NCN News June 12, 2018
NCN News

JUNE 12, 2018

Recent transactions

Clearly Kombucha acquired by Molson Coors

Molson Coors (Denver, Colorado) has acquired Clearly Kombucha (Fairfield, California), a maker of cold-filtered certified organic kombuchas. It will become part of the Molson Coors U.S. business, MillerCoors, and fold into its craft and specialty import division, Tenth and Blake. Terms were not disclosed. According to a MillerCoors blog, the acquisition is another step in building its growing non-alcohol portfolio: The company last year took a minority stake of Bhakti Inc., a chai tea company. The kombucha category is projected to have a compound annual growth rate of more than 23 percent from 2018 to 2024, MillerCoors said.

Manna Pro acquires Fruitables pet foods

Manna Pro Products LLC (Chesterfield, Missouri), a manufacturer and marketer of animal nutrition and care products, has purchased Vetscience LLC (Dallas, Texas) and its Fruitables brand of premium natural dog treats and supplements. The Fruitables brand grew out of university research into pet obesity using low-calorie pumpkin as a fortified food supplement. This research became the foundation of the company’s CalorieSmart ethos for pet wellness and health. The Fruitables brand has evolved into a line of natural CalorieSmart treats, broths and toppers.

Barkstrong acquires two natural pet food companies

Barkstrong LLC (Los Angeles, California) has announced the acquisitions of Great Life Pet Food (Woodland Hills, California) and Wild Calling! Pet Foods (Marina del Rey, California). Founded by Elliot Harvey, Great Life Pet Food is committed to animal health and nutrition, with products designed to reduce food-related issues such as allergies, sensitivities, and digestive ailments. Initially founded in 2012 by the Petersen family as Natural Pet Marketplace, Wild Calling! provides free-range nutritional products that are natural and grain free; its canned dog and cat food is 96 percent meat.

Kroger to acquire Home Chef meal-kit delivery firm

The Kroger Co. (Cincinnati, Ohio) will acquire meal kit company Home Chef (Chicago, Illinois) in a $200 million acquisition that could rise to $700 million with earn-out payments. Founded in 2013, Home Chef had 150 percent growth in 2017 and generated $250 million in annual revenue from delivering fresh, pre-portioned ingredients and recipes weekly to consumers. Kroger, which will make Home Chef meal kits available on its website and in its stores, said the meal kit company will reach 98 percent of continental U.S. households within a two-day delivery window. Walmart has started rolling out its own branded meal kit service. Last year, Albertson’s acquired Plated, while Amazon launched meal kits through AmazonFresh. In 2017, the fresh-food meal-kit delivery market was valued at approximately $4.65 billion and is forecast to reach an estimated $11.6 billion by 2022. Key players include Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Home Chef, Plated and Sun Basket.

SnackNation raises $12 million in Series B funding

SnackNation (Los Angeles, California) has secured $12 million in Series B Funding led by 3L Capital, bringing total venture funding to $22.5 million for the tech-enabled snack delivery service. SnackNation curates and delivers healthier snacks and innovative brands to customers such as Microsoft, MailChimp, Soothe and others. So far, SnackNation has focused on selling to offices but plans to enter distribution channels such as hospitality and transportation, in addition to scaling up its at-home business. The custom snack boxes include such items as bars, chips, jerky, granola, trail mix and dried fruit. Featured brands must adhere to SnackNation’s unacceptable ingredient protocol.

EAT Club acquires Farm Hill in office food delivery

EAT Club (Redwood City, California), a corporate catering and office lunch service, has acquired the personal meal business of Bay Area-based Farm Hill. The acquisition will enable EAT Club to extend its virtual cafeteria service to a new customer base, increase fresh meal options and accelerate growth. EAT Club’s online ROI calculator invites CEOs to discover how much their company can save per year by providing office lunch. Employees choose from EAT Club’s daily menu. Doug Leeds, formerly CEO of IAC Publishing (,, Urbanspoon and The Daily Beast), was appointed CEO of EAT Club.

Crowd Cow announces $8 million Series A for small-batch craft meats

Crowd Cow (Seattle, Washington)—a company that delivers pasture-raised, hormone-free meats from local farms directly to consumers—announced an $8 million Series A financing round led by Madrona Venture Group with participation from Sound Ventures and existing investors. Crowd Cow will use funds to improve its supply chain and add more ranches and farms to supply its online platform. Founded by Joe Heitzeberg of Madrona Venture Labs, and Ethan Lowry of Urbanspoon, Crowd Cow was initially launched as a crowd-funding campaign. The business generated $1 million in sales before expanding nationwide last summer.

