FOR MOST of its nondescript life, the humble store brand has played the role of poor cousin to more glamorous brand-name products. Its packaging was basic, even ugly; the quality, good enough. From cereal to cookies to canned beans, the store-brand product’s main allure was its bargain price.

But store brands, also called private label or “own brands,” are casting off their bland reputation and transforming themselves from dull to desirable. At Foxtrot, a fast-growing chain of trendy convenience stores, the house bourbon is handpicked by bartenders from the Violet Hour, a Chicago craft-cocktail bar, and its potato chips come in flavors like spicy dill pickle and Himalayan salt and vinegar. Online grocer Thrive Market specializes in well-priced staples like coffee and coconut milk with ethical and eco-friendly pedigrees.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods Market rebranded its standard 365 line with a more appealing, whimsical look, and Target, a pioneer of innovative private-label brands, has doubled down on fashionable foodstuffs with Good & Gather, a line that includes both basics and not-seen-elsewhere items like Peach Bellini Fruit Spread and Brownie Batter Dessert Hummus.

In short, store brands are no longer the cheap knockoffs you keep hidden in the back of the cupboard, but quite possibly the tastiest deals on the shelf.

“How we shop and where we shop is changing,” said Carman Allison, vice president of sales development at research firm NielsenIQ. “Retailers are investing in their private-label brands as they seek ways to differentiate themselves and meet evolving consumer needs.”

Store brands have always been big business—and for good reason. These more affordable products actually make stores more money. Margins on private-label food products average anywhere from 10% to 40% higher than sales of national brands. Still, it wasn’t until recently that a wide array of grocers decided to follow in cult grocer Trader Joe’s footsteps, upgrading packaging and offering products that aim to delight rather than simply suffice.

Two trends are fueling the shift. The first is a quest for customer loyalty. The number of grocery retailers in today’s market is dizzying: There are the traditional supermarkets, discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl, a host of “do-good” online grocers (Thrive Market among them), and the 800-pound gorilla in this space, Amazon.

Where shoppers used to make one big shop a week, the average consumer now goes to three or four different stores for groceries, according to Mary Ellen Lynch, a principal with research firm IRI. Sexy, exclusive store brands are one way to lure customers back. “The biggest motivation for us is having products no one else has,” said Mike LaVitola, chief executive of Foxtrot, which has stores in Chicago, Dallas and Washington, D.C., and plans to open 50 more outlets in the next two years.

Foxtrot’s products don’t mimic national brands but aim to outshine them in quality and design. The line’s ice creams, for example, come in highfalutin flavors like roasted bananas and caramel and cinnamon crumble. Some Foxtrot products, like the seasonal hot chocolate mix developed with Chicago pastry chef Mindy Segal, are collaborations with respected local food artisans that deliver top quality to customers and a halo effect to Foxtrot.

Other products bear no trace of the Foxtrot logo. In partnership with importer Skurnik Wines & Spirits, the Foxtrot chain bottled three French wines, including a rosé sold under the label Sun Lips. “You’d never know that was our private label, and that’s the point,” said Mr. LaVitola. Last summer, sales of Sun Lips were twice those of Foxtrot’s next-best-selling rosé. The chain reports margins on all private-label products of 10-15% above outside brands. No wonder Foxtrot’s store brands now make up about 30% of the store’s overall selection.

Thrive Market, too, is focused on offering premium store-brand products. For its customers—many of whom adhere to special diets such as paleo, keto and gluten-free—that means a lot of clean-label staples. Take coconut milk, one of Thrive’s perennial bestsellers. Most brands add the thickener guar gum to the product to give it a silky consistency. But paleo adherents object vociferously to the additive. So Thrive made its coconut milk, which sells for slightly less than the leading national brand, guar-gum-free.

As an online-only grocer, Thrive also has created brands to solve customer-delivery issues. Canned beans, for example, are a popular staple, but they are heavy and therefore carbon-intensive to ship. They also tend to roll around in the box and crush other items. Thrive’s house-brand beans now come in light plastic pouches.

