Immi takes in $3.8M to cook up plant-based instant ramen

Immi is putting a healthy spin on instant ramen by going plant-based and offering more bold tastes. The company announced Tuesday that it raised $3.8 million in seed funding.

Co-founders Kevin Lee and Kevin Chanthasiriphan both grew up in food families from Taiwan and Thailand, respectively, and met a decade ago while working at the same tech company. They bonded over getting noodles every day.

Fast-forward to today, and they both saw family members stricken with diabetes and high blood pressure and started thinking about what a better-for-you food and beverage brand would look like.

Taking the love of the Asian food they grew up with, they wanted to develop one of those brands for the U.S.

“We immediately agreed on instant ramen,” Chanthasiriphan told TechCrunch. “My dad still eats instant ramen each night, and it is such a massive market: 4 billion packets are sold per year, but it is also a product that has been dominated by the same three incumbents for years.”

The global instant noodle space is projected to be a $32 billion industry by 2027, with $7.7 billion of value in the U.S. However, the ramen most people buy in the grocery store includes noodles made of refined carbohydrates that get cooked in oil, while the soup packets are high in sodium and preservatives, he said.

Their take on it is Immi, which is plant-based, low carb and low sodium, high fiber and has 22 grams of protein on average. The product comes in three flavors — Black Garlic “Chicken,” Tom Yum “Shrimp” and Spicy “Beef.”

The pair went into the company full-time in 2019 and have spent the better part of the last few years heads down in R&D, but the finished product didn’t come easy. In fact, when speaking with people in the industry, they were told that creating a healthier version of ramen would be “kind of impossible,” Lee said. They had to start from the ground up and make it themselves, formulating the first recipes in their own kitchens.

Immi’s variety pack includes Black Garlic “Chicken,” Tom Yum “Shrimp” and Spicy “Beef.” Image Credits: Immi

The funding raise comes as Immi releases a reformulation of their product this year aimed at replicating traditional instant ramen in broth taste, mouthfeel, texture and slurpability.

Siddhi Capital led the round and was joined by Palm Tree Crew, Constellation Capital, Animal Capital, Pear Ventures, Collaborative Fund and a group of individuals, including Patrick Schwarzenegger, Kat Cole and Nik Sharma, as well as executives from Thrive Market, Caviar, Daring Foods, Madhappy, Twitch, Kettle & Fire, MUD\WTR, Native, Amity Supply, Visionary Music Group, Italic, Tatcha and Casper.

Melissa Facchina, co-founder and general partner at Siddhi Capital, said her firm invests in food and beverage brands and its investment arm is a mentor to the Immi team.

“We were blown away by them,” she said. “It costs a lot of money to innovate in this industry, and it is exciting for myself and family to have something that we can grab and go. The second version launching looks exactly like the traditional brick pack and now has adult flavors that attach to a different culinary pallet.”

The natural or better-for-you foods industry has changed “dramatically” in the last decade,  Facchina said. Most of it is driven by consumers that want transparency in the supply chain, cleaner ingredients and authentic brands.

Consumer packaged goods brands that are reinventing themselves already have successful product lines, but few brands are taking a look at certain categories she said are ripe for reinvention, like cereal. Her firm is an investor in Magic Spoon, and she sees Immi reinventing ramen and Asian cuisine, saying “the Kevins as a founder group are highly moldable, high-achieving and want to surround themselves with best-in-class people.”

Meanwhile, the new funding will be split between R&D, hiring and marketing, Lee said. The company is taking in customer feedback to enhance the flavors, and would like to optimize its supply chain, hire for key executive roles and put spending toward testing new marketing channels. Immi sells its product via its own online store, but would like to expand into wholesale channels and online grocers.

Immi’s products were launched in January and saw inventory sell out in the first month without any marketing. They have since sold over 10,000 orders across the U.S. and are even looking to go international.

Going forward, the company will be working on two initiatives: The first is to develop an infrastructure to expand its product offerings, like more flavors and noodle types, so it can launch a new flavor every few months. Lee and Chanthasiriphan also aim to develop additional Asian food products that have cleaner ingredients, like snacks and confections, that they loved eating when they were children.

The second is marketing and distribution. The company has amassed a community of 4,000 members that help Immi with rapid taste testing.

“We are figuring out how to bring our products to a more mainstream audience, especially those that may not be following a certain diet, but want to bring in food and beverages that are healthier,” Lee said. “We are also bringing in taste makers of culture, celebrities and TikTok influencers to broaden consumer interest and bring Immi into the mainstream cluster.”

 

#animal-capital, #collaborative-fund, #constellation-capital, #ecommerce, #food, #food-and-drink, #funding, #immi, #kevin-chanthasiriphan, #kevin-lee, #melissa-facchina, #noodle, #palm-tree-crew, #pear-ventures, #ramen, #recent-funding, #siddhi-capital, #startups, #tc

CookUnity whips up nationwide expansion following $47M round

Chef-prepared, small-batch meal delivery startup CookUnity is undergoing a major expansion after closing a $47 million Series B round.

Insight Partners led the round and was joined by Endeavor Capital and current investors IDCV, Fuel Ventures and Gaingels. The latest funding comes eight months after New York-based CookUnity closed a $15.5 million Series A round led by Fuel Venture Capital. The company has now raised a total of $70 million since its inception in 2018.

Mateo Marietti, founder and CEO of CookUnity, had the idea for the subscription-based company five years ago. Marietti, who is from Argentina, was working in food tech and saw that modern delivery services were only able to offer limited food options and pricing, and was a trade-off between convenience and variety.

He went looking for a similar experience to apps like Spotify, where the music selection was limitless, and created CookUnity to connect creators of food with the people who would be eating it.

CookUnity combines the ready-to-eat meal category with a chef-focused business model that provides restaurant-quality meals at home. The rotating menu features hundreds of dishes, starting at $10.49 per meal, with an option of a subscription plan for four, six, eight, 12 or 16 meals per week. Meals heat up in minutes and also include both fast-cooking instructions, like in a microwave, or how the chef might prepare it at home, like with an additional squeeze of lemon or other toppings.

CookUnity founder Mateo Marietti. Image Credits: CookUnity

Chefs are also given tools and resources to create a digital-first business, and Marietti told TechCrunch that top-selling chefs bring in upwards of $1 million a year.

“We are building the infrastructure, working with farmers, providing the ingredients and the tech layer for both the consumer app and the chef app,” he added. “We don’t employ any talent or cook the food, but we give chefs the tools to start recruiting cooks, gather information on new recipes, organize their team and expand into new markets while also seeing their sales for the day or week.”

The company’s platform is already working with notable chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Marc Forgione and Esther Choi, and the Series B funding will enable it to add more chefs, including local rising stars and established restaurateurs, enabling them to sell beyond the typical on-demand food delivery zone, Marietti said.

Starting with the flagship kitchen in Brooklyn, CookUnity initially expanded to San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston and Washington, D.C. Following the Series A, the company opened kitchens in Los Angeles, Austin and Chicago. The new funding will now enable the company to accelerate its nationwide expansion with new kitchens in Atlanta and Miami by the end of the year. When all of the new kitchens are online, Marietti estimates that CookUnity will be able to serve 88% of the U.S. population.

In the last 12 months, CookUnity saw over 550% growth and to date has over 50 chefs on its roster, with plans to increase to 150 across all of its kitchens by mid-2022.

As part of the investment, Rebecca Liu-Doyle, principal at Insight Partners, is joining the CookUnity board of directors. Insight’s model is to track companies for a long time before investing; in CookUnity’s case, Liu-Doyle was watching them for more than two years. She said the timing was right for Insight to invest.

In addition to product-market fit, strong chef retention and liking the company’s focus on the food market, which is a “massive total addressable market,” she said, CookUnity was on its way to building a big business with subscription-based revenue as it took on the complexities of the back-end business for chefs.

The value proposition is unique for both of the stakeholders — on the chef side there is a creator economy tailwind, which is taking the friction out of scaling a business while also enabling chefs to build a business with a larger footprint than they just selling food around their restaurants. On the consumer side, Liu-Doyle said CookUnity is providing affordable and convenient food without having to compromise on taste and quality.

“Very few companies can offer that: it is democratization on both fronts,” she added. “In order to execute on the vision, you need a specific team, which Mateo has, and show incremental improvement to the experience. It doesn’t just happen overnight. You have to be patient and deliberate in the way you improve the experience.”

#chef, #chefs, #cookunity, #delivery-services, #ecommerce, #endeavor-capital, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-delivery, #fuel-venture-capital, #funding, #gaingels, #idcv, #insight-partners, #mateo-marietti, #rebecca-liu-doyle, #recent-funding, #restaurants, #saas, #startups, #tc

Stravito raises $14.6M to create a ‘Netflix for enterprise market research’

Market research and insights are often underutilized assets for enterprises but it’s usually too hard to find content and there’s a lot of duplication, or information isn’t used well.

Swedish startup Stravito says it can centralize internal and external data sources and create something more akin to a ‘Spotify or Netflix’ for these kinds of assets, making them far more usable and consumable, they say.

It’s clearly onto something, since it’s now raised a €12.4million ($14.6million USD) series A funding round led by Endeit Capital, with additional investment from existing investors HenQ, Inventure and Creades. To date, Stravito has raised €20.1million ($23.7million USD).

Founded in 2017 by market research veterans and former iZettle employees, Stravito counts among its customers Carlsberg, Edwards Lifesciences, Pepsi Lipton, Danone, Electrolux and Comcast.

Thor Olof Philogène, CEO and co-founder at Stravito said: “It has never been more important for the world’s largest enterprises to understand and react to their customer’s changing behaviors using centralized, vetted company insights. Stravito’s technology and platform makes it fast and easy for companies to use research to make better decisions.”

On a call with me he added: “We provide a search technology, and a great design, all combined to deliver an intuitive, highly automated cloud service that allows these big companies to centralise internal and external data sources so they can pull out the nuggets they need.”

Jelle-Jan Bruinsma, Partner at Endeit Capital, added: “Endeit Capital is always looking for the next generation of international software scale-ups, and Stravito stood out in the Nordics through its impressive work to raise the bar in the multibillion dollar market research and data industry.”
Stravito also appointed Elaine Rodrigo, Chief Insights & Analytics Officer at Reckitt Benckiser, to its board of directors.

#comcast, #companies, #creades, #danone, #electrolux, #endeit-capital, #europe, #food-and-drink, #netflix, #partner, #pepsi, #spotify, #tc

Stockeld Dreamery loves cheese so much that it raised $20M to make it out of legumes

Cheese is one of those foods that when you like it, you actually love it. It’s also one of the most difficult foods to make from something other than milk. Stockeld Dreamery not only took that task on, it has a product to show for it.

