

Recent Transactions in the Nutrition and Health & Wellness Industry:

UK noodles-in-a-cup brand crowdfunds a £1.75M more

Mr. Lee’s, a United Kingdom-based instant noodle brand that launched in the United States last month (Santa Monica, California), has raised £1.75 million ($2.2 million on May 4) on the equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs. That brings its total to £6.5 million ($8.1 million on May 4) raised so far in four rounds of fundraising on the platform. Its 220 investors include Henry Soesanto, CEO of the international food company Monde Nissin Corp. (which acquired Quorn in 2015), and Bart Sayle, former head of innovation at Unilever. Mr. Lee’s gourmet instant Vietnamese rice noodles come in a handful of varieties featuring freeze-dried vegetables and spices. They’re all gluten free, void of artificial preservatives and lower in calories, salt and saturated fat than competitors, according to the brand. The new cash will fuel international growth and further development of hot noodle vending machines. 


Restaurant supplier Cheetah raises $36M, pivots to serve Bay Area consumers

In the time of COVID-19, no-contact delivery is more important than ever. Cheetah (San Francisco, California) is equipped with a new $36 million investment to expand its wholesale food and supply pickup and delivery service. Though it was initially launched in 2015 as a wholesale delivery service for independent restaurants and small businesses, Cheetah leveraged its existing technology to launch a direct-to-consumer contactless pickup service just before California’s shelter-in-place order went into effect. Consumers order food and other essentials using an app, then pick up their order at a designated drive-through location. Cheetah’s series B was led by Eclipse Ventures and also included backing from ICONIQ Capital, Hanaco Ventures and Floodgate Fund. 


The next big alt protein? Investors bet $4.6M on duckweed

As momentum in the sustainable protein space mounts, Plantible Foods (Bay Harbor Islands, Florida) is getting ready to toss its hat into the ring. The company has developed a complete, plant-based protein from duckweed, which it calls one of the most protein-efficient crops in the world. Its protein ingredient is neutral tasting and mimics the functionality of animal proteins, making it usable in a number of products, from dairy alternatives to beverages. Now, with a $4.6 million financing round led by Vectr Ventures of Hong Kong and Lerer Hippeau of New York, the company has its eyes on commercialization, with the hopes of making its protein available to customers by the end of the year. FTW Ventures and eighteen94—the venture capital arm of Kellogg—also got in on the round. 


Wildtree’s affordable meal solutions sold to Altair Acquisitions

Altair Acquisitions (Frisco, Texas), an alternative asset investment firm founded last year, has acquired the material assets of Wildtree Inc. (Lincoln, Rhode Island). Wildtree manufactures allergen-sensitive spices, oils, mixes, sauces and meal-replacement products that are mostly non-GMO, organic and Kosher. Altair says the deal will enable Wildtree to grow its product offerings and enter new markets. In a statement, Altair said, “The company is benefiting substantially from the trend toward subscription-based product delivery and online retailing of innovative food products. We plan to leverage that in significant ways.” 


Plant-centric Growthwell grabs $8M to launch chickpea-based alt seafood line

With $8 million from investors, plant-based food and ingredient firm Growthwell Group (Singapore) is readying a new R&D and manufacturing facility and launching a chickpea-based alternative seafood line. Growthwell has been collaborating with food tech startup ChickP (Rehovot, Israel) to leverage its chickpea protein isolate in the product line, which will be free of allergens, gluten, lactose and hormones. Since its founding in 1989, Growthwell has been manufacturing vegetarian food products for businesses in Singapore, Australia, India and the U.S. Temasek led the $8 million round, while DSG Consumer Partners, Insignia Venture Partners and Genesis Ventures joined in. 


Sustainable packaging made from sugarcane waste attracts $2.2M

Packaging startup Varden (Melbourne, Australia) has plans to replace single-use plastics in products such as coffee pods with fully compostable materials made from plant waste. That’s attracted the attention of Horizon Ventures, the Hong Kong-based investment firm that was started by famed businessman Li Ka-shing. Horizon has just put $2.2 million behind Varden to help it ramp up manufacturing of its first product, coffee pods. Next, the company will turn to medical blister packs. Varden is keeping its process under wraps but says the material it creates from sugarcane waste is paper-like and functions like plastic. 


Square Organics, Rebbl founders team up on DTC coffee concentrate startup

Andrew Gordon, cofounder of Square Organics, and Palo Hawken, cofounder of Rebbl, have dreamed up what they hope will be the next big thing in coffee. Backed by an investment from PowerPlant Ventures, the pair have launched a direct-to-consumer venture called Jot (Boulder, Colorado). Jot, an acronym for just one tablespoon, refers to the company’s concentrated coffee product, which can be mixed with water or milk to make a cup of coffee instantly. Ultra Coffee—made from organic, fair-trade beans—comes in 200 ml glass bottles that can make up to 14 cups. 


