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News for January 20, 2021

Recent Transactions in the Nutrition and Health & Wellness Industry:

Muniq takes in $8.2M for gut health nutrition

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. 

VCs show continued interest in cultured meat with $6M Vow Food round

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. 

CookUnity gets $15.5M for chef-to-consumer meal subscriptions

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. 

Mondelez boosts snacking portfolio with Hu buy

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. 

New Wave Foods brings vegan seafood to market with $18M series A

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. 

Jabil buys Ecologic to scale sustainable packaging

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. 

PowerPlant Ventures looks to reinvigorate Zico

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. 

Personalized sports nutrition startup Gainful adds $7.5M

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. 

$20M series A powers Weezy to deliver groceries on demand

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. 

Investors back allergy-friendly brand Partake Foods with $4.8M

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 attracts $10M to commercialize algae-based protein

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. 

Premium pet food brand Open Farm scoops up $65M

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. 

No Meat becomes latest addition to Livekindly’s plant-based portfolio

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. 

AMP’s recycling robots pick up $55M

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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