The Stockholm-based company announced Thursday its Series A round of $20 million co-led by Astanor Ventures and Northzone. Joining them in the round — which founder Sorosh Tavakoli told TechCrunch he thought was “the largest-ever Series A round for a European plant-based alternatives startup,” was Gullspång Re:food, Eurazeo, Norrsken VC, Edastra, Trellis Road and angel investors David Frenkiel and Alexander Ljung.

Tavakoli previously founded video advertising startup Videoplaza, and sold it to Ooyala in 2014. Looking for his next project, he said he did some soul-searching and wanted the next company to do something with an environmental impact. He ended up in the world of food, plant-based food, in particular.

“Removing the animal has a huge impact on land, water, greenhouse gases, not to mention the factory farming,” he told TechCrunch. “I identified that cheese is the worst. However, though people are keen on shifting their diet, when they try alternative products, they don’t like it.”

Tavakoli then went in search of a co-founder with a science background and met Anja Leissner, whose background is in biotechnology and food science. Together they started Stockeld in 2019.

Pär-Jörgen Pärson, general partner at Northzone, was an investor in Videoplaza and said via email that Stockeld Dreamery was the result of “the best of technology paired with the best of science,” and that Tavakoli and Leissner were “using their scientific knowledge and vision of the future and proposing a commercial application, which is very rare in the foodtech space, if not unique.”

The company’s first product, Stockeld Chunk, launched in May, but not without some trials and tribulations. The team tested over 1,000 iterations of their “cheese” product before finding a combination that worked, Tavakoli said.

Advances in the plant-based milk category have been successful for the most part, not necessarily because of the plant-based origins, but because they are tasty, he explained. Innovation is also progressing in meat, but cheese still proved difficult.

“They are typically made from starch and coconut oil, so you can have a terrible experience from the smell and the mouth feel can be rubbery, plus there is no protein,” Tavakoli added.

Stockeld wanted protein as the core ingredient, so Chunk is made using fermented legumes — pea and fava in this case — which gives the cheese a feta-like look and feel and contains 30% protein.

Chunk was initially launched with restaurants and chefs in Sweden. Within the product pipeline are spreadable and melting cheese that Tavakoli expects to be on the market in the next 12 months. Melting cheese is one of the hardest to make, but would open up the company as a potential pizza ingredient if successful, he said.

Including the latest round, Stockeld has raised just over $24 million to date. The company started with four employees and has now grown to 23, and Tavakoli intends for that to be 50 by the end of next year.

The new funding will enable the company to focus on R&D, to build out a pilot plant and to move into a new headquarters building next year in Stockholm. The company also looks to expand out of Sweden and into the U.S.

“We have ambitious investors who understand what we are trying to do,” Tavakoli said. “We have an opportunity to think big and plan accordingly. We feel we are in a category of our own in a sense that we are using legumes for protein. We are almost like a third fermented legumes category, and it is exciting to see where we can take it.”

Eric Archambeau, co-founder and partner at Astanor Ventures, is one of those investors. He also met Tavakoli at his former company and said via email that when he was pitched on the idea of creating “the next generation of plant-based cheese,” he was interested.

“From the start, I have been continuously impressed by the Stockeld team’s diligence, determination and commitment to creating a truly revolutionary and delicious product,” Archambeau added. “They created a product that breaks the mold and paves the way towards a new future for the global cheese industry.”

#alexander-ljung, #anja-leissner, #astanor-ventures, #biotechnology, #cheese, #eric-archambeau, #europe, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-science, #funding, #northzone, #par-jorgen-parson, #plant-based-food, #recent-funding, #sorosh-tavakoli, #startups, #stockeld-dreamery, #stockholm, #sweden, #tc

Compounds Foods brews up $4.5M to make coffee without beans

Maricel Saenz, founder and CEO of Compound Foods, is among the over 80% of Americans who love a cup of coffee daily. And she also loves the environment.

However, when the Costa Rican-born entrepreneur, now living in the Bay Area, saw how climate change was affecting coffee growers around the world — coffee is the fifth-most polluting crop in the value chain — she wanted to create a coffee product that tasted good, but was also sustainable.

“Temperatures are rising and combined with erratic rains are leading to lower crop yield,” Saenz told TechCrunch. “The same crop can’t grow in the same place anymore, or it will be a lower quality product. Farmers in Costa Rica are having to sell their land or go higher up the mountain. Experts predict that 50% of farmland will be unsuitable in the next couple of decades.”

Founded in 2020, Compound Foods uses synthetic biology to create coffee without coffee beans by extracting molecules. Saenz said the company spent a lot of time examining what makes coffee, well coffee, and then trying to correlate flavors and aromas in certain ways.

And yes, the company can still call it “coffee” even if it doesn’t contain coffee beans because there is no official regulatory definition, she said.

They use food science to recreate a base formula using sustainable ingredients that also don’t use a lot of water — she said it takes 140 liters of water along the coffee growth chain to make one cup of coffee. The company is also working toward a goal of being able to recreate coffee inspired by flavors that you would get from different areas of the world, like Costa Rica, but also the chocolate notes from a cup of Brazilian coffee.

Compound Foods announced $4.5 million in seed funding to give it total funding of $5.3 million to date. Backers of the company include Chris Sacca’s climate fund Lowercarbon Capital, SVLC, Humboldt Fund, Collaborative Fund, Maple VC, Petri Bio and angel investors like Nick Green, CEO of Thrive Market.

Saenz intends to use the new funding to improve the formulation and scale up the brand as the company works toward a soft launch by the end of the year.

There are a few competitors in the space doing different technology, including Seattle-based Atomo, which said it makes its coffee from “other fruits and plants that had seeds similar to coffee beans.”

Compound Foods is hiring coffee lovers to help build out its technology and to expand its marketing, product and business teams.

Saenz is clear that the company is not competing with coffee.

“We love coffee and know the farmers, and we are providing an alternative solution,” she added. “We want to recreate it, and even drink it on Mars one day, and we want to bring the coffee farmers and the industry with us on the journey.”

 

#artificial-intelligence, #coffee, #collaborative-fund, #compound-foods, #drinks, #ecommerce, #food, #food-and-drink, #funding, #humboldt-fund, #lowercarbon-capital, #maple-vc, #maricel-saenz, #nick-green, #petri-bio, #recent-funding, #seattle, #startups, #svlc, #tc, #thrive-market

Russell Westbrook, Chainsmokers join group pouring $13.5M into prebiotic soda brand Poppi

Poppi, a prebiotic soda brand, closed $13.5 million in a Series A2 round and is on a mission to lead in the new category of “functional soda” by offering a better-for-you product that also tastes good.

The investor group includes CAVU Ventures as well as sports and entertainment celebrities like Russell Westbrook, the Chainsmokers, 24kGoldn, Kygo, Halsey, Kevin Love, Ellie Goulding, Olivia Munn, Nicole Scherzinger, Chantel Jeffries, Bryce Hall, Noah Beck, Josh Richards, Griffin Johnson and Blake Gray.

Husband-and-wife co-founders Stephen and Allison Ellsworth, former oil and gas researchers, launched the soda in 2020 after Allison Ellsworth began having stomach issues about two years prior. She went to doctor after doctor without a definitive diagnosis and decided to take to the internet to find some answers. She not only found that 80% of our body’s immunity stems from gut health, but that she could assist by healing her body through food.

One of the foods that helped with the stomach issues was apple cider vinegar, but drinking it straight everyday became difficult for her. So she went into the kitchen and began concocting a drink that would help her tolerate the vinegar and be tasty enough to drink regularly.

What resulted was a drink that eventually became a hit at a Dallas farmers market, which is where the pair was approached to sell Poppi in Whole Foods Market. They then decided to quit their jobs and do Poppi full time, even gaining a deal from CAVU Ventures co-founder Rohan Oza on Shark Tank in December 2018.

Each can of Poppi includes approximately a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, sparkling water, real fruit and plant-based sweeteners mixed into a formula that provides a balance of gut-friendly prebiotics known to aid in digestion, immunity and glowing skin.

The drinks retail for $2.49 per can and come in nine flavors like watermelon, strawberry lemon, raspberry rose and orange. They are available in over 7,500 retail locations, including Target, Safeway, Kroger, Publix, Whole Foods and Amazon.com.

Allison and Stephen Ellsworth, Poppi co-founders. Image Credits: Poppi

Now the Ellsworths say they are receiving comments from consumers who say Poppi has “changed their lives.”

“At the end of the day, we are putting out a product that is healthy and tastes good,” Allison Ellsworth said. “We don’t want to be a niche health product — that is secondary to what we are trying to do, but it’s a bonus that we get that, too.”

Another bonus is that within the functional soda category, which has grown 465% year over year based on data from research company SPINS, the Ellsworths boast their annual growth put Poppi in the No. 1 spot based on four-week data from SPINS ending June 13, 2021.

Prior to the round, the company was bootstrapped. Proceeds will be used to expand distribution, scale Poppi’s team of 50 currently and marketing. The company is based in Dallas for now, but Allison Ellsworth said the company is moving its headquarters to Austin.

The company grew its revenue 550% year over year and the funding assists in giving Poppi a burn rate of 12 months and the ability to continue in high-growth mode, Stephen Ellsworth said.

Stevie Clements, chief brand architect at CAVU Ventures and a member of Poppi’s board, said via email that the company’s product, founders and growth to date were the drivers for her firm to invest in the company.

In addition, people are looking for products like Poppi that do more for them, while gut health, in particular, is a highly relevant category. The company’s ability to “deliver real function with incredible flavor is unlike anything on the market,” she said.

“Soda is a massive category ripe for disruption, and Stephen and Allison are a great team with an authentic story that’s really proven to resonate with people,” Clements added. “We’re excited by what Poppi has accomplished thus far and feel strongly that a better-for-you soda that tastes amazing and offers real function can shake up the multibillion dollar soda category.”

 

#allison-ellsworth, #cavu-ventures, #drinks, #ecommerce, #food, #food-and-drink, #funding, #kygo, #poppi, #recent-funding, #rohan-oza, #russell-westbrook, #startups, #stephen-ellsworth, #stevie-clements, #tc, #the-chainsmokers

Forward Kitchens cooks up $2.5M to transform existing kitchens into digital storefronts

Forward Kitchens was working quietly on its digital storefront for restaurants and is now announcing a $2.5 million seed round.

Raghav Poddar started the company two years ago and was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2019 cohort. Poddar told TechCrunch he has been a foodie his entire life. Lately, he was relying on food delivery and pickup services, and while visiting with some of the restaurant owners, he realized a few things: first, not many had a good online presence, and second, these restaurants had the ability to cook cuisine representative of their communities.

That led to the idea of Forward Kitchens, which provides a turnkey tool for restaurants to set up an online presence, including food delivery, where they can create multiple digital storefronts easily and without having to contact each delivery platform. The company ran pilot programs in a handful of restaurants, and this is the first year coming out of stealth.

“It’s an expansion of what they have on the menu, but is not immediately available in the neighborhood,” Poddar added. “Kitchens can keep the costs and headcount the same, but be able to service the demand and get more orders because it is fulfilling a need for the neighborhood, which is why we can grow so fast.”