Established grocers, too, are upping their game. In addition to its $2 billion Good & Gather brand, Target last spring launched Favorite Day, a line of 700-plus snacks and desserts such as frozen French macarons and crème brûlée. ShopRite’s Bowl & Basket brand, with its soft color scheme and slew of plant-based items, is another contender competing for higher-end buyers.

The rapid evolution of store brands can also be chalked up to the pandemic, which unraveled established shopping patterns. In the spring of 2020, Americans were faced with a sea of empty shelves; many tried store brands out of necessity. According to a September 2020 study from management consultant firm McKinsey & Company, nearly one in five shoppers said they bought more private-label products during the Covid-19 crisis than they had before. And 40% of those who switched to new brands said they were likely to continue buying them after the pandemic waned.

The numbers bear that out. According to NielsenIQ, private-label food sales were worth $123 billion in 2020, up 13.6% over the previous year. And though sales settled down in 2021 as supply chains came back online, Mr. Allison (the NielsenIQ analyst) said he expects to see retailers continue to innovate. Premium private labels appear to be here to stay.

Source: WSJ

Prime Matter Labs, a leading contract manufacturer of beauty and personal care products, announces the appointment of Aaron Paas as incoming CEO.

Paas will succeed current CEO Mohamed Barakat.

“Aaron has a relentless passion for identifying and meeting the needs of our brand partners and the trends affecting them,” said Barakat. “We are extremely optimistic about the direction of the company and are thrilled to have Aaron lead the Prime Matter Labs team forward as we continue to make contract manufacturing better for brands.”

In his new role, Paas will partner with Barakat over the coming months to transition responsibility for all the operations and strategy of the company, including the continued growth across each of Prime Matter Labs’ facilities in Miami, Southern California, and New York City. Paas joined Prime Matter Labs two years ago as chief revenue officer and has played a key role defining and executing its growth strategy over that period. During his time, Prime Matter Labs has expanded from South Florida to a national footprint, has increased its workforce two-fold, and has grown its customer base significantly to include some of the fastest growing emerging brands across the beauty and personal care landscape.

Paas has spent his career in the consumer-packaged goods and technology sectors, leading teams and organizations through every stage of product and brand development. Paas got his start at Procter & Gamble where he led progressively larger brand, operations, and product development teams, ultimately leading the Gillette Mach 3 brand operation. From P&G he went on to technology startup Etsy.com and eventually founded his own personal care brand, Wildist, which he led until joining Prime Matter Labs.

“The Prime Matter Labs mission is centered on being a better partner by looking through the brand lens,” explained Pass. “My perspective on the future of Prime Matter Labs is shaped by the challenges that brands face every day as they work tirelessly to put the best products possible in their consumer’s hands. We are at an exciting time in the evolution of the beauty and personal care landscape and our product development and production platform will be a key driver of innovation and growth for our brand partners, some of the most important consumer brands in their categories.”

Over its four-decade-long history, Over Prime Matter Labs has produced award-winning skin, sun, hair, and body care products and is consistently recognized as a best-in-class brand partner for its research and development expertise, customer-focus, and operational agility. In early 2020, Barakat and his co-founders, Mark Barakat and Frank Linares, partnered with Monogram Capital Partners, a leading consumer private equity investment firm, to embark on a bold new vision to position Prime Matter Labs for long-term success.

“Our belief in Aaron was a notable component of our investment thesis and we couldn’t be happier with the strategically-minded and essential leader he has proven to be,” said Oliver Nordlinger, co-founder and partner at Monogram.