Premama’s pregnancy supplements find investor support

Canadian firm District Ventures Capital announced an investment of an undisclosed amount in women’s supplement brand Premama Wellness (Providence, Rhode Island). Premama is a past NCN presenter known for its product line crafted for women at each stage of pregnancy, from fertility boosters to lactation supplements. While it’s estimated that 97% of pregnant women take prenatal vitamins during their pregnancy, Premama sees opportunity to support women’s nutrition during the entire pregnancy journey. Its products use non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan ingredients, and are free of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. The investment will allow the company to continue to grow with additional marketing and business development support.


Yamaha, Mark Cuban back sensor technology to fight food waste

Strella Biotechnology (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) has completed a $3.3 million seed round that it will use to refine its technology and expand into the retail distribution market. The startup uses biosensors and internet of things technology to monitor and predict the ripeness of fruits along the supply chain, with the goal of helping fruit packers and retailers maximize freshness and minimize food waste. Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley, the investment arm of Yamaha Motor Co., co-led the round with Catapult Ventures. Union Labs, Mark Cuban, Red & Blue Ventures and Art Masher also participated. Prior to the seed round, Strella won the $100,000 Penn President’s Innovation Prize at University of Pennsylvania and won several other local and national innovation contests. 


Plant-based investors target European vegan meat startup Heura

New Crop Capital, an early stage venture fund focused on alternatives to conventional animal agriculture, has added the self-proclaimed “fastest-growing vegan meat startup in Europe” to its portfolio. The fund led a convertible note round for Foods for Tomorrow (Barcelona, Spain), which makes vegan chicken and beef alternatives under the brand name Heura. Vegan investment firm Capital V also participated in the round. In addition to the convertible note, Heura also received an undisclosed amount of funding from Spain’s government in January. 


Krave jerky bought back by founder John Sebastiani’s Sonoma Brands

Sonoma Brands, a company started by entrepreneur John Sebastiani to invest in and develop new snack brands, has acquired the Krave artisanal jerky brand from Hershey. Sebastiani started Krave in 2009 and sold it to Hershey for $220 million in 2015. Specifics of the deal were not disclosed. The Krave product lineup now includes nine varieties of meat jerkies, two plant-based jerkies and two varieties of pork rinds. Sebastiani told Forbes that the brand has retained a strong foothold in the meat snacking market and says there’s still room for new innovation. Sonoma Brands’ portfolio also includes Smashmallow, Peckish, Dang and Hu chocolate. 


Knowde gets $14M to bring the chemical industry online

Sequoia Capital has led a $14 million series A round for Knowde (San Jose, California), a startup that’s building an online marketplace for the chemicals and ingredients industry. Refactor Capital, Bee Partners, Cantos Ventures and Knollwood Investment Advisory also participated. More than 700 chemical producers list their products on the Knowde marketplace, which the company calls an “online raw materials catalog.” Buyers can search for ingredients, request samples, get quotes and purchase products through the marketplace. It’s currently serving three verticals but plans to expand within the year to 10 verticals, including food, pharmaceuticals and personal care. 


Grain-free bakery grows with $1.9M investment

Since it was founded in 2018, Unbun Foods (Toronto, Canada) has become a leader in grain-free, gluten-free and keto-friendly baked goods, with distribution in more than 2,500 restaurants and grocers in the U.S. and Canada. Currently, its lineup includes grain-free baguettes, hamburger buns, pizza crusts and tortillas. A new $1.9 million investment led by Canaccord Genuity will fund development of new products and a ramp-up in production.


TSG adds on to digital fitness services portfolio

TrueCoach (Boulder, Colorado) has built a digital platform that provides more than 15,000 club owners and personal trainers with workout planning, delivery, tracking and communications tools to use with their clients. The health-and-fitness software provider has been acquired by TSG, a portfolio company of Advent International. TSG offers revenue management solutions across a number of industries. This acquisition builds on its previous buys of boutique fitness software providers Mariana Tek, Triib and Zingfit.


Disclaimer: NCN does not warrant the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any NCN news item. Before relying on any NCN News item the information should be independently verified.

News for April 14, 2020

Samantha Ownby

Recent Transactions in the Nutrition and Health & Wellness Industry:

Eco-friendly cooler company Vericool closes $19.1M round

On a mission to replace packaging materials that harm the environment, Vericool (Livermore, California) has raised $19.1 million from Radicle Impact Partners, The Ecosystem Integrity Fund, ID8 Investments and AiiM Partners. Vericool created an alternative to plastic foam coolers that’s made from recycled paper fibers and other plant-based materials. It’s used to ship food and medical supplies that require temperature control, and is recyclable and compostable, the company says. 