Here’s how it works: Forward Kitchens goes into a restaurant and takes into account its capacity for additional cooking and the demographic area, as well as what food is available near it, and helps the restaurant create the storefront.

Each restaurant is able to build multiple storefronts, for example, an Italian restaurant setting up a storefront just to sell its popular mac n’ cheese or other small plates on demand. A couple hundred digital storefronts were already created, Poddar said.

A group of investors, including Y Combinator, Floodgate, Slow Ventures and SV Angel and angel investors Michael Seibel of YC, Ram Shriram and Thumbtack’s Jonathan Swanson, were involved in the round.

The new funding will be used to expand the company’s footprint and reach, and to hire a team in operations, sales and engineering to help support the product.

“Forward Kitchens is empowering independent kitchens to create digital storefronts and receive more online sales,” Seibel said via email. “With Forward Kitchens, a kitchen can create world-class digital storefronts at the click of a button.”

#ecommerce, #enterprise, #floodgate, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-delivery, #forward-kitchens, #funding, #jonathan-swanson, #kitchen, #michael-seibel, #online-food-ordering, #raghav-poddar, #recent-funding, #restaurant, #slow-ventures, #startups, #storefront, #sv-angel, #tc, #y-combinator

Apeel bites into another $250M funding round, at a $2B valuation, to accelerate fresh food supply chains

Apeel Sciences, a food system innovation company, is out to prevent food produced globally from ending up in the landfill, especially as pressures from the global pandemic affect the food supply chain.

The company just added $250 million in Series E funding, giving it a valuation of $2 billion, to speed up the availability of its longer-lasting produce in the U.S. (where approximately 40% of food is wasted), the U.K. and Europe.

Existing investor Temasek led the round and was joined by a group of new and existing investors, including Mirae Asset Global Investments, GIC, Viking Global Investors, Disruptive, Andreessen Horowitz, Tenere Capital, Sweetwater Private Equity, Tao Capital Partners, K3 Ventures, David Barber of Almanac Insights, Michael Ovitz of Creative Artists Agency, Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe, Susan Wojcicki of YouTube and Katy Perry.

With the new funding, Apeel has now raised over $635 million since the company was founded in 2012. Prior to this round, the company brought in $250 million in Series D funding in May 2020.

Santa Barbara-based Apeel developed a plant-based layer for the surface of fruits and vegetables that is tasteless and odorless and that keeps moisture in while letting oxygen out. It is those two factors in particular that lead to grocery produce lasting twice as long, James Rogers, CEO of Apeel, told TechCrunch.

Apeel installs its application at the supplier facilities where the produce is packed into boxes. In addition to that technology, the company acquired ImpactVision earlier this year to add another layer of quality by integrating imaging systems on individual pieces as they move through the supply chain to optimize routing so more produce that is grown is eaten.

“One in nine people are going hungry, and if three in nine pieces of produce are being thrown away, we can be better stewards of the food we are throwing away,” Rogers said. “This is a solvable problem, we just have to get the pieces to the right place at the right time.”

The company is not alone in tackling food waste. For example, Shelf Engine, Imperfect Foods, Mori and Phood Solutions are all working to improve the food supply chain and have attracted venture dollars to go after that mission.

Prior to the pandemic, the amount of food people were eating was growing each year, but that trend is reversed, Rogers explained. Consumers are more aware of the food they eat, they are shopping less frequently, buying more per visit and more online. At the same time, grocery stores are trying to sort through all of that.

“We can’t create these supply networks alone, we do it in concert with supply and retail partners,” he said. “Grocery stores are looking at the way shoppers want to buy things, while we look at how to partner to empower the supply chain. What started with longer-lasting fruits and vegetables, is becoming how we provide information to empower them to do it without adding to food waste.”

Since 2019, Apeel has prevented 42 million pieces of fruit from going to waste at retail locations; that includes up to 50% reduction in avocado food waste with corresponding sales growth. Those 42 million pieces of saved fruit also helped conserve nearly 4.7 billion liters of water, Rogers said.

Meanwhile, over the past year, Apeel has amassed a presence in eight countries, operating 30 supply networks and  distributing produce to 40 retail partners, which then goes out to tens of thousands of stores around the world.

The new funding will accelerate the rollout of those systems, as well as co-create another 10 supply networks with retail and supply partnerships by the end of the year. Rogers also expects to use the funding to advance Apeel’s data and insights offerings and future acquisitions.

Thomas Park, president and head of alternative investments at Mirae Asset Global Investments, said his firm has been investing in environmental, social and governance-related companies for awhile, targeting companies that “make a huge impact globally and in a way that is easy for us to understand.”

The firm, which is part of Mirae Asset Financial Group, often partners with other investors on venture rounds, and in Apeel’s case with Temasek. It also invested with Temasek in Impossible Foods, leading its Series F round last year.

“When we saw them double-down on their investment, it gave us confidence to invest in Apeel and an opportunity to do so,” Park said. “Food waste is a global problem, and after listening to James, we definitely feel like Apeel is the next wave of how to attack these huge problems in an impactful way.”

 

#andreessen-horowitz, #anne-wojcicki, #apeel-sciences, #david-barber, #disruptive, #enterprise, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-supply-chain, #food-waste, #funding, #gic, #grocery-store, #james-rogers, #katy-perry, #michael-ovitz, #mirae-asset-global-investments, #recent-funding, #startups, #susan-wojcicki, #sweetwater-private-equity, #tao-capital-partners, #tc, #temasek, #tenere-capital, #thomas-park, #viking-global-investors

Food conglomerate Forward Foods becomes Starday, raises $4M

Forward Foods, creating healthy and sustainable food products, changed its name to Starday and raised $4 million in seed funding to take on “big food” incumbents.

Equal Ventures and Slow Ventures co-led the round and were joined by Haystack, Great Oaks Venture Capital, XFactor Ventures, ABV and a group of angel investors.

Chaz Flexman, co-founder and CEO, started the Oklahoma-based company in late 2020 after leaving Pattern Brands. He watched digital grocery go from a single-digit market to double digits overnight.

“It feels like a ‘Napster moment’ in the way consumers are now coming online to discover and buy,” Flexman told TechCrunch. “We are measuring their interest and using data to drive outcomes so we can go up against the Nestlés of the world.”

The company’s name change to Starday was just a way to build consumer-facing brands that were a bit more memorable, he added.

The global food and beverages market is expected to reach $7.5 trillion by 2023, with growing demand for foods that are more clean and sustainable, according to market research firm Research and Markets.

Starday’s technology turns data like that into products based on current trends and customer preferences. It is able to test new concepts, gather feedback and make adjustments before putting new food items on the market, Flexman said. It is also able to cut the time a product takes from idea to market down to six months (from 18 months), while also using feedback to plan for other potential brands.

“We use data to let consumers tell us what they want now rather than how Big Food has operated over the years: to follow consumer demand and create nutritionally bad food that is also bad for the environment,” he added.

Gooey Snacks. Image Credits: Starday

Its first brand is Gooey Snacks, an all-natural, low-sugar chocolate hazelnut spread that is made without dairy or palm oil. Flexman expects to develop four or five brands during that time, including one more later this year.

Starday went after the seed round so that it could launch more brands like Gooey Snacks over the next 12 months, grow the team, develop new retail partnerships and build out its data and forecasting capabilities. The company has four employees currently, and Flexman plans to be at seven in the next couple of weeks.

Rick Zullo, partner at Equal Ventures, said he knew Flexman from his firm’s investment in Pattern and said Flexman’s vision for a new type of food company was aligned with what Equal’s vision was for the food industry.

Rather than being just a product company, Zullo sees Starday being a platform company, able to drive a new way of eating and way of bringing new products to market.

“Starday is able to provide granular data to understand what consumers want and what will perform best,” he added. “This wasn’t possible when digital grocery was still a nascent concept. They don’t have to do focus groups or testing launches, so it is truly a fraction of the time it takes and is cheaper.”

 

#abv, #chaz-flexman, #equal-ventures, #food, #food-and-drink, #forward-foods, #funding, #great-oaks-venture-capital, #haystack, #nestle, #recent-funding, #rick-zullo, #slow-ventures, #starday, #startups, #tc, #xfactor-ventures

WoodSpoon’s food delivery service cooks up support for home chefs with $14M round

Home-cooked food delivery service WoodSpoon is planning an expansion after raising $14 million in Series A funding.

Restaurant Brands International led the round along with World Trade Ventures and a group of individual investors, including Victor Lazarte.

New York-based WoodSpoon was started in 2019 by Oren Saar and Merav Kalish Rozengarten, two Israelis in America that longed for the food they grew up with. They began reaching out to local home chefs in the area and gathered them together in a marketplace where they could share their culture and passion of food with others.

Two years later, the company boasts over 16,000 active customers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens and 50% month over month growth. Customers can order dishes that run the gambit of world cuisine through WoodSpoon’s website or app and receive on-demand delivery to their doorstep or schedule service. Saar told TechCrunch that 35% of WoodSpoon’s customers have ordered four times in 17 days after their first order.

The new funding gives the company a total of $16 million — it raised $2 million at the end of 2020. Saar said the Series A enables the company to accelerate growth through R&D and marketing and to double its team so it can expand into new markets, like major cities across the United States, over the next 12 months.

At the same time as it brings customers culturally diverse food, WoodSpoon helps generate income for its home chefs — a mix of 150 active professional chefs, immigrants and cooks making dishes for the company at least three times a month. WoodSpoon interviews each chef, inspects their kitchens and provides training to keep consistent quality.

“When you scale, you can lose touch with your customers and lose the personal connection with the home chefs,” Saar said. “We feel every home chef is part of our family and want to help them build their brand, so it is important that this food is high quality.”

WoodSpoon has about 30 employees and plans to hire more engineers to continue developing its technology. Saar said a new product will be launching at the end of August, while WoodSpoon’s app will get an overhaul to have a new look and feel.

The Series A also enables WoodSpoon to onboard its waitlist of hundreds of home chefs that want to join the marketplace.

Meanwhile, the global online food delivery services market is forecasted to be $126.91 billion in 2021, and then reach $192.16 billion in 2025, according to consultancy firm Research and Markets.

Chris Brigleb, head of corporate development at Restaurant Brands International, said technology is a big focus for his company, which spent a lot of time looking around for potential investments beyond the traditional quick-serve restaurant space.

He began meeting with tech-enabled businesses and came across WoodSpoon four months ago. The more Brigleb learned about the company, the more he liked it, and even encouraged Saar to speed up WoodSpoon’s growth and fundraising plans, he said.

Though WoodSpoon’s concept is not new, he felt its approach was the complete package of user experience on the customer side, the ease of searching the marketplace by chef or cuisine and support for the chef in terms of providing packaging and logistics management.

“The delivery was a key for us and a differentiator,” Brigleb said. “They take all of the hard parts about delivering for home chefs off of their plate so they can focus on the actual cooking that is special to them.”

