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News for September 16, 2020

Recent Transactions in the Nutrition and Health & Wellness Industry:

Investors deliver $20M to ex-Uber execs’ Virtual Kitchen

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. The new round follows up a $15.3 million round raised last year from Andreessen Horowitz and Base10 Partners. Another former Uber exec started a similar venture, Cloud Kitchens, and reportedly raised $400 million last year. 

Partake Brewing secures $4M in first funding round

In its first round of institutional funding since its 2017 launch, craft non-alcoholic beer brand and past NCN presenter Partake Brewing (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) has closed a $4 million series A. The funding was led by CircleUp Growth Partners with support from Export Development Canada, Natural Products Canada, McLean & Associates and Barrel Ventures. Partake brews a variety of craft non-alcoholic beers, including IPAs, stouts and pale ales, with as few as 10 calories per can. It hopes the new funding will accelerate its U.S. growth by allowing it to make new hires, expand distribution and build brand awareness. 

Bayer buys vitamin subscription service Care/of

In a bid to grow its nutrition business, Bayer (Leverkusen, Germany) has reportedly made a deal to acquire vitamin subscription service Care/of (New York, New York). Care/of emerged as a buzzy startup delivering personalized vitamins to customers in 2016, just in time for online supplement sales to skyrocket. According to a source cited by Bloomberg, the transaction—which has Bayer owning 70% of the company with the option to buy the rest by 2022—values Care/of at $225 million. A representative for Bayer said the company plans to grow Care/of’s business into traditional retail channels, additional categories and new markets. 

Brazilian vegan burger brand looks to U.S., Europe with $21.5M round

Fazenda Futuro (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)—the Brazilian match for Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods—has raised $21.5 million to bring its plant-based burger to the U.S. and European markets. BTG Pactual and ENFINI Investments led the round, which also saw participation from Monashees and Go4it Capital. Fazenda Futuro, which translates to “future farms,” launched in 2019 in Brazil, a country with some of the highest per-capita meat consumption in the world. It pitches its plant-based products—including its Futuro Burger and “sausage of the future”—as tasty, healthy and sustainable alternatives to meat. They’re made using plant proteins such as soy, pea and chickpea. The company, which partners with several Brazilian food chains and retailers, moved into a few European markets this year. With the new cash, it plans to expedite its plans to hit the U.S. and continue developing other meat-free products. 

Universal Corp. builds plant-based ingredient platform with Silva acquisition

Universal Corp. (Richmond, Virginia), an agriculture company most known for its leaf tobacco supply business, has agreed to acquire Silva International (Momence, Illinois), a U.S. supplier of dehydrated fruits, vegetables and herbs, for $170 million. “Recently, Universal has been working to identify growth opportunities in adjacent markets, specifically looking at agribusiness,” Silva President Kent DeVries announced on the company’s website. Silva will become part of Universal’s plant-based ingredient platform, which also includes specialty fruit and vegetable ingredient processor FruitSmart (acquired in January) and Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients (launched in 2014). 

Nestlé pours $30M into recycled plastics initiative

Marking the first investment from its sustainable packaging venture fund established earlier this year, Nestlé (Vevey, Switzerland) has put $30 million into the Closed Loop Leadership Fund, the private equity fund of Closed Loop Partners (New York, New York). The fund will acquire companies with a focus on building a circular supply chain for recycled plastics. For Nestlé, this means gaining access to food-grade recycled packaging materials in support of its commitment to cutting its use of virgin plastics by one-third by 2025. Carbon-neutral protein ingredient nets Finnish food tech startup nearly $22MA startup that claims it can make food out of electricity, CO2 and water has raised an €18.5 million (about $21.9 million) series A round. Solar Foods (Helsinki, Finland) has developed a protein ingredient that doesn’t rely on agriculture for production. According to Solar Foods, its proprietary bioprocess results in a protein ingredient, Solein, that is disconnected from the use of environmental resources. Finnish food company Fazer Group, which announced a strategic partnership with the startup last year, led the round. Bridford Investments Limited, Agronomics Limited, Lifeline Ventures and CPT Capital also joined in. Solar Foods is planning to use the capital to open a new manufacturing facility by 2022.