Sunshine Fitness acquires 31 Planet Fitness clubs

Sunshine Fitness Growth Holdings LLC (Orlando, Florida), an owner and operator of Planet Fitness clubs in the southeast United States, backed by TSG Consumer Partners, has acquired two franchise groups representing a combined 31 Planet Fitness clubs in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. Terms of the transactions were not disclosed. These transactions follow the December 2017 acquisition of a majority stake in Sunshine Fitness by TSG.

DuPont Nutrition & Health divests alginates business to close FMC deal

DuPont Nutrition & Health (N&H) has received approval from the European Commission (EC) to divest its DuPont N&H Alginates business to JRS Group (Rosenberg, Germany), a manufacturer of products made from vegetable-based raw materials. The divestiture is expected to close in Q3 2018. This divestiture was a requirement set out by the EC upon its conditional approval of DuPont’s 2017 acquisition of FMC’s health and nutrition business.

Tate & Lyle to acquire equity in stevia ingredient supplier

Sugar giant Tate & Lyle PLC (London, United Kingdom) has entered into an agreement to acquire a 15 percent equity holding in Sweet Green Fields (Bellingham, Washington), a global stevia ingredient company. The acquisition builds on an agreement made in April 2017 through which Tate & Lyle became Sweet Green Fields’ exclusive global distributor. “Our customers around the world are looking for great tasting, nutritionally balanced, and sustainable food products,” said Joan Braca, president of Food & Beverage Solutions at Tate & Lyle. “Sweet Green Fields will … make stevia sweeteners an integral part of our sweetener portfolio.” Founded in 2007, with its origins going back to 1999, Sweet Green Fields has extensive experience in stevia plant breeding and agriculture; the company’s original focus was on developing a patented method of extracting high purity rebaudioside A, the sweetest component of the stevia leaf, and breeding stevia plants with more Reb-A.

Impact Group acquires three food brokerages

Impact Group (Boise, Idaho), a sales and marketing agency, has acquired three independent food brokerage companies in Minnesota and Wisconsin: Impact Sales & Associates, Ritt-Beyer & Weir, and WJ Pence. The acquisitions reinforce Impact Group’s coverage in key markets and in the Midwest in particular. They also expand Impact’s coverage in conventional grocery and the natural channel and provide greater exposure to both convenience and mass retail. The combined acquisitions will add approximately 125 staff.

DERMA E natural skincare to join Topix brands

Topix Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Amityville, New York), a provider of premium branded skincare products, has acquired DERMA E (Simi Valley, California), a company that has been providing natural, vegan and cruelty-free skincare products for nearly 35 years. Topix, which was founded in 1981 and built its reputation in the physician and dermatological market, is backed by New Mountain Capital to execute both organic and acquisition-led growth. The acquisition will strengthen Topix’s commitment to the high-growth naturals category.

Encore invests in Tender Belly premium pork products

Premium pork products company Tender Belly LLC (Denver, Colorado) has received an investment from Encore Consumer Capital. Joining the board of directors are Jim Skidmore, a former board member who led acquisitions and integration of multiple brands to create Coleman Natural Foods, and Jeff Swain, former CEO of Coleman Natural Foods and of Niman Ranch prior to its sale to Perdue Farms. Tender Belly’s heritage-breed hogs are fed vegetarian diets, are antibiotic-free and raised in a crate-free environment. The company says it works with farms close to its processing plants to reduce unnecessary transportation and promotes the use of sustainable feed.

Porter Road raises seed funding for online meat business

Porter Road (Nashville, Tennessee), an online “whole animal” butcher shop catering to consumers’ appetite for sustainability and transparency in meat and poultry products, has raised $3.7 million in seed funding from investors including Max Ventures, Slow Ventures, BoxGroup, Tribeca Venture Partners, Collaborative Fund and Great Oaks VC. Porter Road began as a brick and mortar butcher shop in 2011 and launched its online shop in February 2018, working with local farmers to raise animals according to strict specifications. “There is a major movement away from the traditional mass-produced meat supply chain, especially among younger consumers,” said Ryan Darnell, general partner at Max Ventures.

PepsiCo and The Hatchery support food industry innovation

PepsiCo North America Nutrition (NAN, Chicago, Illinois) and The Hatchery Chicago have announced a partnership to help food industry entrepreneurs grow their businesses. The Hatchery Chicago is a food and beverage incubator that provides small businesses, many of which are focused on the nutrition space, with resources for success. As part of a two-way mentorship, PepsiCo employees will learn from The Hatchery entrepreneur community how to break down barriers to innovation, while entrepreneurs will receive insight from PepsiCo experts. PepsiCo NAN brands include Quaker, Tropicana, Naked, Near East and KeVita.

