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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.
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