Source: Happi

Changemaker of the Year:

Tracee Ellis Ross, founder and CEO, Pattern Beauty; Diversity and Inclusion Adviser, Ulta Beauty

Actress and entrepreneur Tracee Ellis Ross has always been adept at using her voice for the greater good, and this year, she turned up the volume. In February, she took on the role of diversity and inclusion adviser at Ulta Beauty, a role designed to provide counsel and drive accountability as the retailer looks to double down on its diversity efforts. “Ulta has the opportunity to set the tone of what can come next for organizations across the country, beyond beauty and retail,” said Ross, outlining three key areas in which she hopes Ulta will make impactful change. They are creating a pipeline for talent, establishing best practices for incubating and supporting brands and pursuing diversity in all aspects of the business, including areas like public relations, legal and consultants. Good thing that Ross — whose Pattern Beauty hair care line also entered Sephora this year and whose hit show, Blackish, will air its eighth and final season next year, is a self-professed workaholic who relishes having an impact. “My schedule is important, so is my sleep,” she said, “but the thing that makes it feel seamless and exciting is the fact that I’m guided by the same vision and principles through all of my things. It’s not like I have to become a different person everywhere I turn.”

Start-up of the Year:

Violette_Fr

Violette Serrat may be one of the hottest makeup artists of the moment (her YouTube videos have garnered over 28 million views), but when it came time to launch her eponymous line, the standard range of color cosmetics was not for her. Instead, Violette (who goes only by her first name professionally) launched a cross-category brand, all with the unifying theme of ‘French girl chic.’ There were 11 stock keeping units to start with, including a fragrance oil, six eye paints, hair powder and a hydrating mist called Boum-Boum Milk. A pop-up in Soho soon followed, as did a collab with the French label Bisous Skateboards. Serrat, who was also named Guerlain’s creative director for makeup in August, said her goal was to reinvent the beauty market model. “I want to reposition beauty as a lifestyle,” she said,” not just about the face.” The vision resonated: Violette_Fr hits its first-month sales goal on Day One.

Source: WWD

Violette, who’s attracted a loyal following with her beauty-focused YouTube videos, met her first month’s sales goal on launch day of her beauty brand, Violette_FR — an homage to her social handle and a testament to her product development prowess.

“Now that I’m here, I think that my art training was actually the key of everything,” said the French-born, New York-based makeup artist, who is also the global creative director of Guerlain and originally trained as a fine artist.

Creating her own pigments and working with different body shapes and dimensions on flat canvas taught her early on to see the depth that exists in beauty, a message she’s shared with her sizable digital audience — who were ready when she launched her very first products earlier this year. (YouTube was a side hobby at first, she said, while she worked for various brands. She now has 300,000 subscribers on the platform and 430,000 on Instagram.)
“Beauty is something that has nothing to do with the society criteria,” she went on, at the WWD Beauty CEO summit in conversation with Allison Collins, WWD’s senior editor. “It’s actually much more deep than that.”

Art is about feeling and that’s the approach she brings to her brand — which she wants to keep niche, yet global. “When I think of a niche brand, I think of intimacy and being really close to the community,” she explained. “That means to be accessible.”

While developing the line, Violette stayed in constant communication with that community. Her aim has been to “help people restore their relationship with themselves,” a messaging of self-care — influenced by her French roots — that’s seen across her content.

“I had a little bit of cultural shock when I moved to the U.S., I’m not going to lie,” she admitted.

The world of lash and hair extensions were foreign to her, she said: “If you put a mask on — I heard people say that here, ‘I have to put my face on in the morning,’ and that hurts me — when you remove your makeup, you have this huge contrast. And you’re like, ‘Oh, this is how I look like?’ This is not going to help to love yourself. In France, there is a desire to accept who we are the way we are. And we think that it’s actually a very good way to filter out people that are not ready to love you. If a person is just attracted by the aesthetic part of yourself then he’s not the right person. We use this as something very rebellious and empowering.”

Violette launched her brand six months later than initially expected because of the pandemic, with $2.75 million in seed funding, she built her team over Zoom.

“I had to learn how to do a business plan and all these things in English, which, trust me, was a challenge on its own,” she said. “Then, suddenly, the world is collapsing, my factories are shutting down and I have no idea when they’re going to open up. Then finally, I secured my funding in April, which was really when the world was falling apart. And suddenly you have this money, which is very scary. You’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, now I actually have to use it to do things.’”

