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Recent Transactions in the Nutrition and Health & Wellness Industry
In a new series B round led by Adjuvant Capital, a fund backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other global health investors, Frontier Nutrition (New Haven, Connecticut) has brought in $6 million. The mission-based company makes affordable fortified snacks that are sold in Bangladesh, a country with one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world. Proceeds from the round will help it bring its manufacturing in-house and raise awareness for its Hashi Khushi brand of fortified lentil butters, which are packed with 23 micronutrients, protein and fats. Other backers in the round include DSG Consumer Partners, Great Point Ventures, Royal DSM’s investment arm and individual investors.
In a deal worth $7.2 billion, Jazz Pharmaceuticals (Dublin, Ireland) has agreed to acquire GW Pharmaceuticals (Cambridge, United Kingdom), maker of the first cannabis-derived drug to be approved by the FDA. Epidiolex was greenlighted in 2018 as a treatment for seizures associated with childhood-onset epilepsy. The company has another drug candidate in phase 3 clinical trials for patients with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, plus drugs for autism and schizophrenia in earlier-stage development. Jazz, which is a leader in sleep medicines and has a growing oncology business, says the multi-billion dollar deal brings "a scientific platform and deep innovative pipeline of cannabinoid product candidates, as well as highly specialized manufacturing expertise."
Good Eggs (San Francisco, California) is the latest of many food delivery companies to get a boost from investors during the pandemic, securing a $100 million funding round that will help it expand to Southern California this summer or fall. Good Eggs offers groceries, meal kits, prepared meals and alcohol, many of which are locally sourced. In 2015, it shut down its operations in Los Angeles, New York City and New Orleans, Louisiana, to focus its growth in the Bay Area. That seems to have been successful: In the last year, the company says it’s nearly doubled its customer base, hired 400 new employees and opened a new, larger warehouse. The $100 million round was led by new investor Glade Brook Capital Partners with several other investment firms including Benchmark Partners, Index Ventures and S2G Ventures also participating.
Though it’s most known for its CBD products, Beam’s (Boston, Massachusetts) next steps are in the buzzing functional beverages category. The brand has closed a $5 million series A from C2 Ventures, The Yard Ventures, Litani Ventures, Obvious Ventures, Camwood Capital and more, bringing its total capital raised to $12 million. Its first non-CBD product is a line of individually packaged hydration powders with electrolytes from coconut water, Himalayan sea salt, potassium bicarbonate and sodium hyaluronate. Beam says the funding will fuel more depth in its product pipeline and allow it to invest in organizational structure.
Welly Health PBC (Minneapolis, Minnesota), a colorful and whimsical first-aid brand, is the latest addition to Unilever’s (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey) consumer brand portfolio. Welly was cofounded by serial entrepreneur Eric Ryan, whose previous ventures Method and Olly Nutrition sold to SC Johnson and Unilever, respectively. Welly started out selling its bandages, ointments and first aid tools exclusively at Target before branching out into a number of department, grocery and drug stores. The deal, it says, will put power behind its innovation and growth. Unilever has been on a kick acquiring purpose-driven, sustainable brands in recent years, including Seventh Generation, SmartyPants, Schmidt’s and Olly.
Organic candy maker Torie & Howard (New Milford, Connecticut) has been bought by American Licorice Co. (LaPorte, Indiana) for an undisclosed price. Torie & Howard makes hard and chewy candies that are organic, allergen friendly, vegan and free of artificial colors and flavors. American Licorice, which owns the Red Vines and Sour Punch brands, says the deal complements its other recent investments in the better-for-you treat space, including fair trade chocolate maker Theo Chocolate and Zing Bar creator Mindful Nourishment.
On the heels of a strong 2020, Red Clay Hot Sauce (Charleston, South Carolina) has attracted $1.5 million in seed funding from investors. Last year, the company pivoted from a foodservice model to a direct-to-consumer presence, grew revenue 300% and got its cold-pressed, barrel-aged hot sauces and hot honey into 1,200 Publix stores in the southeastern United States. The new funding will support further retail growth and the launch of a new line of spicy seasonings.
As retailers scrambled to take their businesses online during the pandemic, Rosie (Ithaca, New York) was one of the companies there to help. It equips local retailers with personalized e-commerce software, and recently raised a $10 million series A round led by B2B software investor Avenue Growth Partners. It will invest the funds in introducing new features to the platform, developing more digital offerings for retailers and recruiting talent.
Ukko (Tel Aviv, Israel) closed a series B for its AI-based approach to eliminating food allergies and sensitivities. Bayer's corporate venture unit, Leaps by Bayer, led the $40 million round. Other investors included Continental Grain Company, PeakBridge Ventures, Skyviews Life Science, Fall Line Capital, Khosla Ventures, Innovation Endeavors and TIME Ventures. Using a combination of artificial intelligence and bioengineering, Ukko says it can map and alter problematic aspects of a food protein that trigger an allergy. It's developing both functional food ingredients and medical therapeutics.
Bold (San Mateo, California), an online fitness platform that aims to prevent falls and chronic health problems in older adults, has nabbed $7 million in seed funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz. Bold works like this: Users fill out a questionnaire on the web-based platform and get a personalized exercise program that might include Tai Chi, cardio, strength or other classes.
Tiger Global Management has made a €40 million (about $48.5 million) investment in Flipdish (Dublin, Ireland), a software platform that enables restaurants to bring online ordering in-house instead of relying on third-party platforms. Its platform is a white-label online ordering system that powers restaurants’ websites or mobile apps. It also includes built-in analytics tools. With the new funding, Flipdish says it’s investing heavily in its product and expansion. Currently, it operates in the U.K., Germany, France, Ireland, Spain and the U.S.