M Kombucha focuses on function with new strategic investor

As it doubles down on the bustling functional beverages sector, M Kombucha (San Diego, California) has a new strategic investor in gut health supplement company Microbiome Labs. The funding amount was not disclosed, but according to a company statement, the relationship will bring M Kombucha’s products into the natural health practitioners channel and enable a new product launch. M Kombucha differentiates in the market by focusing on science and function: Three of its kombuchas contain 20 milligrans of CBD, and its functional line includes ingredients such as guarana, reishi mushroom and probiotics. The funding has allowed the company to move into a larger production facility and will support the purchase of new brewing equipment and hiring of additional staff.


SonderMind secures $27 million for mental health support services

SonderMind (Denver, Colorado), a company trying to make mental health care easier to find, coordinate and reimburse, is expanding with $27 million in new backing from investors. San Francisco, California-based General Catalyst led the round; F-Prime Capital, the Kickstart Seed Fund, Dioko Ventures and Jonathan Bush (the former CEO of Athenahealth) also invested. Three-year-old Sonder Mind’s software and services help therapists match with new clients, bill insurance companies and run their businesses. As demand for mental health services climbs, the company expects to expand beyond its current operationes in Colorado, Arizona and Texas.


Cambridge Commodities bulks up organic superfood ingredients portfolio

Nutritional ingredient supplier Cambridge Commodities (San Francisco, California) has acquired the raw and organic superfood ingredient business of Ultimate Superfoods (Moorpark, California). Cambridge Commodities offers some 250 nutritional ingredients to the sports nutrition, animal nutrition, food, beverage and beauty industries. On the heels of its 2018 purchase of Earth Circle Ingredients, Cambridge Commodities continues to grow its organic and superfood ingredient offerings with this acquisition. The deal also gives Ultimate Superfoods access to Cambridge Commodities’ warehousing capabilities, supplier network and product development expertise.


CircleUp invests in Koia

CircleUp Growth Partners says it has made an investment in Koia, a brand that sits at the intersection of a number of consumer trends including plant-based products, protein products and ready-to-drink beverages. Founded by Chris Hunter, one of the co-founders of Four Loko, Koia makes refrigerated, nondairy protein drinks with 18 grams of protein and 4 to 6 grams of sugar per bottle. It also offers keto-friendly and coffee-based beverages. CircleUp Growth partners launched a $125 million fund in 2017 to catalyze early-stage consumer and retail brands. Other companies in its portfolio include Barnana, Nutpods and Cali’flour Foods.


Tech-enabled greenhouses get $100M commitment

Pure Harvest Smart Farms (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates), a leader in sustainable agriculture in the Middle East, is the recipient of a multi-stage financing commitment from Wafra International Investment Co. in Kuwait that’s estimated at more than $100 million. The deal starts with a $10 million contribution to Pure Harvest’s $20.6 million Series A. Pure Harvest says the funding will drive further development of its climate-controlled greenhouses that grow pesticide-free fruits and vegetables year-round in the Middle East. Smart agricultural technology like Pure Harvest’s has become an increasingly important area for innovation and investment as climate change puts more stress on the international food supply chain.


Environmental investor adds $1.4M to vertical farming in the UK

Indoor farming firm Vertical Futures (London, United Kingdom) received a £1.1m ($1.35 million on April 6) follow-on investment from impact investor Earthworm, which also led its £4m ($5.11 million on Oct. 17) seed round last fall. Vertical Futures is part of the vertical farming movement, using automation technology to grow leafy vegetables and herbs indoors without the use of pesticides. Its consumer brand, MiniCrops, is used by more than 100 restaurants and thousands of households.


Kate Farms takes in $23M for medical nutrition formulas

Kate Farms (Santa Barbara, California), maker of plant-based nutritional shakes and tube-feeding formulas, has raised $23 million from individual investors in a round that closed late last year. Its products are used by hospitals and healthcare providers for children and adults who cannot process food. They’re made with pea protein, corn-free carbohydrates and other functional ingredients that support gut health. Meanwhile, they exclude common allergens and artificial ingredients found in conventional formulas. The round, led by Silver Lake cofounder David Roux, also included investments from John Hammergren, former McKesson chairman and CEO, and Gregg Engles, former WhiteWave Foods chairman and CEO. Kate Farms says it will use the financing to ramp up production to meet increasing demand. The company also recently donated 100,000 meal replacement drinks to California’s Meals of Wheels program in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.