She introduced an 11-piece collection across skin care, cosmetics, hair care and fragrance. While the brand is currently direct-to-consumer in the U.S., her hero product “Boum-Boum Milk” — a $58 three-in-one toner, serum and moisturizer spray — can be found in pharmacies in France, a dream realized.

“It’s because it’s where French people actually buy our skin care and hair care,” she said, noting the benefits of in-store pharmacists educating consumers on products. “Not even the first day of launch gave me that emotion. What gave me emotion was to see my product sitting on the shelf of a pharmacy.”

Source: WWD

When I first met Katie Seawell, she was draped head to toe with PPE. A full body suit, rubber gloves, shoe covers—the works. You’d think she was preparing to walk into a COVID unit for patients, but we were about as far away from a healthcare facility as you can get, in a building located within a drab-looking office park under a bridge in Kearny, New Jersey. From the outside, it didn’t seem like there could be anything worthwhile going on here.

Inside, however, were rows and rows of fruits and vegetables on top of each other in what looked like skyscrapers of produce. I saw lettuce, radishes, mustard greens, and a whole host of other crops easily found in a local grocery store. It was what the future of food is supposed to look like—at least, one version of it called vertical farming. For Bowery Farms, the company that runs this project, this is a critical part of the fight to keep people fed during tumultuous changes caused by climate change and supply chain challenges. The company’s leaders see their role as growing increasingly pivotal as these issues worsen over time.

“We build farms close to the communities we are serving in and that cuts down on food miles,” Seawell, the chief commercial officer for Bowery Farms, told The Daily Beast.

One of those communities is the New York metro area, which has become a case study for what the impact of vertical farming can be, and a model for how to address the elements of climate change fueled by the agricultural business.

“Bowery’s journey started by answering the questions of how do you provide fresh food for an urban environment and how do that in a way that is more efficient and much more sustainable,” said Irving Fain, the company’s CEO and founder.

Bowery Farms, the largest vertical farm company in the United States, is a testament to the interest around revamping the food industry to meet sustainability goals. The company reportedly grows 80,000 pounds of produce a week, and is expanding. It recently opened a facility in Baltimore and will open another in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Right now Bowery grows an array of delectable and otherwise unforgettable fruits and vegetables, including a mustard green which has a strong horseradish bite to it and sorrel that tastes exactly like an apple. It is set to introduce other new crops to the market including strawberries.

Bowery is far from alone. Down the road from its Kearny facility is Aerofarms, nestled on a side street blocks away from Newark Liberty International Airport. Aerofarms grows more than 500 different types of fruits and vegetables in its facilities, from arugula to baby bok choy.

Competitor Square Root is also expanding its operations but its products are more scalable since its farms use recycled shipping containers that can easily be deployed just about anywhere. They also still operate larger facilities in Michigan and around New York.

None of these companies has been slowed by the current supply chain disruptions afflicting many industries in the U.S. Vertical farming isn’t limited by the trucker, pesticide, or cardboard box shortages that hit the rest of the farming industry.

“We do seeding, growing, processing and stage for delivery all on the farm,” Seawell says.

Super Saver

For industry experts, the appeal to vertical farming isn’t at all hard to grasp, especially as our resources dwindle over time.

Take water conservation, for instance. Conventional irrigated agriculture uses a whopping 42 percent of the country’s fresh water supply. According to Produce News, an industry trade publication, vertical farming uses 95 percent less water than conventional farming methods.

On top of that, much of this country’s mass production of fruits and vegetables comes from a handful of regions, many of which are already dealing with the impact of climate change, especially in California. Produce production accounts for up to a staggering 90 percent of water consumption in the state, but more than 80 percent of California is experiencing “extreme” or “exceptional” drought conditions. The Salinas Valley, otherwise known as America’s salad bowl—which runs through much of the state—produces half of the country’s lettuce. The region has been mired in a major drought since at least May, causing lettuce prices to rise to their highest point in 10 years.

Then there is Texas, which is suffering under seemingly opposite conditions. Earlier this year the Lone Star State was ravaged by a freak freeze and snowstorm. Farmers from every corner of the state lost their crops. It will take years for many of them to bounce back if at all.