 

#apps, #ecommerce, #food, #food-and-drink, #funding, #home-chef, #labor, #recent-funding, #restaurant, #restaurant-brands-international, #startups, #tc, #woodspoon

Plant-based cereal startup OffLimits pours $2.3M into new products

For Emily Elyse Miller, founder and CEO of OffLimits, launching during a global pandemic was “interesting to navigate,” but in the end, worked out.

“Unfortunately, ‘fun cereal’ is associated with being unhealthy, and I wanted people to have fun with their food again, but in a healthy way,” Miller told TechCrunch. “There are a few startups in the space tackling the healthy side of cereal, but I wanted to take on the culture of breakfast.”

She split her time between fashion and food, attending the Fashion Institute of Technology before getting into the trends and forecasting space. It was there that she started writing about food and design, traveling all over the world. She said she “became obsessed with morning rituals” and worked with chefs to open their doors for breakfast. She even wrote a book on breakfast.

Miller launched OffLimits in 2020 out of Science Inc.’s startup studio. OffLimits uses whole ingredients, and its flavors are organic, vegan, gluten-free and lightly-sweetened with organic cane sugar. Since its launch, OffLimits’ two cereals Dash (turns your milk into cold brew coffee) and Zombie (Pandan-flavored, similar to vanilla) were picked up in stores like Intelligentsia and are available online. The cereals retail for $8.50 per box.

She is now announcing a $2.3 million round of funding that encompasses friends and family, pre-seed and seed financing. The backing comes from Science Inc., Crosslink, Canaan, DBC Creative CEO Dana Cowin, Surface Magazine CEO Marc Lotenberg, TikTok executive Nick Tran and NTWRK president Moksha Fitzgibbons.

Miller said the breakfast market was valued at $16 billion in the U.S. and $30 billion globally. Building a cereal brand is capital-intensive and difficult to produce, so the new funding will go toward scaling into retail, hiring new talent and building up inventory.

Over the past few years, new brands like OffLimits have popped up, offering legacy brands a chance to pivot to new audiences, but largely they have not, she added.

“There is definitely room to grow and with the Gen Z mindset of questioning legacy brands, we want to support what is new,” Miller said. “We are one of the few that are all plant-based, which was both a disturbing and surprising fact to find out. It was really important that OffLimits had an extremely clean panel. We want something all chefs can be excited about.”

In addition to the funding, the company released new flavors, including Spark (strawberry flavor with antioxidants) and Flex, which has a cinnamon flavor and is targeted toward a health and workout-oriented audience. To commemorate the company’s first year in business, it is offering a “birthday pack” so that customers can try all four flavors. Miller heard from customers that they like mixing cereal flavors, so the pack will encourage personalization. There is also an edible glitter product launching in September that Miller said “turns the cereal bowl into a disco party.”

Products sold out twice already and the company is now on its third production, with plans to offer mini boxes, where the milk can be poured directly in, and optimizing the supply chain for future growth.

Aside from the flavors, Miller wanted a focus on the boxes themselves and the mascots for each one. The cereal mascots all have profiles on the website and include a female pink bunny for Dash and a zombie that eats cereal all day.

“We don’t want to impart anything on the characters, and want to keep them open to be molded into different things,” Miller added. “We want to appeal to counter-cultures in whatever sense that is.”

 

#canaan, #crosslink, #ecommerce, #emily-elyse-miller, #food, #food-and-drink, #funding, #offlimits, #recent-funding, #science-inc, #startups, #tc

Spinn taps into $40M to create better coffee brewing, discovery experiences

When you are a coffee lover, taste matters, and Spinn is brewing up some fresh funding in the way of a $20 million funding round, led by Spark Capital, to bring connected coffee to new customers through its hardware-enabled coffee marketplace.

Joining Spark in the round were Amazon’s Alexa Fund, Bar 9 Ventures and existing investors. It gives the Los Angeles-based company a total of $37 million in funding to date, CEO Roderick de Rode told TechCrunch. He isn’t defining this round, but said Spinn previously raised both Series A and B rounds.

“SPINN is doing for coffee what Dyson did for vacuums and what Nest did for homes, rethinking technology and connectivity for better results,” said Kevin Thau, general partner at Spark Capital, in a written statement. “Their approach, from machine design to roaster assortment, is elevating the entire industry and delivering what consumers seek today: delicious tasting coffee brewed to their personal preferences, with the smallest impact on the planet.”

Spinn debuted its centrifugal brewing method at TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield in 2016. The connected coffee maker uses centrifugal force to spin, instead of press, coffee grounds. De Rode says this results in a cup of coffee tasting how it was intended by the roaster. The machines can be controlled via voice command from Amazon’s Alexa or a single tap on the machine or from a mobile app.

A survey released in April by National Coffee Association USA found that the global pandemic was the driver for 85% of Americans drinking at least one cup of coffee at home, up 8% from January 2020. Nearly 60% of Americans drink coffee every day, and one-quarter purchased a new home coffee machine over the past year.

In addition to Spinn, other startups are coming out with machines aimed at making a better cup; for example, Osma is a new coffee-making technique to make a strong espresso-like drink at any temperature, including icy cold.

Spinn itself has three coffee makers to choose from that retail for $479 to $799, according to its website. The machines don’t require any filters or coffee pods and make a variety of styles, including espresso, Americano, drip and cold brew.

The marketplace offers over 1,500 different kinds of coffee from more than 500 artisan roasters around the world. Customers add their coffee choices to a playlist of sorts, which can be specifically curated to ship or scheduled randomly, de Rode said. Drinkers can leave reviews and get recommendations, as well as take a quiz to match with various coffees.

He plans to use the new funding to further grow and develop its patented brewing technologies, and complete delivery of outstanding pre-orders.

Though de Rode wouldn’t go into specifics about Spinn’s growth metrics, he said there has been triple-digit growth from home users. He aims to do for coffee what Vivino did with wine: provide educational content about the coffee options and the roasters themselves.

“The coffee industry is becoming a food thing just like wine,” de Rode said. “People want to understand the different kinds of beans to make more sophisticated choices. We try to bridge the gap between the coffee shop and home.”

 

#coffee, #disrupt-ny-2016, #ecommerce, #food, #food-and-drink, #funding, #kevin-thau, #recent-funding, #roderick-de-rode, #spark-capital, #spinn, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #vivino

Investors eat up Orbillion Bio’s plans for lab-grown wagyu beef, elk, and bison

Orbillion Bio’s plans to make high end meats in a lab have investors lining up for a seat at the company’s cap table.

Mere weeks after launching from Y Combinator’s famous accelerator program, the Silicon Valley-based potential purveyor of premium lamb loins, elk steaks, bison burgers and more has managed to haul in $5 million in financing.

The company’s led by Patricia Bubner, Gabrial Levesque Tremblay, and Samet Yidrim, who between them have over thirty years working in bioprocessing and the biopharmaceuticals industry.

A little over a month ago, Orbillion held its first public tasting event where meats mixed with its elk, beef, and sheep were on offer straight from the petri dish to the table.

Investors in the $5 million round include: At One Ventures, which has also backed Finless Foods and Wild Earth; Metaplanet Holdings; the European investment firm k16 ventures; FoundersX Ventures, who are also investors in SpaceX; Prithi Ventures, which backed Mission Barns, Turtle Tree Labs; and angel investors including Jonghoon Lim, the CEO of Hanmi Pharmaceuticals; Kris Corzine; Ethan Perlstein, the CEO of Perlara, the first biotech PBC; and a well-known university endowment. 

“We were immediately struck by Orbillion’s focus on high-end, flavorful, hard-to-find meats like lamb, elk, wagyu beef, and bison, their strong science, business, and engineering backgrounds, and the fact that they are so focused on flavor that they literally have a Master Butcher on their advisory board,” said Ali Rohde, GP at Outset Capital, an early-stage venture fund run by Rohde along with repeat entrepreneurs Kanjun Qiu and Josh Albrecht. “Lab-grown meat is the future, and Orbillion Bio is already paving the way.” 

The company said it would use the cash to bring its first product, a Wagyu beef offering, to pilot production.

#articles, #beef, #ceo, #cultured-meat, #ethan-perlstein, #food-and-drink, #foundersx-ventures, #kanjun-qiu, #meat, #orbillion-bio, #silicon-valley, #spacex, #steak, #tc, #y-combinator

Will Budweiser brew eggs and will Post cereal make meat?

Corporations are quickly waking up to the market potential of alternative proteins with the nation’s biggest consumer brands continuing to make investments and create partnerships with startup companies helping consumers transition to healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets.

As Earth Week draws to a close (thankfully) new partnerships announced over the past week show the potential for new technologies to transform old businesses.

Yesterday the New York-based ZX Ventures, the investment and innovation arm of AB InBev, said that it would be partnering with Clara Foods, a developer of protein production technologies including (but not limited to), brewing egg substitutes. That’s right, the makers of Budweiser are hatching a scheme to make other kinds of liquids that are less potable and more poachable.

In that case, the yolk would definitely be on you, future consumer.

“Since day one, Clara has been on a mission to accelerate the world’s transition to animal-free protein, starting with the egg. More than one trillion eggs are consumed globally every year and corporate commitments for cage-free aren’t enough,” said Arturo Elizondo, the chief executive and co-founder of Clara Foods. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the world’s largest fermentation company to work together to enable a kinder, greener, and more delicious future. This partnership is a major step towards realizing our vision.”

Graph showing the increasing size of investments into alternative proteins in 2020. From 2019 to 2020 investments in alternative proteins soared from just over $1 billion to $3 billion led by investments in plant protein products. Image Credit: Good Food Institute

There are market-driven reasons for the partnership. Demand for high quality proteins is expected to jump up to 98% by 2050, according to research cited by the two companies.

“Meeting the increased demand for food requires breakthrough solutions built on collaboration and innovation that spans several industry domains – both old and new. The ancient and natural process of fermentation can be further harnessed to help meet future demands in our global food system,” said Patrick O’Riordan, founder & CEO at BioBrew, ZX Ventures’ new business line trying to apply large-scale fermentation and downstream processing expertise beyond beer. “We look forward to exploring the development of highly-functional, animal-free egg proteins with Clara Foods in a scalable, sustainable and economically viable manner.”

Meanwhile, there’s a meeting of the minds happening in St. Louis where cereal giant Post is investing in Hungry Planet, a startup making meat a range of meat replacements.

Formed from the same Seventh Day Adventist focus on plant-based diet and health as a core of spirituality that launched the Kellogg’s cereal empire, Post has long been a rival to the corn flake king with its grape nuts cereal and other grain-based breakfast offerings.

Now the company has led a $25 million investment in Hungry Planet, which aims to provide meat-based replacements for crab cakes, lamb burgers, chicken, pork, and beef. Additional investors included the Singapore-based environmentally sustainable holding company, Trirec.

