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Recent Transactions in the Nutrition and Health & Wellness Industry
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. Alpha Edison, Acre Venture Partners, former NBA player Baron Davis and SimplyProtein founder Cathy Richards backed the latest round, which will fund clinical research, new product development, new hires and efforts to strengthen brand awareness.
Most of the high-profile cultured meat companies that have been in the spotlight in recent years are focused on creating mainstream products like beef, pork, chicken and seafood in a lab. Vow Food (Sydney, Australia) takes a unique approach with a portfolio that includes exotic meats such as kangaroo, alpaca and water buffalo. The Australian startup has collected a $6 million seed round led by Square Peg Capital and joined by Blackbird Ventures, Grok Ventures and Tenacious Ventures. Like other cultured meat companies, Vow cultivates and nourishes animal cells to create its products, bypassing the process of raising and killing animals. The company recently completed a new lab and design studio and added more than a dozen people to its team.
Following an exceptional year of growth, meal delivery company CookUnity (Brooklyn, New York) closed a $15.5 million series A to expand across North America. At the center of the company’s approach are chefs whose handcrafted meals bring an elevated dining experience to consumers’ homes. Launched in 2018, CookUnity’s weekly subscription service allows customers to choose from more than 300 small-batch meals. With the new funding provided by Fuel Venture Capital and IDC Ventures, the startup says it will open new kitchens in California and Texas, and onboard more than 100 more chefs.
Less than two years after making a minority investment in Hu (New York, New York), Mondelez International (Chicago, Illinois) has acquired the premium snacking brand for an undisclosed amount. Hu, which comes from the phrase "Get Back to Human,” was founded in 2012 on the premise of simple, real ingredients. It’s since become a leader in premium chocolate with its paleo-friendly chocolate bars and has expanded its offerings to include grain-free crackers. It will join brands including Perfect Snacks, Enjoy Life Foods and Tate’s Bake Shop as part of Mondelez’s North American Ventures business.
The founders of New Wave Foods (San Francisco, California) set out to fill a white space in plant-based seafood. Now they’re ready to launch a vegan shrimp made from seaweed and plant proteins with restaurants and foodservice operators. New Enterprise Associates led an $18 million series A to power the company through its launch. Evolution VC Partners, Tyson Ventures and other investors also participated. New Wave plans to follow up with additional versions of its shrimp product and other forms of plant-based shellfish.
NCN past presenter Ecologic Brands (Manteca, California) joins international manufacturing provider Jabil’s (St. Petersburg, Florida) packaging solutions division to get its eco-friendly packaging into more hands. Brands like L’Oreal and Seventh Generation use Ecologic’s paper bottles and containers made from recycled materials to cut their plastic use and meet their sustainability goals. "In Ecologic, Jabil Packaging Solutions gains a commercially mature paper bottle solution enabled by deep material expertise and innovative manufacturing processes,” the brand said in a statement. Meanwhile, Jabil brings global scale and engineering expertise to the deal.
In 2013, Coca-Cola (Atlanta, Georgia) bought a majority stake in one of the original coconut water brands, past NCN presenter Zico (El Segundo, California). Now, as it works to pare down its portfolio and focus on profitable brands, Coke has sold Zico back to its original founder’s growth equity firm. PowerPlant Ventures (Hermosa Beach, California) and its cofounder Mark Rampolla didn’t disclose how much they paid for Zico but announced that the brand will now be called Zico Rising. It will become part of PowerPlant’s portfolio, which also includes Beyond Meat, REBBL and Vive Organic.
Gainful (San Francisco, California), which sits at the intersection of sports nutrition and personalized nutrition, has completed a $7.5 million series A funding to support growth of its supplement subscription service. A Gainful subscription starts with a personalized recommendation for one of its protein powder formulations, which are made without artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. It also includes access to a registered dietitian and additional products including electrolyte and pre-workout drink mixes. BrandProject and Courtside Ventures led the series A round, with participation from AF Ventures, Round 13 Capital, Barrel Ventures and the founder of global sports agency Polaris Sports.
Grocery delivery—but without the wait—is the premise of UK startup Weezy (London, England), which has garnered $20 million from investors to open two fulfillment centers in London. Left Lane Capital, DN Capital, Heartcore Capital and angel investors including Groupon cofounder Chris Muhr provided the capital, which will help Weezy grow its grocery delivery services across London and the broader United Kingdom. Launched in July, Weezy sources groceries from wholesalers and independent sellers, then deploys delivery people on bicycles or electric mopeds to deliver them in 15 minutes on average.
Partake Foods (Jersey City, New York) has raised $4.8 million from high-profile investors including Rihanna, Black Capital, John Foraker, CircleUp Growth Partners, Black Star Fund, Marcy Venture Partners and others. Partake sells its vegan, gluten-free cookies and baking mixes nationwide at Target, Whole Food Market and Sprouts stores. The new funding will help expand the team and product line, and amp up marketing efforts. Founder Denise Woodard is passionate about increasing opportunities for Black- and female-owned businesses in the food industry, and she is leading a fellowship program to foster inclusivity in the industry.
Qualitas Health (Houston, Texas), through its omega-3 supplement brand iwi, is working to commercialize an algae-based protein in 2022. To help it get there, the company has secured $10 million in capital from PeakBridge VC, Arancia Group, Minrav and other private investors. Qualitas grows microscopic algae in saltwater pond systems built in the deserts of New Mexico and Texas. The algae it grows contains all of the essential amino acids as well as vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s. This investment will support the company as it moves into the industrial pilot stage, starts the regulatory process and conducts more clinical research.
To fuel its growth and innovation in the premium pet food market, Open Farm (Toronto, Canada) has received 80 million CAD ($65 million) from General Atlantic and other investors. Open Farm makes food for dogs and cats, ranging from dry food to fresh meals and supplements. With ethically sourced ingredients, traceability initiatives and packaging reuse and recycling programs, the company has experienced fast growth over the last five years and is now in more than 5,500 retailers in the U.S. and Canada.
Plant-based food brand Livekindly Collective has bought No Meat, a vegan meat alternative range developed by British supermarket chain Iceland Foods. Launched in 2018, the line includes meat-free burgers, sausages, chicken strips and more. It’s carried by Iceland, Asda and Ocado in the UK. No Meat joins a portfolio that also includes Fry Family Food Co., LikeMeat and Oumph!. Under the deal with Iceland Foods, the grocer will also begin to sell Livekindly’s other brands in Iceland and The Food Warehouse stores. Livekindly, in its current form, came into being last year when Foods United bought Livekindly Media and subsequently raised a $135 million round to become a plant-based food powerhouse.
Today’s recycling systems require a lot of manual labor, but AMP Robotics (Denver, Colorado) is trying to change that. The company has raised a $55 million series B to scale its waste-sorting system that leverages AI algorithms and picker robots to recognize, pick and sort recyclable items from material streams. The round saw participation from Valor Equity Partners, GV, Sequoia Capital, Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, Congruent Ventures and Closed Loop Partners. It brought the company’s total funding to nearly $75 million.
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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.