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News for April 14, 2020

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.


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