Alternative proteins are a big business. Last year, companies developing technologies and businesses to commercialize alternative sources of protein raised over $3 billion, according to the industry tracker, the Good Food Institute.

“Over the past year, the alternative protein industry has demonstrated not only resilience but acceleration, raising significantly more investment capital in 2020 than in prior years,” said GFI director of corporate engagement Caroline Bushnell, in a statement. “These capital infusions and the funding still to come will facilitate much-needed R&D and capacity building to enable these companies to scale and reach more consumers with delicious, affordable, and accessible alternative protein products.”

It’s all part of a push to provide more plant-based alternatives to animal proteins in a bid to halt planetary deforestation and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal husbandry.

“Humanity needs solutions that match the scale and urgency of our problems,” said Elizondo. “

#articles, #brewing, #cellular-agriculture, #clara-foods, #fermentation, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-science, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #kelloggs, #king, #meat, #new-york, #st-louis, #sustainability, #tc, #zx-ventures

Sales scheduling platform Chili Piper raises $33M Series B funding led by Tiger Global

Chili Piper, which has a sophisticated SaaS appointment scheduling platform for sales teams, has raised a $33 million B round led by Tiger Global. Existing investors Base10 Partners and Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI-focused VC) also participated. This brings the company’s total financing to $54 million. The company will use the capital raised to accelerate product development. The previous $18M A round was led by Base10 and Google’s Gradient Ventures 9 months ago.

It’s main competitor is Calendly, started 21/2 years previously, which recently achieved a $3Bn valuation.

Launched in 2016, Chili Piper’s software for B2B revenue teams is designed to convert leads into attended meetings. Sales teams can also use it to book demos, increase inbound conversion rates, eliminate manual lead routing, and streamline critical processes around meetings. It’s used by Intuit, Twilio, Forrester, Spotify, and Gong.

Chili Piper has a number of different tools for businesses to schedule and calendar accountments, but its key USP is in its use by ‘inbound SDR Sales Development Representatives (SDR)’, who are responsible for qualifying inbound sales leads. It’s particularly useful in scheduling calls when customers hit websites ask for a salesperson to call them back.

Nicolas Vandenberghe, CEO, and co-founder of Chili Piper said: “When we started we sold the house and decided to grow the company ourselves. So all the way until 2019 we bootstrapped. Tiger gave us a valuation that we expected to get at the end of this year, which will help us accelerate things much faster, so we couldn’t refuse it.”

Alina Vandenberghe, CPO, and Co-founder said: “We’re proud to have so many customers scheduling meetings and optimizing their calendars with Chili Piper’s Instant Booker.”

The husband-and-wife founded company has was fully remote from day one, with 93 employees in 81 cities and 21 countries, long before the pandemic hit.

John Curtius, Partner at Tiger Global said: “When we met Nicolas and Alina, we were fired up by their product vision and focus on customer happiness.”

TJ Nahigian, Managing Partner at Base10 Partners, added: “We originally invested in Chili Piper because we knew customers needed ways to add fire to how they connected with inbound leads. We’ve been absolutely blown away with the progress over the past year, 2020 has been a step-change for this company as business went remote.”

#artificial-intelligence, #base10-partners, #co-founder, #europe, #food-and-drink, #forrester, #gradient-ventures, #intuit, #lead-generation, #managing-partner, #marketing, #sales, #spotify, #tc, #tiger-global, #twilio

I can’t believe it’s not meat! Mycelium meat replacement company aims for summer launch of first products

Meati, a company turning mycelium (the structural fibers of fungi) into healthier meat replacements for consumers, is prepping for a big summer rollout.

Co-founder Tyler Huggins expects to have the first samples of its whole-cut steak and chicken products in select restaurants around the country — along with their first commercial product, a jerky strip.

For Huggins, the product launch is another step on a long road toward broad commercial adoption of functional fungi foods as a better-for-you alternative to traditional meats.

“Use this as a conversation starter. About 2 ounces of this gives you 50% of your protein; 50% of your fiber; and half of your daily zinc. There really is nothing that can compare to this product in terms of nutritionals,” Huggins said. 

And moving from meat to mushrooms is a better option for the planet.

Meati expects to turn on its pilot plant this summer and is joining a movement among mushroom fans that includes milk replacements, from Perfect Day, more meat replacements from Atlast, and leather substitutes from Ecovative and MycoWorks.

“We’re definitely all in this together,” said Huggins of the other mob of mycelium-based tech companies bringing products to market.

However, not all mycelium is created equally, Huggins said. Meati has what Huggins said was a unique way of growing its funguses (not a real word) that “keep it in its most happy state.” That means peak nutritional content and peak growth efficiency, according to the company.

For Huggins, whose parents own a bison ranch and who grew up in cattle country, the goal is not to replace a t-bone or a ribeye, but the cuts of meat and chicken that find their ways into a burrito supreme or other quick serve meat cuts.

Rendering of Meati mushroom meats in a Banh Mi. Image Credit: Meati

“Head to head with that kind of cut, we win,” Huggins said. “I’d rather pick a fight there now and buy ourselves some time. I don’t think we’re going to go super high-end to start.”

That said, the company’s cap table of investors already includes some pretty heady culinary company. Acre Venture Partners (which counts Sam Kass — President Barack Obama’s Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy, Executive Director for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, and an Assistant Chef in the White House — among its partnership) is an investor. So is Chicago’s fine dining temple, Alinea.

But Huggins wants Meati to be an everyday type of meat replacement product. “I want to make sure that people think this is an every day protein,” Huggins said.

Meati thinks its future meat replacements will be cost competitive with conventional beef and chicken, but to whet consumers’ appetites, the company is starting with jerky.

“Meati’s delicious jerky,” said Huggins. “It provides this blank canvas. We’ll start with these beef jerky like flavors. But I want to come out of the gate and say that we’re mycelium jerky.”

The company currently has 30 people on staff led by Huggins and fo-founder Justin Whiteley. The two men initially started working on Meati as a battery replacement. Based on their research (Huggins with mycelium and Whiteley with advanced batteries) the two men received a grant for a mycelium-based electrode for lithium ion batteries.

“We were trying to tweak the chemical composition of the mycelium to make a better battery. What we found was that we were making something nutritious and edible,” said Huggins.

Also… the battery companies didn’t want it.

Now, backed by $28 million from Acre, Prelude Ventures, Congruent Ventures and Tao Capital, Meati is ready to go to market. The company also has access to debt capital to build out its vast network of mycelium growing facilities. It’s just raised a $18 million debt round from Trinity and Silicon Valley Bank.

“Two years ago … most companies in this space … there wasn’t this ability to take on debt to put steel in the ground,” said Huggins. “It’s an exciting time to be in food tech given that you can raise VC funding and there’s this ready available market for debt financing. You’ll start seeing faster and more rapid development because of it.”

Meati co-founders Tyler Huggins and Justin Whiteley. Image Credit: Meati

#acre-venture-partners, #barack-obama, #beef, #biology, #chicago, #congruent-ventures, #ecovative-design, #food-and-drink, #food-tech, #jerky, #meat, #michelle-obama, #mycelium, #mycoworks, #prelude-ventures, #president, #silicon-valley-bank, #steel, #tc, #white-house

Beyond Meat opens its first production plant in China

About a year after Beyond Meat debuted in China on Starbucks’s menu, the Californian plant-based protein company opened a production facility near Shanghai to tap the country’s supply chain resources and potentially reduce the carbon footprint of its products.

Situated in Jiaxing, a city 85 km from Shanghai, the plant is Beyond Meat’s first end-to-end manufacturing facility outside the U.S., the Nasdaq-listed company said in an announcement on Wednesday.

Over the past year, competition became steep in China’s alternative protein space with the foray of foreign players like Beyond Meat and Eat Just, as well as a slew of capital injections for domestic startups including Hey Maet and Starfield.

Beyond Meat doesn’t flinch at the rivalry. When asked by TechCrunch to comment on a story about China’s alternative protein scene, a representative of the company said “there are none that Beyond Meat considers their competitors.”

China not only has an enormous, unsaturated market for meat replacements; it’s also a major supplier of plant-based protein. Chinese meat substitute startups enjoy a cost advantage from the outset and don’t lack interest from investors who race to back consumer products that are more reflective of the tastes of the rising middle class.

Having some kind of manufacturing capacity in China is thus almost a prerequisite for any serious foreign player. Tesla has done it before to build Gigafactory in Shanghai to deliver cheaper electric vehicles. Localized production also helps companies advance their sustainability goals as it shortens the supply chain.

In Beyond Meat’s own words, the Jiaxing facility is “expected to significantly increase the speed and scale in which the company can produce and distribute its products within the region while also improving Beyond Meat’s cost structure and sustainability of operations.”

The American food-tech giant works hard on localization, selling in China both its flagship burger patties and an imitation minced pork product made specifically for the world’s largest consumer of pork. The soy- and rice-based minced pork could be used in a wide range of Chinese cuisines and is the result of a collaboration between the firm’s Shanghai and Los Angeles teams.

Besides production, the Jiaxing plant will also take on R&D responsibilities to invent new products for the region. Beyond Meat will also be unveiling its first owned manufacturing facility in Europe this year.

“We are committed to investing in China as a region for long-term growth,” said Ethan Brown, CEO and founder of Beyond Meat. “We believe this new manufacturing facility will be instrumental in advancing our pricing and sustainability metrics as we seek to provide Chinese consumers with delicious plant-based proteins that are good for both people and planet.”

Beyond Meat products can now be found in Starbucks, KFC, Alibaba’s Hema supermarket and other retail channels across major Chinese cities.

#alibaba, #asia, #beyond-meat, #china, #consumer-products, #ethan-brown, #europe, #food, #food-and-drink, #kfc, #meat, #meat-substitutes, #shanghai, #starbucks

LIVEKINDLY screams its way to the top of new plant brands with the close of a $335 million round

LIVEKINDLY Collective, the shouty parent company behind a family of plant-based food brands, has snagged cash from the global impact investing arm of $103 billion dollar investment firm TPG to close its latest round of funding at $335 million.

The company’s fundraising shows that investors still have high hopes for plant-based food brands and that despite the money that’s flowed to companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods — and the resurgence of older brands in the category like Quorn or Kelloggs’ Morningstar Farms —  there’s still a healthy appetite among investors for more brands.

LIVEKINDLY was founded by some heavy hitters from the food industry including Kees Kruythoff, the former president of Unilever North America; Roger Lienhard, the founder of Blue Horizon Corp; and Jodi Monelle, the chief executive and founder of LIVEKINDLY Media. Food industry veterans like Mick Van Ettinger, a former Unilever employee and Aldo Uva, a former Nestle employee round out the team.

Founded as a rollup for a number of different vegetarian and alternative protein food brands, the LIVEKINDLY collective is now one of the largest plant-based food companies, by funding.

The company said it would use the money to expand into the U.S. and China and to power additional acquisitions, partnerships and investments in plant-based foods.