Using CRISPR technology, Pairwise (Durham, North Carolina) hopes to cultivate fruit and vegetable varieties with enhanced taste, longer shelf life, better yield and a longer season of availability. The startup closed a series B round that brought in $90 million from Pontifax AgTech, Deerfield Management, Temasek and Leaps by Bayer. It’s hoping to launch its first product, a new variety of leafy greens, next year. Pairwise launched in 2018 with funding from Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer. It’s working with the company in a $100 million deal to advance gene editing tools in corn, soybeans, wheat and canola.
In its second large funding round within a year, Tovala (Chicago, Illinois) has brought in another $30 million to ramp up distribution of its smart oven and meal kit services. Launched in 2017, Tovalo sells a WiFi-enabled countertop oven and ready-to-cook meals. The meals come with a barcode that’s scannable by the oven, which then steams, bakes or broils the food without the user having to do anything more. The company plans to use the funding to open a new distribution facility in the western U.S., improve customer service and build its team. Also on the agenda is creating more options for premade meals and recipes that can work with the oven. Left Lane Capital led the funding round, with Finistere Ventures, Comcast Ventures, OurCrowd, Origin Ventures, Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Joe Mansueto also participating.
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Promising to deliver groceries and other everyday items to customers in as little as 10 minutes, Gorillas (Berlin, Germany) has taken the European market by storm in the 10 months since its founding. Now it’s raised a $290 million series B (following a $44 million series A closed in December) and has its sights set on more international growth.
To help it commercialize a low-cost sugar substitute made from plant fiber, Supplant (Cambridge, England) has completed a $24 million financing round. Manta Ray, Khosla Ventures, Felicis, Soma Capital and Y Combinator participated in the round. Supplant says it will use the funding to begin targeted trial runs of its low-GI sweetener ingredient, which it says is produced with less water and at a lower cost than sugar.
In a new series B round led by Adjuvant Capital, a fund backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other global health investors, Frontier Nutrition (New Haven, Connecticut) has brought in $6 million. The mission-based company makes affordable fortified snacks that are sold in Bangladesh, a country with one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world.
Muniq (Los Angeles, California), a startup founded by Uplifting Results Labs, has added $8.2 million in series A funding to support its mission to address chronic health conditions by harnessing the power of the gut microbiome. In May, Muniq debuted a line of nutritional shakes with prebiotic resistant starch to help people improve their blood sugar, lose weight and keep their gut bacteria healthy.
A startup that believes its technology is integral in helping the cultured meat market mature has locked in seed funding. Matrix Meats (Columbus, Ohio) was born out of a partnership between Ikove Capital’s Startup Nursery and regenerative medicine company Nanofiber Solutions. It manufactures animal-free nanofiber scaffolds for cultured meat to be grown on.
Egg Innovations (Warsaw, Indiana), a Midwestern purveyor of free-range and pasture-raised eggs, has acquired snack brand Peckish (Sonoma, California). Born last year out of the Sonoma Brands incubator, Peckish packages hard-boiled eggs (supplied by Blue Sky Family Farms, Egg Innovations’ consumer-facing brand) with crispy dips for a high-protein snack with no added sugar.
Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund led a $20 million funding round for Virtual Kitchen (San Francisco, California), a startup that empowers restaurants to focus on delivery and minimize real estate costs. Founded in 2018 by two former Uber executives, Virtual Kitchen provides technology for restaurants to set up virtual or cloud kitchens that are optimized for delivery and don't have dining rooms or storefronts.
With the COVID-19 pandemic driving more U.S. food shoppers online, Barn2Door (Seattle, Washington) sees a big opportunity for farmers. The startup has raised $6 million for its e-commerce software that helps farmers sell food directly to consumers, with functions for managing sales, inventory and logistics.
What if people with food allergies carried a sensor that could detect the presence of allergens in their food? That’s the premise of Allergy Amulet (Lowell, Massachusetts), which announced a $3.3 million seed round led by Titletown Tech, a partnership between the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft.
Food safety and quality services company FoodChain ID (Fairfield, Iowa) expanded its portfolio with the purchase of Nutraveris (Ploufragan, France). Nutraveris is an AI-based software and services provider that helps supplement, pharmaceutical, personal care and ingredient manufacturers get their products approved and launched.
European investors Creandum and Highland Europe led a $15 million series A for Meditopia (Istanbul, Turkey, and Berlin, Germany), a meditation app built primarily for non-English-speaking markets. The startup works with mental health professionals in different regions of the world to develop mindfulness, meditation and music content that’s specific to different cultures, languages and countries.
Past NCN presenter Kitu Life (New York, New York), which operates the Super Coffee brand, has closed a $25 million financing round led by Skyview Capital. Founded by three brothers in a college dorm room, Super Coffee makes a lineup of ready-to-drink coffee beverages that contain up to 10 grams of protein and are sweetened with monk fruit. It also sells coffee creamer, coffee pods and espresso drinks.
Chocolate bar maker Honey Mama’s (Portland, Oregon), known for its innovative flavors, has completed a $5.8 million fundraise to boost sales, distribution and marketing beyond the natural channel. Founded in 2011, Honey Mama’s crafts truffle-like chocolate bars from raw honey, coconut oil, cocoa powder and other whole-food ingredients.
The husband and wife behind Shaka Tea (Hilo, Hawaii) have $2.3 million of fresh capital to help their company grow. Shaka Tea, a past NCN presenter, taps into Hawaii’s native mamaki plant to power its line of ready-to-drink iced teas, which are sweetened with monk fruit and free of calories, carbs, sugar and caffeine.
Chef-owned and -operated spice company Spiceology (Spokane, Washington) has raised $2 million from investors including media company Cowles Co. and Kickstart Funds III & IV. The capital will help Spiceology ramp up marketing efforts and weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, company leaders told a local news outlet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.