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Sensient Technologies (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) has acquired Mazza Innovation Ltd. (Vancouver, British Columbia)—developer of a solvent-free, environmentally friendly botanical extraction technology—for an undisclosed amount. The PhytoClean Method extracts bioactive ingredients from plants by applying heat and pressure to water to lower its polarity, causing it to behave like an organic solvent and eliminating the need for chemical solvents. The technology “will enable us to work with leading food, cosmetics and nutraceutical brands to create cost effective, clean label products that deliver on consumer expectations for taste, color and functionality,” said Paul Manning, CEO of Sensient Technologies. Sensient is a global manufacturer and marketer of colors, flavors and fragrances. Mazza Innovation has been a presenting company at NCN investor meetings in the United States and Europe.
Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co. and beverage company Kirin Holdings will subscribe in equal measure to approximately 80 percent of the shares of the holding company of Thorne Research Inc. (New York, New York) through a third-party allotment of newly issued shares. Thorne is a prominent supplement brand in the U.S. practitioner channel with sales of approximately ¥10 billion ($90.3 million on July 9), according to Kirin. Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) estimates that consumer sales of supplements through the practitioner channel grew 8 percent to $4 billion in 2017, faster than the supplement industry at large, led by Atrium Innovations (acquired by Nestlé), Metagenics and Standard Process. While Thorne ranked ninth in supplement revenues, an NBJ survey found that Pure Encapsulations and Thorne Research were the highest-ranking brands among consumers who purchased supplements through the practitioner channel.
MatchaBar (New York, New York) has completed an $8 million Series A round led by celebrity investors, including producer and DJ Diplo and NFL Super Bowl MVP and Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller. Funding will be used to expand the brand’s line of bottled and canned drinks made with organic matcha tea. MatchaBar also announced the launch of Hustle, a sparkling matcha energy drink, claiming the “clean, natural alternative to energy drink staples” will shake up the $22 billion energy drink market. MatchaBar partners with a family farm in Japan to source its green matcha tea, which it says offers sustained energy without the spike and crash associated with coffee, espresso and other energy drinks. Brothers Max and Graham Fortgang founded MatchaBar in 2014, setting up a matcha café and later launching a ready-to-drink matcha beverage in 2015.
Mosa Meat (Maastricht, The Netherlands), a spin off from Maastricht University, has raised €7.5 million ($8.8 million on July 16) to bring cultured meat to market by 2021. The round was led by M Ventures, Merck’s corporate venture capital arm, and Bell Food Group, a Swiss meat processor. Mosa Meat will use the Series A funding to reduce the cost of its cultured meat production and prepare for construction of a pilot production plant in 2021. “M Ventures, being the corporate venture capital fund of Merck, is the perfect door-opener to Merck’s deep expertise in culturing cells and producing high quality and scalable cell media,” said Mosa Meat CEO Peter Verstrate. “This is significant given that the cell media currently comprises 80 percent of the cost of cultured meat.” The Dutch start-up says it has led the cultured meat industry, having presented a beef burger made directly from cow cells in 2013.
TreeHouse Foods Inc. (Oak Brook, Illinois) has sold McCann’s Irish Oatmeal to B&G Foods (Parsippany, New Jersey) for $32 million; the business’s sales were approximately $13 million in 2017. The acquisition is in line with B&G Foods’ efforts to acquire better-for-you brands. In 2017, B&G Foods agreed to acquire SnackWell’s cookies and Back to Nature granola for around $162.5 million. B&G also owns Pirate’s Booty natural snacks, Mrs. Dash salt-free seasonings, Cream of Wheat and Green Giant. The divestiture will support TreeHouse’s efforts to streamline its business, concentrate on private label and pay down debt.