Honey Mama’s sets sights on growth with $4.5M series A

Amberstone Ventures led a $4.5 million funding round to fast-track national growth for craft chocolate brand Honey Mama’s (Portland, Oregon). Founded in 2012, Honey Mama’s makes a line of refrigerated truffle bars from natural ingredients including sprouted almonds, raw honey and unrefined coconut oil. Its series A comes just a few months after a $5.8 million funding round also led by Amberstone. 

PeaTos gets $7M to reinvent salty snacks with healthier ingredients

Investors including Jackson Springs Management Partners, Kinetic Ventures and basketball player Tracy McGrady have backed snack brand PeaTos with a $7 million series A. Since 2018, PeaTos has been selling better-for-you versions of popular corn-based snacks that are instead made instead from peas and other natural ingredients. The startup says it’s seen strong growth in both online and retail sales (in stores including Kroger, 7-Eleven and Costco) during the pandemic. PeaTos has not said how it will use the new funding. 

NutriLeads secures $7.7M to commercialize immune ingredient

Health ingredients company NutriLeads BV (Wageningen, Netherlands) has attracted €6.5 million (about $7.7 million) in series B funding. Since 2012, NutriLeads has been developing natural ingredients for supplements and functional foods. Its next step is to bring to market its lead ingredient, XtramuneTM, which is a carrot-derived fiber used to “support immune function and improve resistance to respiratory infections,” the company says. Two other ingredients in its portfolio that target gut and metabolic health will also move toward proof of concept in humans. The series B funding was led by Icos Capital with Goeie-Grutten, DSM Venturing, Oost NL, Shift Invest and Thuja.

Fast-growing Tropical Smoothie Café bought by PE firm

Private equity firm Levine Leichtman (Los Angeles, California) has acquired fast-growing smoothie chain Tropical Smoothie Café (Atlanta, Georgia) from BIP Opportunities Fund for an undisclosed sum of money. The fast-casual concept was founded in Florida in 1997 and now serves smoothies, wraps, salads and bowls in 870 locations in 44 states. It’s reported record sales during the pandemic. Existing management will stay on as the chain works to increase systemwide sales and expand under its new owner. Levine Leichtman’s portfolio also includes Beef O’Brady’s, Bertucci’s and Cici’s Pizza. 

Latin American vegan brand raises $85M, eyes U.S. expansion

The Not Company, also known as NotCo (Santiago, Chilé), is equipped with $85 million in new funding to bring its plant-based milk and meat replacements to the U.S. The company has built a library of thousands of plant ingredients and uses artificial intelligence to determine how to combine them to recreate realistic plant-based versions of animal foods such as burgers, mayonnaise, ice cream and milk. NotCo sells its products in Chilé, Argentina and Brazil, and supplies plant-based burgers to Burger King restaurants in Chilé. The new funding round came from L Catterton Partners, Future Positive, General Catalyst, Kaszek Ventures, The Craftory, Bezos Expeditions, Endeavor Catalyst, IndieBio, Humbolt Capital and Maya Capital. To help the company with its international expansion plans, including its launch into the U.S., a few seasoned food executives have also joined the team. 

VCs back plant-based foodtech startup with $7.5M

Following a similar path as NotCo, startup ClimaxFoods (Berkeley, California) is also harnessing data science to find new plant-based formulations to replace animal protein, starting with cheese. It recently closed an oversubscribed $7.5 million round of financing from At One Ventures, Manta Ray Ventures, S2G Ventures, Valor Siren Ventures, Prelude Ventures, ARTIS Ventures, Index Ventures, Luminous Ventures, Canaccord Genuity Group, Carrot Capital, Global Founders Capital and angel investors. The new company’s leadership team includes two former Impossible Foods leaders and the former sales and operations lead from JUST (formerly Hampton Creek). 

Smart-store technology company Stockwell acquired by 365 Retail Markets

365 Retail Markets (Troy, Michigan), which operates automated kiosks, vending and dining technologies for the foodservice industry, has acquired competitor Stockwell (Oakland, California). Stockwell offers fully managed vending for apartments, hotels, offices, campuses and more that customers use with an app. 365 Retail Markets CEO Joe Hessling said that, with the deal, the company is “moving closer to our goal of a low-cost, frictionless retail experience.” Last year, it acquired Company Kitchen, a workplace foodservice company.

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