Within vertical farms, however, crops are sheltered from extreme weather. “We are immune from this because we are able to fully control our climate,” Aerofarms co-founder Marc Oshima told The Daily Beast.

Another plus of vertical farming is that pesticides aren’t even in the equation. The extremely tight control these companies exert in the farm facilities means there are few concerns about contamination and illness caused by toxic chemicals, bugs, invasive species or vermin. Regardless, as Seawall demonstrated, these companies are not taking any chances: staff and visitors are still required to wear a full body suit with shoe covers, rubber gloves and a hairnet to limit any foreign contaminants.

Vertical farming also makes it possible for communities to have almost immediate access to produce. Facilities can be built and operated close to or even with dense urban neighborhoods. Vegetables and fruits don’t need to traverse thousands of miles from farm to grocery store and risk spoiling (food waste during transit is a contributor to the 40 percent of all food in the U.S. ends up in landfills). Even when produce survives the journey, it can lose significant nutritional value; spinach, for instance, can lose up to 90 percent of its vitamin C nutrients within a day of harvest.

It’s part of the reason New York City has become such a hotbed for innovation in this space. It’s the most populated area of the U.S. but it’s also located so far away from the produce hubs of the Midwest, California and Texas. The rise of frequent superstorms like Ida and Sandy have ravaged more nearby farmlands along the East Coast. Only months ago, floods from Hurricane Ida tore through Connecticut and destroyed state crops ranging from lettuce to pumpkins. Almost 10 years ago, Hurricane Sandy flooded roughly 10 percent of New York City’s community gardens, which are a huge source for consumers looking to establish more sustainable sources of produce. Vertical farming operations simply don’t have to worry about these issues.

New York City is quickly becoming a bastion of vertical farming. Mayor-elect Eric Adams has specifically called for scaling up vertical farming operations within the city by expanding more public private partnerships with organizations to “leverage unused real estate” He also plans to update zoning laws to support further development within the city limits. In 2018, a New York City school turned a chemistry lab into a vertical farm. It produced a staggering 25,000 pounds of produce in a year, enough to feed more than 6,000 people.

New York City might be the most high profile example of how vertical farming is growing, but it’s far from the only U.S. city. Vertical farming startup Planted has found success in Detroit, and its products are sold at grocers and at restaurants around the greater Detroit metro. Plenty, based in San Francisco and with additional operations in Wyoming and in Washington as well, claims to use millions of gallons of less water every week than traditional farms.

High Bars to Clear

While these vertical farming efforts can help keep people fed while the climate gets worse, the product comes at a premium price tag that millions of Americans just cannot afford. That’s a challenge for companies like Aerofarms in particular whose products are classified as organics.

“Organics have a 20 percent premium over non-organics,” said Aerofarms’ Oshima. “Transparently, we do need that 20 percent premium to make money but our ambition is to lower prices.”

Supply chain disruptions, which have shot the price of everything from milk to beef, have only amplified this disparity.

“These methods are great alternatives to be able to grow food but right now it does not feel like they’re particularly targeted towards low income communities,” Luciano Contreras, manager of community food retail RiseBoro Community Partnerships, a non-profit that offers support services to low income families in Brooklyn, told The Daily Beast.

Contreras’s sentiment is echoed by a study run out of Cambridge University, which found that urban farming practices like vertical farming are more prevalent in a city’s wealthier communities than its poorer ones.

Vertical farms are proving capable of producing most kinds of popular produce. Here, Bowery Farms shows off its strawberries. Andy Hirschfeld
And in the context of the global market, vertical farming’s disruptions have the potential to exacerbate disparities in the developing world as well.

One example is Aerofarms’ partnership with Cargill Cocoa in Europe, to address the water intensive cocoa production process at a time when potable drinking water is particularly scarce. On the surface that seems like a good thing, but basing these operations in Europe will cut the need for imports to the West from Africa, where upwards of 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is grown. Aerofarms countered that its research and development relationship with Cargill will help supplement cocoa production on the Ivory Coast, which is increasingly limited and facing the effects of climate change. But that remains to be seen.