Bridge round helps BigBasket deliver online groceries in India

As demand surges for online groceries, Indian online grocery startup BigBasket (Bengaluru, India) closed on $60 million to help it aggressively hire delivery workers. The bridge round saw participation from Alibaba and other existing investors, including Mirae Asset and CDC Group. One of the leading online grocers in India, BigBasket operates in more than two dozen cities. It has raised about $720 million so far, and company leaders say they expect to close a larger round later this year.


Nestle makes a pet food acquisition

Another pet company has been acquired as Nestle (Vevey, Switzerland) bought premium dog and cat food maker Lily’s Kitchen (London, U.K.) for an undisclosed amount. Pet food is the Swiss company’s fastest-growing segment, with 7% growth in 2019. Lily’s Kitchen, which has annual sales around $105 million in 30 countries, will operate as a stand-alone business in London.


Korean grocery e-commerce startup announces $150M Series E round

Market Kurly (Seoul, Korea), a five-year-old Korean overnight grocery delivery startup, has closed a $150 million round of funding. Sequoia Capital, Hillhouse Capital and DST Global participated in the round, which reportedly valued the company at $780 million. Recent media reports speculated that Kurly, which was launched in 2015 by former Goldman Sachs analyst Sophie Kim, would be acquired by one of its competitors. Like elsewhere in the world, e-commerce is surging in Korea as the coronavirus outbreak keeps people home.


Samsung and other investors back Indian restaurant delivery app with $43M

Investors delivered $43 million in new financing to Swiggy (Bengaluru, India), an on-demand food delivery app. The company’s ongoing series I round has so far brought in $156 million. Participants in the round included Chinese gaming company Tencent, Samsung Ventures, Ark Impact, Korea Investment Partners and Mirae Asset Capital Markets. Following in the footsteps of its competitor Zomato, Swiggy recently started delivery groceries and essential items in certain Indian cities as well.


Spot & Tango draws in $4.3M for dog food delivery

Direct-to-consumer pet food startup Spot & Tango (New York, New York) announced a new line of dry food and a $4.2 million seed funding round led by Guild Capital. It says the funding will be used to expand R&D capacity and grow the team. Launched in 2018, Spot & Tango creates fresh, customized meals for dogs based on their size, breed, age and activity level, and ships them directly to customers’ doorsteps. Its new line, UnKibble, brings that same focus on quality and freshness to dry food. A unique drying process allows for whole food ingredients to be preserved without any additives. An UnKibble subscription starts at $9 a week.


Disclaimer: NCN does not warrant the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any NCN news item. Before relying on any NCN News item the information should be independently verified.

News for April 2, 2020

Samantha Ownby

Recent Transactions in the Nutrition and Health & Wellness Industry:

High-profile investors put $80M behind alternative-protein startup

The food tech company once known as Sustainable Bioproducts is now Nature’s Fynd (Chicago, Illinois), and it’s equipped with $80 million in fresh funding from investors. Grown out of NASA-supported research, Nature’s Fynd used a protein-rich microorganism discovered at Yellowstone National Park to develop a fermentation process that results in a sustainable, animal-free protein containing all nine essential amino acids. Production of the protein recently began and the company plans to use it in a line of food and beverage products. Generation Investment Management LLP and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, established by Bill Gates, led the company’s $80 million Series B. Mousse Partners, 1955 Capital, ADM Ventures and Danone Manifesto Ventures also participated. So far, Nature’s Fynd has raised $113 million.


Impossible Foods’ series F brings total raised to $1.3B

As Impossible Foods (Redwood City, California) continues to expand internationally—and braces for potential impact from the global coronavirus crisis—it’s closed a new $500 million series F funding round. The 8-year-old, plant-based food company has raised more than $1.3 billion to date, and sources have reported that it’s valued at close to $4 billion. The round was led by South Korean firm Mirae Asset Global Investments, with participation from other investors including Khosla, Horizons Ventures and Temasek. Impossible Foods’ flagship product, the plant-based Impossible Burger, is served in more than 17,000 restaurants and launched in retail stores last year. A new pork alternative joined the Impossible product lineup in January.


Nonalcoholic beer maker Athletic Brewing adds funding production

Hoping to make alcohol-free the next big thing in craft beer, Athletic Brewing (Stratford, Connecticut) has purchased a brewery in San Diego, California, and raised a $17.5 million series B to grow its production capabilities. Investors include Timothy Barakett’s family office, Tastemaker Capital Partners, Wheelhouse Partners and TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie. Launched in 2018, Athletic uses organic grains to craft nonalcoholic brews that contain between 50 and 70 calories each. According to IRI, nonalcoholic beer is a trending segment of the beer market, with retail dollar sales growing 23% in 2019.