OME Health raises seed funding for personalized health plans

OME Health (London, United Kingdom) has raised $1.25 million in seed funding from Inventure to build its business of creating 12-week personalized health plans, according to UK Tech News. Plans are based on a person’s gut microbiome, genetics, blood markers and other data. Samples are processed in accredited labs, and proprietary algorithms interpret genetic and gut microbiome data. The plan offers personalized recommendations and support via chat coaching.

SkinNinja announces oversubscribed seed round for skincare app

SciApps, the all-female management team behind SkinNinja (London, United Kingdom), a health and skincare app, has announced an oversubscribed seed round of more than $1 million. Voulez Capital led the round, which includes participation from Firestartr and the London Co-Investment Fund. SkinNinja is a free smartphone app that identifies the contents of make up and skin care products. Users scan a product barcode with their smartphones to see an overview of ingredients, enabling them to avoid allergens, chemicals and animal products. The app also lists alternative products with links to vendors. Voulez Capital’s founder and CEO Anya Navidski said SkinNinja would “bring much needed clarity, transparency, and accountability to the skincare and personal products sector.” raises $125 million (Seattle, Washington), a network of pet sitters and dog walkers, announced an investment of $125 million led by T. Rowe Price Associates and the closing of a $30 million line of credit with Silicon Valley Bank, bringing Rover's available cash to more than $200 million. Other key investors include Winslow Capital, Cross Creek and existing shareholders. Rover will use the funding to expand internationally and increase its market share. The company's network of sitters and walkers now numbers more than 200,000 throughout North America. Rover acquired DogVacay in 2017.

Nulo Pet Food receives growth investment from Main Post Partners

Nulo Pet Food (Austin, Texas), a premium pet food brand, has received a strategic growth investment from Main Post Partners. All of Nulo's recipes are high in meat protein, grain-free, have low glycemic carbohydrates and contain a patented probiotic for immune and digestive health. Nulo has been recognized as a Top 25 Most Innovative Retail Brand by Forbes Magazine and landed at No. 520 on the Inc. 5000 Growth Leaders of 2017.

CareZone raises $50 million in Series D funding

CareZone (San Francisco, California), a smartphone service for managing chronic health conditions, has secured an additional $50 million in Series D financing led by NEA, bringing its total financing to $150 million. According to CareZone, its app can now scan medications from every pharmacy in the nation to automate consumer data entry. The program then manages related services such as refill requests and delivery of prescription medications. It also provides a selection of subscription nutritional supplements to meet over-the-counter care needs.

Rael secures $2.1 million in funding led by SoftBank Ventures Korea

Rael (Buena Park, California), a startup offering healthier products for menstrual care, announced a $2.1 million pre-Series A funding round led by SoftBank Ventures Korea and other investors including Thrive Market, an e-commerce platform for affordable natural and organic products. Launched in 2017, Rael is led by three female co-founders who saw a gap in the market for healthy, comfortable and high-performing menstrual care products. Rael’s product line includes biodegradable tampons made with 100 percent certified organic cotton.

NCN presenter updates

L Catterton invests in Vitamin Packs

Vitamin Packs LLC (Seattle, Washington) has received an undisclosed but significant investment from L Catterton to support the growth of Vitamin Packs’ personalized vitamin subscription service. Early-stage investor BrandProject also participated. Vitamin Packs offers consumers an internet-based self-assessment of health and lifestyle, leading to personalized supplement recommendations cross-referenced against 650 prescription medications to avoid drug-nutrient interactions. Vitamin Packs was a presenting company at the NCN Fall 2016 Investor Meeting.

Mixfit expands global partnership with DSM and Givaudan

Mixfit Inc. (Boston, Massachusetts) says it will be building on its strategic partnership in personalized nutrition with DSM and Givaudan. Showcased with DSM in May at Vitafoods-Europe 2018, Mixfit unveiled its intelligent nutrition assistant (Mina) that analyzes the interactions between genes, diet and lifestyle to dispense personalized nutritional drinks at home. The customized beverages feature Quali-Blends nutrients by DSM and customized flavors by Givaudan. Mixfit was a presenting company at NCN Europe 2018 and NCN Canada 2017.

Disclaimer: NCN does not warrant the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any NCN news item. Before relying on any NCN News item the information should be independently verified.