Fortunately it does look like the vertical farming footprint is expanding beyond just supplying the Whole Foods’ of the world.vBowery Farms is available at grocery stores across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast that include Giant Food, Walmart and Albertsons among others. Recently AeroFarms announced a new distribution partnership with Stop & Shop. InFarms, based in Germany, is working on supplying produce to Kroger stores across the U.S.

While imperfect, it does seem that vertical farming is at least part of the future of agriculture, even if it’s unexpectedly localized ​“in an otherwise unsuspecting office-park,” as Seawell described during my visit to Bowery Farms. Maybe it’s not as surprising as we might think. As cities begin to swell with larger populations and we start to build taller and taller buildings to accommodate everyone, it’s only natural our farms start to reach for the sky as well.

Source: The Daily Beast

HGGC, a leading middle market private equity firm, today announced it has completed a majority investment in PF Atlantic Holdings, a top-15 franchisee within the Planet Fitness health club system. In conjunction with the investment, PF Atlantic Holdings is rebranding as Grand Fitness Partners. Co-founders CEO David Bidwell and COO Scott Linsky will continue to lead the business and retain a significant minority stake in the business alongside current investor Monogram Capital. Details of the private transaction were not disclosed.

Grand Fitness Partners, headquartered in Toms River, New Jersey, and founded in 2010, is one of the fastest growing franchisees in the Planet Fitness system. Today, the Company owns and operates 42 Planet Fitness health clubs in Florida, California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

“We’re very excited to partner with David and Scott, two tremendous operators, and with Monogram Capital to help accelerate the impressive growth they have achieved at Grand Fitness Partners over the past decade,” said Steven Leistner, a Partner at HGGC. “Grand Fitness Partners has already exceeded pre-Covid membership and revenue figures, representing the team’s strong leadership and resilience through a trying period in the fitness space. We believe in Planet Fitness as a long-term secular health and wellness winner and have great confidence in Dave and Scott’s continued success building a leading platform in the Planet Fitness system.”

Leistner, HGGC Principal Phil Sampognaro, and HGGC President and Co-Founder Steve Young will all join the Board of Directors of Grand Fitness Partners.

“Scott and I are thrilled to welcome HGGC as our new financial partner, as we continue to execute our successful strategy,” said Bidwell. “Our ambitions are high and HGGC’s resources, network, and expertise will ensure that we can capitalize on market tailwinds and seize the substantial opportunity to drive organic growth and expand our footprint.”

Jared Stein, co-founder and partner at Monogram Capital Partners, led the investment for Monogram and will remain on the Board. Stein added, “This partnership is an ideal opportunity to continue the tremendous growth we’ve driven over the past four years with the Grand Fitness team and pull in HGGC, an optimal partner to help further catalyze our expansion in the next chapter ahead. Given our close long-standing relationship with HGGC, we felt they were uniquely capable of bringing additional capital into the business to amplify our new unit growth and serve more members, helping to jointly realize our mission of bringing affordable, non-intimidating fitness to even more people.”

Carlyle’s Global Credit segment and the Private Credit business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management provided financing for the transaction.

About HGGC

HGGC is a leading middle-market private equity firm with over $5.6 billion in cumulative capital commitments. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., HGGC is distinguished by its Advantaged Investing approach that enables the firm to source and acquire scalable businesses through partnerships with management teams, founders and sponsors who reinvest alongside HGGC, creating a strong alignment of interests. Since its inception in 2007, HGGC has completed more than 300 platform investments, add-on acquisitions, recapitalizations, and liquidity events with an aggregate transaction value of over $41 billion. More information, including a complete list of current and former portfolio companies, is available at hggc.com.

About Grand Fitness Partners

Founded by David Bidwell and Scott Linsky in 2010, Grand Fitness Partners (formerly PF Atlantic Holdings) is one of the fastest growing franchisees in the Planet Fitness system, operating 42 Planet Fitness health clubs with the rights to continue to develop the areas of South Florida, Central California, and parts of New Jersey.