CBD deal sends infused candies to Pura

Puration (Pura), a cannabis beverage maker, has bought a line of CBD-infused gummies and gum called Hemp4mula from Kali-Extracts. Pura’s business is centered around its cannabis-extraction process, which it puts to use in its own lines of CBD-infused foods and beverages. It also recently announced a $5 million investment to fund further acquisitions. Kaly, which also has a patented cannabis extraction process, sold the confectionery line to focus on its cannabis-based biopharmaceutical products, which were developed to treat respiratory conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


Novi gets $1.5M to ease ingredient transparency in personal care

Aiming to make it easier for better-for-you beauty brands to develop clean products, startup Novi (Larkspur, California) has developed an AI-driven platform that connects brands with suppliers that can meet their ingredient standards. Novi has raised $1.5 million and names Defy Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Maveron, Polaris Partners and Slow Ventures among its investors.


Amazon, ShopRite operator buy Fairway Markets assets in bankruptcy auction

Two months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, East Coast grocery chain Fairway Markets has sold six of its stores, a production and distribution center, and two real estate leases at auction. Village Supermarket Inc., which operates several ShopRite stores in New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania, snagged four of Fairway’s Manhattan stores plus one other, as well as a production and distribution facility, for $76 million. Seven Seas—a member of the Key Food Stores Co-operative Inc.—bought Fairway’s Georgetown store for $5 million. Amazon snapped up two real estate leases in New Jersey for $1.5 million. Fairway says it will continue to operate all of its stores for the foreseeable future to meet public need during this time.


Your Super secures $10 million for superfood powders

Superfood company Your Super (Venice, California) has raised a $10 million series B led by PowerPlant Ventures, which is also an investor in Beyond Meat and Thrive Market. White Road Investments, a firm started by the founders of Clif Bar, and Marstar Investments also joined in the round. Your Super is a Certified B Corporation that developed a line of organic superfood and protein powder mixes with trendy functional ingredients such as pea protein, hemp, maca, moringa and chaga mushrooms. The direct-to-consumer company, which was launched in Germany before moving its headquarters to California, says the investment will fuel new product development and the addition of new team members.


Hain Celestial offloads two more brands

As it continues to streamline its elaborate portfolio of brands, Hain Celestial (Lake Success, New York) has sold two more brands. Casbah, a line of Mediterranean-inspired side dishes, went to U.S. Durum, and Europe’s Best, a line of frozen fruits and vegetables, was sold to Nature’s Touch Frozen Food. Since CEO Mark Schiller took the reins in late 2018, Hain has focused on eliminating unprofitable SKUs. Last year, it sold the remainder of its Pure Protein business, as well as the Tilda, Arrowhead Mills and SunSpire brands, and West Soy’s tofu, seitan and tempeh business.


Bel Group acquires French cheese alternative startup

In an effort to diversify its product portfolio, Bel Group (Paris, France) has taken a majority stake in startup All in Foods (Saint-Nazaire, France), which makes plant-based cheese alternatives and sauces sold in retail stores and foodservice internationally. Bel’s portfolio includes The Laughing Cow and Mini Babybel, but the company’s strategy is focused on growing beyond cheese. It also recently acquired dairy company Safilait and MOM, the maker of the Materne, GoGo squeeZ and Montblanc brands. The terms of the self-financed acquisition were not disclosed, but Bel says it has taken an 80% stake in All in Foods, with a liquidity agreement allowing it to acquire 100% by 2024.


Ironman triathlons bought by media powerhouse Advance

Advance Publications Inc. (Staten Island, New York), the privately owned parent company of Conde Nast, has reached a deal with Wanda Sports Group Co. (Beijing, China) to acquire its Ironman business at a reported value of $730 million. The Ironman portfolio includes Ironman and 70.3 triathlons, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series and the Epic Mountain Bike Series, which collectively draw in about 1 million athletes each year. As part of the deal, Wanda will continue to operate several of the franchise’s races in China under an exclusive license agreement, and Orkila Capital will co-invest in the Ironman Group. Ironman’s global headquarters will remain in Tampa, Florida.


UK-based artisan tea maker secures growth funding

Specialty tea company English Tea Shop (London, England) has received a financing package of £2.5 million ($2.97 million on March 19), as part of the HSBC UK’s £14 million lending fund. It will use the funding to support the launch of new products as well as international expansion and a redesign of its packaging. The socially conscious business sources teas, herbs, flowers, fruits and spices from organic, fair-trade farms across the world.