The company raised money previously from S2G Ventures and Rabo Corporate Investments, the investment arm f the giant Dutch financial services firm, Rabobank.

Fundamentally, the founding investors behind LIVEKINDLY believe that the technology has a long way to go before it matures. And it’s likely that this latest round will be LIVEKINDLY’s last before an initial public offering of its own. 

“We are building a global pureplay in plant-based alternatives – which we believe is the future of food,” said Roger Lienhard, Founder and Executive Chairman of Blue Horizon Group and Founder of LIVEKINDLY Collective. “In just one year, we have raised a significant amount of capital, which testifies to the urgency of our mission and the enormous investment opportunity it represents. We believe the momentum behind plant-based living will continue to grow in both the private and public markets.”

As a result of its investment, Steve Ellis, Co-Managing Partner of The Rise Fund, has joined the LIVEKINDLY Collective Board of Directors, effective March 1, 2021.

“We are excited to work with LIVEKINDLY Collective and its ecosystem of innovative companies and world-class leaders to meet the growing global demand for healthy, plant-based, clean-label options,” said Ellis. “The company’s unique, mission-driven model operates across the entire value chain, from seed to fork, to drive worldwide adoption of plant-based alternatives and create a healthier planet for all.”

#beyond-meat, #cellular-agriculture, #china, #companies, #eat-just, #food, #food-and-drink, #founder, #impossible-foods, #nestle, #plant-based-food, #president, #rabobank, #rise-fund, #s2g-ventures, #tc, #unilever, #united-states

While other startups develop alt-proteins for meat replacement, Nourish Ingredients focuses on fat

Plant-based meat replacements have commanded a huge amount of investor and consumer attention in the decade or more since new entrants like Beyond Meat first burst onto the scene.

These companies have raised billions of dollars and the industry is now worth at least $20 billion as companies try to bring all the meaty taste of… um… meat… without all of the nasty environmental damage… to supermarket aisles and restaurants around the world.

Switching to a plant-based diet is probably the single most meaningful contribution a person can make to reducing their personal greenhouse gas emissions (without buying an electric vehicle or throwing solar panels on their roof).

The problem that continues to bedevil the industry is that there remains a pretty big chasm between the taste of these meat replacements and actual meat, no matter how many advancements startups notch in making better proteins or new additives like Impossible Foods’ heme. Today, meat replacement companies depend on palm oil and coconut oil for their fats — both inputs that come with their own set of environmental issues.

Enter Nourish Ingredients, which is focusing not on the proteins, but the fats that make tasty meats tasty. Consumers can’t have delicious, delicious bacon without fat, and they can’t have a marvelously marbled steak replacements without it either.

The Canberra, Australia-based company has raised $11 million from Horizons Ventures, the firm backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing (also a backer of Impossible Foods), and Main Sequence Ventures, an investment firm founded by Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

That organization is actually where the company’s two co-founders James Petrie and Ben Leita met back in 2013 while working as scientists. Petrie, a specialist in crop development, was spearheading the development of omega-3 canola oil, while Leita had a background in chemistry and bioplastics.  

The two had previously worked on a company that was trying to increase oil production in plants, something that the CSRO had been particularly interested in circa 2017. As the market for alternative meats really began to take off, the two entrepreneurs turned their attention to trying to make corollaries for animal fats.

When we were talking to people we realized that these alternative food space was going to need these animal fat like plants,” said Leita. “We could use that skillset for fish oil and out of canola oil.”

Nourish’s innovation was in moving from plants to bacteria. “With the iteration speeds, it feels kind of like we’re cheating,” said Petrie. “You can get the cost of goods pretty damn low.”

Nourish Ingredients uses bacteria or organisms that make significant amounts of triglycerides and lipids. “Examples include Yarrowia. There are examples of that being used for production of tailored oils,” said Petrie. “We can tune these oleaginous organisms to make these animal fats that give us that great taste and experience.”

As both men noted, fats are really important for flavor. They’re a key differentiator in what makes different meats taste different, they said.

“The cow makes cow fat because that’s what the cow does, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fat for a plant protein,” said Petrie. “We start out with a mimetic. No reason for us to be locked by the original organism. We’re trying to create new experiences. There are new experiences out there to be had.”

The company already counts several customers in both the plant and recombinant protein production space. Now, with 18 employees, the company is producing both genetically modified and non-CRISPR cultivated optimized fats. 

Other startups and established businesses also have technologies that could allow them to enter this new market. Those would be businesses like Geltor, which is currently focused on collagen, or Solazyme, which makes a range of bio-based specialty oils and chemicals.

As active investors in the alternative protein space, we realize that animal-free fats that replicate the taste of traditional meat, poultry and seafood products are the next breakthrough in the industry,” said Phil Morle, partner at Main Sequence Ventures. “Nourish have discovered how to do just that in a way that’s sustainable and incredibly tasty, and we couldn’t be happier to join them at this early stage.” 

#australia, #beyond-meat, #chemicals, #cooking, #food, #food-and-drink, #horizons-ventures, #impossible-foods, #li-ka-shing, #meat, #meat-substitutes, #partner, #solazyme, #tc

This Y Combinator startup is taking lab grown meat upscale with elk, lamb, and wagyu beef cell lines

Last week a select group of 20 employees and guests gathered at an event space on the San Francisco Bay, and, while looking out at the Bay Bridge dined on a selection of choice elk sausages, wagyu meatloaf, and lamb burgers — all of which were grown from a petrie dish.

The dinner was a coming out party for Orbillion Bio, a new startup pitching today in Y Combinator’s latest demo day, that’s looking to take lab-grown meats from the supermarket to high end, bespoke butcher shops.

Instead of focusing on pork, chicken and beef, Orbillion is going after so-called heritage meats — the aforementioned elk, lamb, and wagyu beef to start.

By focusing on more expensive end products, Orbillion doesn’t have as much pressure to slash costs as dramatically as other companies in the cellular meat market, the thinking goes.

But there’s more to the technology than its bourgie beef, elite elk, and luscious lamb meat.

“Orbillion uses a unique accelerated development process producing thousands of tiny tissue samples, constantly iterating to find the best tissue and media combinations,” according to Holly Jacobus, whose firm, Joyance Partners, is an early investor in Orbillion. “This is much less expensive and more efficient than traditional methods and will enable them to respond quickly to the impressive demand they’re already experiencing.”

The company runs its multiple cell lines through a system of small bioreactors. Orbillion couples that with a high throughput screening and machine learning software system to build out a database of optimized tissue and media combinations. “The key to making lab grown meat work scalably is choosing the right cells cultured in the most efficient way possible,” Jacobus wrote.

Co-founded by a deeply technical and highly experienced team of executives that’s led by Patricia Bubner, a former researcher at the German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim. Joining Bubner is Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, a former director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, who was a post-doc at Berkeley with Bubner and serves as the company’s chief technology officer. Rounding out the senior leadership is Samet Yildirim, the chief operating officer at Orbillion and a veteran executive of Boehringer Ingelheim (he actually served as Bubner’s boss).

Orbillion Bio co-founders Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, CTO, Patricia Bubner, CEO, and Samet Yildirim, COO. Image Credit: Orbillion Bio

For Bubner, the focus on heritage meats is as much a function of her background growing up in rural Austria as it is about economics. A longtime, self-described foodie and a nerd, Bubner went into chemistry because she ultimately wanted to apply science to the food business. And she wants Orbillion to make not just meat, but the most delicious meats.

It’s an aim that fits with how many other companies have approached the market when they’re looking to commercialize a novel technology. Higher end products, or products with unique flavor profiles that are unique to the production technologies available are more likely to be commercially viable sooner than those competing with commodity products. Why focus on angus beef when you focus on a much more delicious breed of animal?

For Bubner, it’s not just about making a pork replacement, it’s about making the tastiest pork replacement.

“I’m just fascinated and can see the future in us being able to further change the way we produce food to be more efficient,” she said. “We’re at this inflection point. I’m a nerd, i’m a foodie and I really wanted to use my skills to make a change. I wanted to be part of that group of people that can really have an impact on the way we eat. For me there’s no doubt that a large percentage of our food will be from alternative proteins — plant based, fermentation, and lab-grown meat.”

Joining Boehringer Ingelheim was a way for Bubner to become grounded in the world of big bioprocessing. It was preparation for her foray into lab grown meat, she said.

“We are a product company. Our goal is to make the most flavorful steaks. Our first product will not be whole cuts of steak. The first product is going to be a Wagyu beef product that we plan on putting out in 2023,” Bubner said. “It’s a product that’s going to be based on more of a minced product. Think Wagyu sashimi.”

To get to market, Bubner sees the need not just for a new approach to cultivating choice meats, but a new way of growing other inputs as well, from the tissue scaffolding needed to make larger cuts that resemble traditional cuts of meat, or the fats that will need to be combined with the meat cells to give flavor.

That means there are still opportunities for companies like Future Fields, Matrix Meats, and Turtle Tree Scientific to provide inputs that are integrated into the final, branded product.

Bubner’s also thinking about the supply chain beyond her immediate potential partners in the manufacturing process. “Part of my family were farmers and construction workers and the others were civil engineers and architects. I hold farmers in high respect… and think the people who grow the food and breed the animals don’t get recognition for the work that they do.”

She envisions working in concert with farmers and breeders in a kind of licensing arrangement, potentially, where the owners of the animals that produce the cell lines can share in the rewards of their popularization and wider commercial production.

That also helps in the mission of curbing the emissions associated with big agribusiness and breeding and raising livestock on a massive scale. If you only need a few animals to make the meat, you don’t have the same environmental footprint for the farms.

“We need to make sure that we don’t make the mistakes that we did in the past that we only breed animals for yield and not for flavor,” said Bubner. 

Even though the company is still in its earliest days, it already has one letter of intent, with one of San Francisco’s most famous butchers. Guy Crims, also known as “Guy the Butcher” has signed a letter of intent to stock Orbillion Bio’s lab grown Wagyu in his butcher shop, Bubner said. “He’s very much a proponent of lab-grown meat.”

Now that the company has its initial technology proven, Orbillion is looking to scale rapidly. It will take roughly $3.5 million for the company to get a pilot plant up and running by the end of 2022 and that’s in addition to the small $1.4 million seed round the company has raised from Joyant and firms like VentureSoukh.

“The way i see an integrated model working later on is to have the farmers be the breeders of animals for cultivated meat. That can reduce the number of cows on the planet to a couple of hundred thousand,” Bubner said of her ultimate goal. “There’s a lot of talking about if you do lab grown meat you want to put me out of business. It’s not like we’re going to abolish animal agriculture tomorrow.”

Image Credit: Getty Images

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Eat Just (the alt-protein company formerly known as Hampton Creek) has raised another $200 million

Eat Just, the purveyor of eggless eggs and mayonnaise and the first government-approved vendor of lab-grown chicken, has raised $200 million in a new round of funding, the company said.