Ingredient supplier Cambridge Commodities Ltd. (Cambridge, United Kingdom) has strengthened its U.S. infrastructure by acquiring U.S. wholesaler Earth Circle Organics LLC (Auburn, California). Earth Circle Organics’ raw and organic superfood ingredient business will merge with the U.S. arm of Cambridge Commodities to create a new division, operating as Earth Circle Ingredients based in northern California. The deal will provide Earth Circle with access to Cambridge Commodities’ 2,500 nutritional ingredients, enabling it to expand into vegan and dairy proteins, natural extracts and fruit and vegetable powders. Cambridge Commodities has supplied the sports nutrition, health & wellbeing, nutraceutical and animal nutrition industries for two decades and has seen revenues grow to $55 million in 2018 from $35 million in 2014.
Meal kit company Chef’d (El Segundo, California) has reportedly ceased trading. Chef’d raised $35.2 million in Series B funding last year from meat processor Smithfield Foods, which invested $25 million, and Campbell Soup, which contributed $10 million. In 2015, Chef’d completed a Series A round worth $5.3 million. Commenting on the news, Forbes contributor Brittain Ladd observed that the Achilles’ heel of meal-kit companies is their exceptionally high customer acquisition costs, high operational and supply-chain costs, high logistics costs and low customer retention, concluding: “Few business models are as unprofitable as those of meal-kit companies.”
Fresh food delivery firm GrubMarket (San Francisco, California) has raised $32 million to expand and make acquisitions with view to going public, according to a TechCrunch article posted on GrubMarket’s blog. GrubMarket sources organic and healthy foods from producers and says it delivers them directly to consumers and businesses at half the price of other grocers. “We are looking to buy companies to make more revenues ahead of an upcoming IPO,” Mike Xu, founder and CEO, told TechCrunch. In June, GrubMarket acquired So Cal Farm Network to expand in Southern California and plans to expand to the East Coast this year. An IPO is anticipated for the second half of 2019, TechCrunch reported.
True Food Kitchen (Phoenix, Arizona), a healthy restaurant chain, announced that Oprah Winfrey has made an equity investment to support national expansion and will join the board of directors. Founded in 2008, True Food Kitchen has a “health-driven” menu guided by the principles of founder Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid. True Food Kitchen operates 23 restaurants in 10 states and plans to double its store count in the next three years. The menu offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals, in addition to serving fish and grass-fed meat.
Farmers Business Network (FBN, San Carlos, California and Sioux Falls, South Dakota), an agribusiness marketplace and data platform, has invested in AgriSecure (Blair, Nebraska), a startup that helps crop farmers transition to organic farming, according to an article in Agfunder News. Despite the rapid growth of organic foods, the United States is a major net importer of organic grains from other countries, the article said. AgriSecure is a grower-to-grower business founded by fifth-generation farmers that provides a program including production expertise, certification and record keeping, crop marketing and risk management, in addition to hands-on experience to facilitate the crossover from conventional to organic crop farming. FBN has raised around $200 million in venture funding to date.
Palladium Equity Partners LLC has made an investment in partnership with the owners of Spice World Inc. (Orlando, Florida), a supplier of garlic and other spices under the Spice World brand. Terms were not disclosed. Founded in 1949 and led by Caneza family members, Spice World offers a broad portfolio, including fresh, peeled and minced garlic. Palladium’s investments in the food industry have included Kar’s Nuts snack nut and trail mix; Teasdale Foods, a producer of bean and hominy products; and Sahale Snacks, a maker of branded nut and fruit snacks.
The Natural Products Consulting Institute (NPCI, Andover, Massachusetts) has released a revised and expanded Eighth Edition of The Natural Products Field Manual, a guide for bringing natural and specialty products to market across all channels and classes of trade. Industry veterans Bob Burke and Rick McKelvey, NPCI co-founders, co-authored the manual, which includes a flash drive with directories of natural products stores that make up 80 percent of the volume in the channel; listings of brokers and distributors; and several other key resources. The manual costs $3,999 and comes with more than 50 coupons valued at more than $100,000 in services provided by New Hope Natural Media, UNFI, SPINS, Nutrition Business Journal and other leading companies in the natural products space.
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