Silicon Valley startup scores $16M for sports performance platform

Sparta Science’s (Menlo Park, California) hardware-software service is already being put to use by a handful of collegiate and professional sports teams. And now, bolstered by a $16 million series B, the company says it’ll hire new engineering staff and deploy the technology into health systems, too. Sparta’s system scans a users’ body to determine their balance, strength and jump. AI-powered software analyzes that data and creates a personalized plan to help users improve their physical performance or lower their risk of injury. GSR Ventures led the round, with participation from Arsenal Growth and other investors.


Disclaimer: NCN does not warrant the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any NCN news item. Before relying on any NCN News item the information should be independently verified.

News for March 24, 2020

Samantha Ownby

Recent Transactions in the Nutrition and Health & Wellness Industry:

PepsiCo pushes further into energy drinks with Rockstar Energy acquisition

PepsiCo (Harrison, New York) has added to its energy-drink portfolio by acquiring Rockstar Energy (Las Vegas, Nevada) in a $3.85 billion deal that’s expected to close in the first half of the year. PepsiCo has had a distribution deal with Rockstar since 2009. Its current energy drink lineup includes Mountain Dew-branded AMP, Kickstart and GameFuel. As soda sales slide, energy drink sales have been steadily growing over the last several years, led by Red Bull and Monster Energy.


Nassau Candy buys natural products distributor Island Natural

Wholesale candy manufacturer and distributor Nassau Candy (Livonia, Michigan) has acquired Island Natural (Long Island City, New York), a natural products sales and distribution company. The deal will grow Nassau’s presence in the Northeast and allow it to offer more natural and eco-friendly food, cleaning, health and beauty products to its customers. It will also enable Island Natural to offer its customers access to a broader-reaching distribution network.


GrainChain’s blockchain platform for ag gets $8.2M

A commodities transaction platform developed by GrainChain (McAllen, Texas) and powered by blockchain technology has received an $8.2 million boost from investors. GrainChain says its platform streamlines the process of buying and selling commodities, allowing farmers to receive fair value and quick payment for their crops, monitor inventory, access more buyers and avoid fraud and corruption. Medici Ventures, a subsidiary of Overstock that invests in blockchain technologies, led the round, which also saw participation from blockchain venture company Eden Block and several other investors.


Foods United adds vegan media brand, raises $200M

Livekindly Media (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), a content platform focused on plant-based living, was bought by Foods United (California), a plant-based food brand owned by Swiss investment company Blue Horizon. Now known as The Livekindly Co., the combined company will be led by former Unilever North America President Kees Kruythoff. It plans to buy majority stakes in meat-alternative makers and connect them with production and distribution partners. Currently, it has stakes in chicken substitute maker LikeMeat (Dusseldorf, Germany), meat-alternative brand The Fry Family Food Co. (Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) and non-GMO ingredient company Puris Holdings (Minneapolis, Minnesota). In conjunction with the acquisition, Livekindly Co. also announced a new $200M funding round, which will go toward more acquisitions to scale its plant-based portfolio.


Organic baby food startup Amara raises $2M for powdered purées

A recent newcomer in the organic baby food market, Amara Organic Foods (San Francisco, California), has put together a $2 million seed round to grow its three-person team and help meet demand for its products in-store and online. Bucking the trend of fresh baby foods that need refrigeration, Amara created a non-GMO, preservative-free, plant-based purée that is shelf-stable. It comes in powdered form and can be mixed with water, milk, breast milk or formula. The company launched in Whole Foods’ Northern California region in 2017 and is also sold in some Target stores. Investors in the round included ecommerce platform Pharmapacks and Moses Ventures.


Climate-friendly snack brand PlanetFWD secures seed funding

PlanetFWD (San Francisco, California), a new company started by Zume Pizza cofounder Julia Collins, has garnered $2.7 million in seed money from BBG Ventures, Cleo Capital, Cowboy Ventures, Precursor Ventures, Kapor Capital and others. By sourcing ingredients from regenerative farms, PlanetFWD is creating snacks that are climate-friendly, starting with its first upcoming release, a cracker. It’s also building a software platform to connect regenerative farmers with other climate-conscious food makers.


Starfield marks New Crop Capital’s first investment in China

New Crop Capital, a firm that’s hyper-focused on funding animal protein alternatives, has joined Chinese impact investor Dao Foods International in backing Starfield Food and Science Technology Limited (Shenzhen, China). The company’s first product is a ground meat alternative, and it owns a patent for a process that allows it to extract proteins from seaweed. The company says it’s reached product collaboration intents with more than 20 local and international restaurants, including Papa John’s Pizza. Chinese venture firms Matrix Partners China and Joy Capital are also investors.