The funding was led by the Qatar Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund of the state of Qatar, with additional participation from Charlesbank Capital Partners and Vulcan Capital, the investment arm of the estate of Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen.

Since its launch in 2011 as Hampton Creek, the company has raised more than $650 million all to build out capacity for its egg replacement products and its new line of lab-grown meat.

“We are very excited to work with our investors to build a healthier, safer and more sustainable food system. Their knowledge and experience partnering with companies that are transforming numerous industries were fundamental in our decision to partner with them,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just, in a statement.

Eat Just’s evolution hasn’t been without controversy. In 2017, the company and its chief executive withstood a failed coup, which forced the firing of several executives. The company also saw its entire board resign in the aftermath of those firings, only to replace them with a new slate of directors months later.

In the aftermath, Hampton Creek rebranded and refocused. These days the company’s products fall into two somewhat related categories. There’re the plant-based egg replacement products and eggless mayonnaise and the lab grown chicken products that are meant to replace poultry farmed chicken meat.

Since the egg side of Eat Just’s chicken and egg business definitely came first, it’s worth noting that the company’s products are sold in more than 20,000 retail outlets and 1,000 foodservice locations. since it began selling the product, the company has moved more than 100 million eggs to roughly one million U.S. households.

The company’s eggs are also on offer in Dicos, a fast food chain in China, and it’s got a deal to put out a sous vide egg replacement product with Cuisine Solutions. The eggs are also available in Peet’s Coffee locations around the country and Eat Just has expanded its eggless distribution platform into Canada.

Then there’s the company’s GOOD Meat product. That was available for a short time in Singapore. The company expects to slash production costs and expand its commercial operations while working on other kinds of meats as well, according to a statement.

It’s a long way from where the Eat Just started, when it raised its first millions from Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund.

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Bill Gates wants Western countries to eat “synthetic meat”; Meatable has raised $47 million to make it

In a recent interview discussing Bill Gates’ recent book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster“, the Microsoft and Breakthrough Energy founder (and the world’s third wealthiest man) advocated for citizens of the richest countries in the world to switch to diets consisting entirely of what he called synthetic meat in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Gates’ call is being met by startups and public companies hailing from everywhere from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv, London to Los Angeles, and Berkeley to… um… Chicago.

Indeed, two of the best funded companies in the lab-grown meat market hail from The Netherlands, where Mosa Meat is being challenged by a newer upstart, Meatable, which just announced $47 million in new financing.

The company aims to have its first product approved by European regulators by 2023 and notching commercial sales by 2025.

Meatable has a long road ahead of it, because, as Gates acknowledged in his interview with MIT Technology Review (ed. note: I’m available for a call, too, Bill), “the people like Memphis Meats who do it at a cellular level—I don’t know that that will ever be economical.”

Beyond the economics, there’s also the open question of whether consumers will be willing to make the switch to lab grown meat. Some companies, like the San Francisco-based Just Foods and Tel Aviv’s Supermeat are already selling chicken patties and nuggets made from cultured cells at select restaurants.

These products don’t get at the full potential for cellular technology according to Daan Luining, Meatable’s chief technology officer. “We have seen the nugget and the chicken burger, but we’re working on whole muscle tissue,” Luining said.

The sheer number of entrants in the category — and the capital they’ve raised — points to the opportunity for several winners if companies can walk the tightrope balancing cost at scale and quality replacements for free range food.

“The mission of the company is to be a global leader in providing proteins for the planet. Pork and beef and regularly eaten cuts have on environmental and land management,” Luining said. “The technology that we are using allows us to go into different species. First we’re focused on the animals that have the biggest impact on climate change and planetary health.”

For Meatable right now, price remains an issue. The company is currently producing meat at roughly $10,000 per pound, but, unlike its competitors, the company said it is producing whole meat. That’s including the fat and connective tissue that makes meat… well… meat.

Now with 35 employees and new financing, the company is trying to shift from research and development into a food production company. Strategic investors like DSM, one of the largest food biotech companies in Europe should help. So should angel investors like Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, the executive chairman of Vertex Pharmaceuticals; and Dr. Rick Klausner, the former executive director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a founder of Juno Therapeutics, GRAIL, and Mindstrong Health, after leaving Illumina where he served as chief medical officer.

Institutional investors in the company’s latest round include Google Ventures founder Bill Maris’ new fund, Section 32,  and existing investors like: BlueYard Capital, Agronomics, Humboldt, and Taavet Hinrikus. 

The company’s first commercial offering will likely be a lab-grown pork product, but with expanded facilities in Delft, the location of one of the top universities in The Netherlands, a beef product may not be far behind.

“[Meatable has] a great team and game-changing technology that can address the challenges around the global food insecurity issues our planet is facing,” said Klausner. “They have all the right ingredients to become the leading choice for sustainably and efficiently produced meat.”


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Has a startup finally found one of food science’s holy grails with its healthy sugar substitute?

A little less than three years ago at the Computer Science Museum in Mountain View, Calif. the founders of a young company hailing from Cambridge, England addressed a crowd of celebrities, investors and entrepreneurs at Y Combinator’s August Demo Day promising a revolution in food science.

Over the years, the event has become a relatively low-tech, low-budget showcase for a group of tech investors and billionaire industry insiders to take a look at early stage businesses that could be their next billion-dollar opportunity.

Sharing the stage with other innovation-minded budding entrepreneurs the Cambridge scientists boasted of a technology could produce a sweetener that would mimic not just the taste of sugar, but the caramelization and stickiness that makes sugar the go-to additive for the bulk of roughly 74% of packaged foods that are made with some form of sweetener. Their company, Cambridge Glycoscience  could claim a huge slice of a market worth at least a $100 billion market, they said.

Now, the company has a new name, Supplant, and $24 million in venture capital financing to start commercializing its low-cost sugar substitute made from the waste materials of other plants.

 

The bitter history of the sweetest ingredient

Sugar came into the human diet roughly 10,000 years ago as sugarcane, which is native to New Guinea and parts of Taiwan and China. Over the next 2,000 years the crop spread from those regions to Madagascar and eventually took root in India, where it was first refined in about 500 BC.

From there, the sweetener spread across the known world. By the first century AD Greek and Roman scholars were referencing its medicinal properties and, after the Crusades, sugar consumption traveled across Europe through the Middle Ages.

It was a welcome replacement from Europe’s mainstay, honey, and the early artificial sweeteners used by the Romans, which contained near-lethal doses of lead.

The cold climates of Northern Europe proved mostly inhospitable to sugarcane cultivation so the root took root in the more temperate South and the islands off of Europe’s southern coast.

Those regions also became home to the first European experiments with agricultural slavery — a byproduct of the sugar trade, and one that would plant the seeds for the international exploitation of indigenous American and African labor for centuries as the industrial growth of sugar production spread to the New World.

First, European indentured servants and enslaved indigenous people’s powered the production of sugar in the Americas. But as native populations died off due to the introduction of European diseases, genocidal attacks, and back-breaking labor, African slaves were brought to the new colonies to work the fields and mills to make refined sugar.

Sugar hangover

The horrors of slavery may be the most damning legacy of industrial sugar, but it’s far from the only problem caused by the human craving for sweeteners.

As climate change becomes more of a threat, fears of increasing deforestation to meet the world’s demand — or to provide cover for other industrialization of virgin forests — have arisen thanks to new policies in Brazil.

“Conventional cane sugar is heavily heavily water intensive,” said Supplant co-founder Tom Simmons in an interview. That’s another problem for the environment as water becomes the next resource to be stressed by the currents of climate change. And species extinction presents another huge problem too.

“The WWF number one source for biodiversity lost globally is cane sugar plantations,” Simmons said. “Sugar is a massive consumer of water and in contrast, there’s big sustainability pitch for what we do.. the raw materials are products of the current agricultural industry.”

And the quest for sugar substitutes in the U.S. has come with related health costs as high fructose corn syrup has made its way into tons of American products. Invented in 1957, corn syrup is one of the most common sweeteners used to replace sugar — and one that’s thought to have incredibly disastrous effects on the health of consumers worldwide.

The use of corn syrup has been linked to an increasing prevalence of diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease, in the world’s population.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 08: In this photo illustration, products containing high sugar levels are on display at a supermarket on April 8, 2016 in Melbourne , Australia. The World Health Organisation’s first global report on diabetes found that 422 million adults live with diabetes, mainly in developing countries. Australian diabetes experts are urging the Federal Government to consider imposing a sugar tax to tackle the growing problem. (Photo by Luis Ascui/Getty Images)

Looking For A Healthier Substitute

As Supplant and its investors look to take the crown as the reigning replacement for sugar, they join a long line of would-be occupants to sugar’s throne.

The first viable, non-toxic chemically derived sugar substitute was discovered in the late 18th century by a German chemist. Called saccharine it was popularized initially during sugar shortages caused by the first World War and gained traction during the health crazes of the sixties and seventies.

Saccharin, still available in pink Sweet n’ Low packets and a host of products, was succeeded by aspartame (known commercially as Equal and present as the sugar substitute in beverages like Diet Coke), which was supplanted by sucralose (known as Splenda).

These chemically derived sweeteners have been the standard on the market for decades now, but with a growing push for natural — rather than chemical — substitutes for sugar and their failures to act as a replacement for all of the things that sugar can do as a food ingredient, the demand for a better sugar has never been higher.

Supplanting the competition 

“Not everything that we back is going to change the world. This, at scale, does that.” said Aydin Senkut, the founder and managing partner of Felicis Ventures, the venture firm that’s one of Supplant’s biggest backers. 

Part of what convinced Senkut is the fact that Supplant’s sweetener has already received preliminary approvals in the European Union by the region’s regulatory equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration. That approval not only covers the sale of Supplant’s product as a sweetener, but also as a probiotic with tangible health benefits he said.

So not only is the Supplant product arguably a better and more direct sugar replacement, as the founders claim, it also has health benefits through providing increased fiber in consumers who use it regularly, Senkut said.

“The European FDA is even stricter than the U.S. FDA,” Senkut said. “[And] they got pre-approval for this.”

Senkut and Felicis invested in Cambridge Glycosciences almost immediately after seeing the company’s presentation at Y Combinator.

“We became the largest investors at seed,” Senkut said.

Its selling points were the products extremely low glycemic index and its ability to be manufactured from waste plant fibers, which means that it ultimately can be produced at a lower cost, according to Senkut.

What’s the difference? 

Supplant differs from its competition in a number of other key ways, according to company co-founder Tom Simmons.

While companies like the Israeli startup DouxMatok or Colorado’s MycoTechnology and Wisconsin’s Sensient work on developing additives from fungus or tree roots or bark that can enhance the sweetness of sugars, Supplant uses alternative sugars to create its sweetener, Simmons said. 

“The core difference is they’re working with cane sugar,” according to Simmons. “Our pitch is we make sugars from fiber so you don’t need to use cane sugar.”