Smart Foodservice Warehouse Stores to be acquired by US Foods

The second largest food distributor in the United States., US Foods (Rosemont, Illinois), bought Smart Foodservice Warehouse Stores (Portland, Oregon) from Apollo Global Management in a $970 million deal.Smart Foodservice operates 70 small-format stores in seven states that serve small- and midsize restaurants and other food businesses. US Foods says Smart Foodservice will help it better reach independent restaurant operators who prefer a self-serve model, in addition to providing current customers with another growth channel. Post-acquisition, Smart Foodservice will operate as a separate business unit and keep its leadership team.


GMO probiotics maker raises $2.3M

Science company ZBiotics (San Francisco, California) has announced a $2.3 million round to fuel product development and drive sales growth for its genetically engineered probiotics. Its first release is a probiotic that claims to break down an unwanted byproduct of alcohol in the gut to help the body rebound from drinking. This funding round was led by Oyster Ventures, bringing ZBiotics’ total raised so far to $5.7 million.


Firmenich adds French ingredient supplier DRT to portfolio

In its latest deal, Firmenich (Geneva, Switzerland) has acquired flavor and fragrance ingredients supplier Les Dérivés Résiniques et Terpéniques (Dax, France) for an undisclosed amount. The two companies have been partners for years, and Firmenich says the acquisition will add to its renewable and sustainable ingredient offerings. DRT makes a range of plant-based ingredients, mostly from pine trees. It operates nine production facilities in France, the U.S., India and China.


$10M will fund pilot of Basil Street’s pizza vending machines

Basil Street (Los Angeles, California) has developed a sleek, so-called “automated pizza kitchen” that cooks 10-inch thin-crust pizzas from frozen in about three minutes and serves them to consumers for about $8 a piece. A new $10 million round of funding will support the company’s upcoming pilot program, which is expected to roll out in multiple cities across the U.S. in April. Basil Street says it hopes that will lead to a full-scale launch later this year.


Disclaimer: NCN does not warrant the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any NCN news item. Before relying on any NCN News item the information should be independently verified.

News for March 19, 2020

Samantha Ownby

Recent Transactions in the Nutrition and Health & Wellness Industry:

JJ’s Sweets becomes part of Madhava Foods

Madhava Foods, a seller of natural sweetener products such as honey, agave and coconut sugar, has acquired organic candy company JJ’s Sweets. The deal between the two Boulder, Colorado-based companies is intended to boost distribution and sales growth for JJ’s and its line of organic, dairy-free coconut caramels called Cocomels. JJ’s was founded in 2010 by JJ Rademaekers, who will join the Madhava Foods team. The company will continue production in its Boulder facility. JJ’s is a past NCN presenter.


Kidfresh celebrates 10th anniversary with fresh capital

Frozen kids’ meal brand Kidfresh (New York, New York) has secured an undisclosed amount of growth capital from Monogram Capital Partners, Emil Capital Partners and AccelFoods. The brand, which is a past NCN presenter, says it will use the funds to roll out new branding and innovation, and expand retail distribution of its frozen meals made with better-for-you ingredients and hidden vegetables. Last year, Kidfresh made its first foray into breakfast foods with a new line of frozen waffles. 


Kerry grows plant-based portfolio with Pevesa Biotech buy

As demand for plant-based foods continues to soar, Kerry (Tralee, Ireland) expands its platform of plant-based protein offerings with the acquisition of Pevesa Biotech (Seville, Spain). Specializing in non-allergenic, non-GMO plant proteins, Pevesa offers organic pea and rice protein, as well as protein hydrolysates. Kerry says the deal will strengthen its position in the hydrolysed plant-protein space for specialized nutrition, as well as its ability to serve the rapidly growing plant-based-food market. The deal comes on the heels of Kerry’s launch of its Radicle line of plant-based ingredients for use in meat and dairy alternatives last year. 


MycoWorks rounds up $17M for mushroom-based leather alternative

To meet growing demand for sustainable fashion products, MycoWorks (San Francisco, California) has developed a sustainable, fine mycelium leather alternative made from reishi mushroom. It’s already in use by some European luxury and footwear brands, but a new $17 million series A financing round will help the company scale its manufacturing operations. The round was led by tech investment firm DCVC Bio, with additional participation from Novo Holdings and 8VC, as well as Future Tech Labs, AgFunder, Susa Ventures, Cthulhu Ventures and Wireframe Ventures. 