Simmons said that these other startups have been approaching the problem from the wrong direction. “The problem that their technology addresses isn’t the problem the industry has,” Simmons said. “It’s about texture, bulking, caramelization and crystallization… We have a technology that’s going to give you the same sweetness gram for gram.”

There are six different types of calorific sugar, Simmons explained. There’s lactose, which is the sugar in milk; sucrose, which comes from sugarcane and sugar beets; maltose, found in grains like wheat and barley; fructose, the sugar in fruits and honey; glucose, which is in nearly everything, but especially carbohydrate-laden vegetables, fruits, and grains; and galactose, a simple sugar that derives from the breakdown of lactose.

Simmons said that his company’s sugar substitute isn’t based on one compound, but is derived from a range of things that come from fiber. The use of fibers means that the body recognizes the compounds as fibrous and treats them the same way in the digestive tract, but the products taste and act like sugar in food, he said. “Fiber derived sugars are in the category of sugars, but are not the calorific sugars,” said Simmons.

NEW YORK – DECEMBER 6: Packets of the popular sugar substitute Splenda are seen December 6, 2004 in New York City. The manufacturer of sucralose, the key ingredient in the no-calorie sweetener, says demand is so high for the product that it will not be able to take on new U.S. customers until it doubles production in 2006. Splenda has been boosted by the popularity of the low-sugar Atkins diet. (Photo Illustration by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Trust the process? 

Supplant’s technology uses enzymes to break down and fragment various fibers. “As you start breaking it down, it starts looking molecularly like sucrose — like cane sugar — so it starts behaving in a similar way,” said Simmons.

This is all the result of years of research that Simmons began at Cambridge University, he said. “I arrived at Cambridge intending to be a professor. I did not arrive in Cambridge intending to start a business. I was interested in doing science, making inventions and stuff that would reach the wider world. I always imagined the right way for me to do that was to be a professor.”

In time, after receiving his doctorate and beginning his post-doctoral work into the research that would eventually turn into Supplant, Simmons realized that he had to start a company. “To try and do something impactful I was going to have leave the university,” he said. 

In some ways, Supplant operates at the intersection of all of Simmons’ interests in health, nutrition, and sustainability. And he said the company has plans to apply the processing technology across a range of consumer products eventually, but for now the company remains focused on the $100 billion sugar substitute market.

“There’s a handful of different core underlying scientific approaches in different spaces,” he said. The sort of things that go into personal care and homecare. Those chemicals. A big drive in the industry is for both less harsh and harsh chemicals in shampoos but also to do so in a way that’s sustainable. That’s made form a sustainable source but also biodegradable.”

Next steps 

With the money that the company has now raised from investors including Bonfire Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Felicis, Soma Capital, and Y Combinator, Supplant is now going to prove its products in a few very targeted test runs.* The first is a big launch with a celebrity chef, which Simmons teased, but did not elaborate on.

Senkut said that the company’s roll out would be similar to the ways in which Impossible Foods went to market. Beginning with a few trial runs in higher end restaurants and foodstuffs before trying to make a run at a mass consumer market.

The feedstocks for Supplant’s sugar substitute come from sugar cane bagasse, wheat and rice husks, and the processing equipment comes from the brewing industry. That’s going to be a benefit as the company looks to build out an office in the U.S. as it establishes a foothold for a larger manufacturing presence down the line.

“We’re taking known science and applying it in the food industry where we know that it has value,” Simmons said. “We’re not inventing any brand new enzymes and each part of the process — none of it on their own are new. The discovery that these sugars work well and can replace cane sugar. That’s someone that no one has done before. Most sugars don’t behave like cane sugar in food. They’re too dry, they’re too wet, they’re too hard, they’re too soft.”

Ultimately the consumer products mission resonates highly for Simmons and his twenty person team. “We’re going to use these hugely abundant renewable resources produced all around the world,” he said. 

*This story was updated to include Bonfire Ventures and Khosla Ventures as investors in Supplant.

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Redefine Meat is moving plant-based proteins from patties to steaks

The Israeli startup Redefine Meat, which has developed a manufacturing process to make plant-based proteins that more closely resemble choice cuts of beef than the current crop of hamburger-adjacent offerings, has gotten a big vote of confidence from the investment arm of one of Asia’s premier food brands. 

The company has raised $29 million in financing from Happiness Capital, the investment arm backed by the family fortunes of Hong Kong’s Lee Kum Kee condiment dynasty, and Hanaco Ventures, an investment firm backing startups in New York and Israel.

Investors have stampeded into the plant-based food industry, spurred by the rising fortunes of companies like Beyond Meat, which has inked partnerships with everyone from Pepsico to McDonald’s, and Impossible Foods, which counts Burger King among the brands boosting its plant-based faux meat.

While these companies have perfected plant patties that can delight the taste buds, the prospect of carving up a big honkin cut of pea protein in the form of a ribeye, sirloin or rump steak, has been a technical hurdle these companies have yet to overcome in a commercial offering.

Redefine Meat thinks its manufacturing processes have cracked the code on the formulation of plant-based steak.

They’re not the only ones. In Barcelona, a startup called Novameat raised roughly $300,000 earlier this year for its own take on plant-based steak. That company raised its money from the NEOTEC Program of the Spanish Center for Industrial Technological Development.

Both companies are using 3-D printing technologies to make meat substitutes that mimic the taste and texture of steaks, rather than trying to approximate the patties, meatballs, and ground meat that companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible have taken to market.

Backing Redefine’s path to market are a host of other investors including Losa Group, Sake Bosch, and K3 Ventures.

The company said it would use the new funding to expand its portfolio and support the commercial launch of its products. Redefine aims to have a large-scale production facility for its 3-D printers online before the end of the year, the company said in a statement.

In January, Redefine Meat announced a strategic agreement with the Israeli distributor Best Meister and the company has been expanding its staff with a current headcount of roughly 40 employees.

“We want to change the belief that delicious meat can only come from animals, and we have all the building blocks in place to make this a reality: high-quality meat products, strategic partnerships with stakeholders across the world, a large-scale pilot line under construction, and the first-ever industrial 3D Alt-Meat printers set to be deployed within meat distributors later this year,” said Eschar Ben-Shitrit, the company’s chief executive, in a statement. 

 

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After raising $150 million in equity and debt, Nature’s Fynd opens its fungus food for pre-orders

Nature’s Fynd, the food technology company with a new food offering cultivated from fungus found in the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, is releasing its first products for pre-order. 

Pitching both a non-dairy cream cheese and meatless breakfast patties, Nature’s Fynd had managed to attract some serious investors including Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management and the Bill Gates-backed investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. The company most recently raised $80 million in its last round of funding.

The company is part of a wave of innovative products using a range of bacteria, fungi, and plants to create meat alternatives.  Last year, companies developing meat alternatives raised well over $1 billion in financing and investors show no sign of slowing down in their commitments to the industry.

The commercial launch of the Fy Breakfast Bundle, vegan and non-GMO alternatives to traditional breakfast products will be the first commercial test for Nature’s Fynd as it looks to go to market.

These limited release bundles are available for $14,99 plus shipping, according to the company, and the products will be available across the 48 contiguous U.S. states.

The company’s product is grown using fermentation technology to cultivate the bacteria that Nature’s Fynd’s chief scientists discovered during their research into organisms around Yellowstone National Park.

Nature’s Fynd touts the resilience and efficiency of the microbe it discovered, leading to a more sustainable production process that uses a fraction of the land, water, and energy resources that traditional animal husbandry requires, the company said.

“We choose optimism so that we can find a way to do more with less. Using our novel liquid-air surface fermentation technology, we’re creating a range of sustainable foods that nourish our bodies and nurture our planet for generations to come. We’re really excited to be at the beginning of this journey with the launch of our first-ever limited release of Fy Breakfast Bundles,” said Nature’s Fynd CEO Thomas Jonas. “We’ve deeply studied our consumers and we know that Fy’s unique versatility, which delivers great tasting meat and dairy alternatives for every occasion, is highly appealing.” 

Nature’s Fynd chief executive, Thomas Jonas. Image Credit: Nature’s Fynd

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Good Eggs raises $100M and plans to launch in Southern California

Grocery delivery startup Good Eggs is announcing that it has raised $100 million in new funding, and that it’s planning to launch in Southern California in either the summer or fall of this year.

Parts of this story might sound familiar to readers familiar with Good Eggs — when the startup raised its most recent, $50 million funding round in 2018, CEO Bentley Hall also mentioned plans for geographic expansion.

It seems, however, that the company has found plenty of opportunity for growth while remaining focused on the San Francisco Bay Area. Good Eggs says that in the past year, revenue has grown to the nine figures (more than $100 million), hired more than 400 employees and nearly doubled its customer base.

Hall also noted that the company opened a new, larger warehouse in Oakland just a few days before shelter-in-place orders took effect last March. So the team was busy enough trying to operate a new warehouse, meet increased demand for grocery delivery and keep workers safe in the process.

Good Eggs box

Image Credits: Good Eggs

And while the grocery delivery market has become increasingly competitive, Hall argued that Good Eggs stands out thanks to the quality and breadth of its products — 70% of its products are locally sourced, and it often delivers them within 48 hours of harvesting.

“There’s lots of people offering groceries, meal kits, prepared meals, alcohol — we do all of that, with a certain sourcing criteria,” Hall said. As a result, Good Eggs has become the “primary source” for many of its consumers, representing 65% to 85% of their home food purchases.

It’s also worth noting that this represents a bit of a turnaround for the company, after the it shut down operations in Los Angeles, New York City and New Orleans in 2015, with Hall coming on as CEO shortly afterwards. And it sounds like he isn’t in a rush to launch in a bunch of new markets.

“I think of [Southern California] not as one big region, but as several small sub-regions,” Hall said. “There’s the LA region, northern San Diego, Orange County — those areas collectively are the size of two or three Bay Areas. That’s a meaningful increase in our addressable market.”

Good Eggs CEO Bentley Hall

Good Eggs CEO Bentley Hall

The new funding was led by Glade Brook Capital Partners, with participation from GV, Tao Invest, Finistere Ventures and Rich’s, as well as previous investors Benchmark Partners, Index Ventures, S2G, DNS Capital and Obvious Ventures. Glade Brook’s J.P. Van Arsdale is joining the company’s board of directors.

“The grocery market is undergoing fundamental change and the shift to e-commerce and higher quality products and services is accelerating,” Van Arsdale said in a statement. “Good Eggs is experiencing rapid growth with strong unit economics and is well-positioned to become a category-defining leader. We are excited to partner with their team to help drive future growth and expansion.”

In addition to geographic expansion, Hall said the money will allow Good Eggs to continue adding new products and to find ways to improve the e-commerce experience.

In addition to the funding, Good Eggs is also announcing that it has hired Vineet Mehra as its chief growth and customer experience officer. Mehra was previously chief marketing officer and chief customer officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, and before that as executive vice president and global chief marketing and revenue officer at Ancestry.

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