Overnight oats brand Brekki acquired by Cedar’s execs

Brekki (Carlsbad, California), a brand that took oats from the shelf to the refrigerated case, has been acquired by members of the executive team of Cedar’s, which makes hummus and other Mediterranean foods. Since Brekki emerged three years ago with a line of dairy-free, single-serve, ready-to-eat overnight oats, it has gained national distribution. Its acquirers say they’ll help propel the brand’s distribution and marketing. Once the deal is complete, Brekki will continue operating as a separate venture but will be manufactured and packed at Cedar’s production facilities in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Cedar’s completed construction of a new 125,000 square-foot production facility last year. 


Greek yogurt brand Ellenos gets $18M boost from Kind founder

Equilibra Partners Management, the family office of Kind Snacks founder and executive chairman Daniel Lubetzky, has invested $18 million in craft yogurt brand Ellenos (Seattle, Washington). Ellenos started as a brick-and-mortar fresh-scooped yogurt bar before offering packaged products at retail in 2016. Its Greek yogurts are made using a proprietary, five-day process and are topped with fresh fruit purees and indulgent compotes. With the investment and partnership with Lubetzky, Ellenos plans to expand. In 2018, the brand secured an $18 million investment from Monogram Capital Partners to build a bigger production facility, which reportedly increased its capacity tenfold. 


Mission-forward chocolate brand Tony’s attracts new investors

Tony’s Chocolonely (Amsterdam, Netherlands) will forge ahead with international growth fueled by a new minority investment from Belgian investment firm Verlinvest and London-based venture capital fund JamJar. The quirky Dutch chocolate company, which operates in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, aims to take slave labor out of the chocolate supply chain. With the investment, it also plans to create a factory and visitor’s center in the Netherlands called Tony’s Chocolonely Chocolate Circus to educate visitors about inequality issues in the chocolate industry.


Yerbae investment will fuel foodservice, retail expansion

Sparkling water brand Yerbae (Scottsdale, Arizona) has reportedly received a minority investment from Vistar, a division of Performance Food Group that distributes products to vending, campus retail, specialty retail hospitality and concession accounts. In addition to opening up new outlets for distribution, the deal will also help the beverage maker ramp up manufacturing to support expanded retail distribution. Yerbae recently rebranded and reformulated its beverage to be sugar-free and zero-calorie.


Danone expands in UK market with acquisition of Harrogate Water

Danone Waters’ U.K. and Ireland subsidiary has acquired a majority stake in Harrogate Water, which owns the Harrogate Spring Water and Thirsty Planet brands. “This move will expand our offering in the U.K. and help to meet growing demand in sparkling water and on-the-go consumption,” Danone Waters U.K. & Ireland Managing Director James Pearson said in a statement. Danone’s existing bottled water offerings include Evian and Volvic. 


BlueNalu gets $20M to make seafood from fish cells

One of several companies working to bring cultured seafood to market, BlueNalu (San Diego, California), has raised a $20 million Series A round. Stray Dog Capital, CPT Capital, Clear Current Capital and New Crop Capital co-led the round. According to the company, it’s developing a process in which “living cells are isolated from fish tissue, placed into cultured media for proliferation, and then assembled into great-tasting fresh and frozen seafood products.” In January, it announced a strategic partnership with the aquafeed company Nutreco to accelerate commercialization. 


Retail fulfillment startup Fabric gets backing from Kraft-Heinz

Evolv Ventures, a fund backed by Kraft-Heinz, joined in a $110 Series B round for tech startup Fabric (New York, New York). The company uses proprietary robotics and software to give retailers a way to quickly fulfill home delivery and in-store pickup orders and replenish their stock. It already operates with a large grocery chain in Israel and is working to grow in the U.S. Corner Ventures, Aleph, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Innovation Endeavors, La Maison, Playground Ventures and Temasek also participated in the round, which was first announced in October. 


Subscription meal service for dogs lands $9M

General Mills’ 301 Inc. led a $9 million Series A round for Pet Plate (New York, New York), a pet food subscription service for pet parents who are willing to pay a premium for quality, healthy food. Pet Plate was founded in 2016 and quickly grew into a national brand after an appearance on Shark Tank. With the new funding, the company says it will expand its offerings to include new recipes, organic treats and nutritional supplements, as well as continue building its team and corporate infrastructure. The round was also led by DFE Capital Management, with additional investment from Marco Polo, Fernbrook Capital Management, The Yard Ventures and Castor Ventures. 


Lunchbox lines up $2M investment for restaurant ordering tech

In a $2 million seed round, tech company Lunchbox Technologies (New York, New York) secured investments from Primary, 645 Ventures and individual investors. Under Lunchbox’s model, small restaurant chains pay a setup fee and monthly subscription fee for software that streamlines a number of their pain points, including digital ordering, delivery dispatch, catering and sales analytics.


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