About Monogram Capital

Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, and founded in 2014, Monogram Capital Partners has approximately $600 million of equity capital under management and focuses exclusively on investing in high-growth consumer and retail businesses. The firm seeks to partner with Founders and strong management teams, typically investing $5 million to $50 million of equity per transaction, backing brands including Chewy.com, Oatly, Foxtrot, Olipop, Genexa, Country Archer, Vive Organic and many other category leaders. To learn more about Monogram, please visit: www.monogramcapital.com.

About Planet Fitness

Founded in 1992 in Dover, NH, Planet Fitness is one of the largest and fastest-growing franchisors and operators of fitness centers in the United States by number of members and locations. As of September 30, 2021, Planet Fitness had more than 15.0 million members and 2,193 stores in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada, Panama, Mexico and Australia. The Company’s mission is to enhance people’s lives by providing a high-quality fitness experience in a welcoming, non-intimidating environment, which we call the Judgement Free Zone®. More than 95% of Planet Fitness stores are owned and operated by independent business men and women.

Source: PR Newswire

Prime Matter Labs, a leading contract manufacturer of beauty and personal care products, has acquired Torrance, CA-based Cosmetic Development Laboratories (CDL).

CDL will become Prime Matter Labs West.

The expanded company will increase Prime Matter Labs’ geographic coverage, production capacity and operations while also setting the stage for greater use of innovative technologies that will benefit the beauty and personal care industry in North America.

“Prime Matter Labs is focused on being the leading product development and production partner in the country for indie, emerging and established beauty and personal care brands,” said Mohamed Barakat, founder, and CEO of Prime Matter Labs. “As part of realizing that mission, expanding our operations to Southern California extends our reach, doubling our manufacturing footprint to nearly 200,000 square feet, and helps even more customers realize their goals, grow their businesses, and achieve success.”

Throughout Prime Matter Labs’ history, it has produced skin, sun, hair, and body care products that are recognized by brand leaders as being best-in-class for its efficiency and formula innovation. Its chemists have developed thousands of formulations across every personal care category.

In early 2020, Barakat and his team partnered with Monogram Capital Partners, a leading consumer private equity investment firm, to embark on a bold new vision to position Prime Matter Labs for long-term success.

“As a leader in personal care contract manufacturing, we feel it’s important to have a physical presence on the West Coast,” Barakat explained. “California is a hotbed of activity for new products with sustainable innovations, a key growth driver in our sector. It also has a strong labor market and provides supply chain flexibility for our customers.”

“Prime Matter Labs shares our passion for bringing customers’ great ideas to life,” said Joseph Peri, CDL’s CEO. “Mohamed and his team saw that we are as focused on product quality as they were. We are confident that they will do great work in the months and years ahead.”

In the coming months, Prime Matter Labs will unveil new services that will further transform the product development and production customer experience. To date, Prime Matter Labs has opened an Innovation Lab in New York City and created an optimized project brief process for brand partners. With national expansion, Prime Matter Labs said it will also be developing additional tools and capabilities to improve product management and time-to-market for brand partners, creating a new customer service industry standard.

Source: Happi

DIG, the vegetable-centric, multi-format restaurant group announces its series F raise of $65 million, returning to growth with an industry-leading vision that puts people first. The round, supported by existing investors including EHI (the fund affiliated with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group), Monogram Capital Partners, and Avalt, as well as new investors Kitchen Fund, Eminence Capital, LP, and Inherent Group, enables the re-opening of key locations temporarily closed due to COVID-19 and shifts growth to new markets that will bring its total restaurant count from 30 to 60 over the next three years.

DIG, the vegetable-centric, multi-format restaurant group announces its series F raise of $65 million, returning to growth with an industry-leading vision that puts people first. The round, supported by existing investors including EHI (the fund affiliated with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group), Monogram Capital Partners, and Avalt, as well as new investors Kitchen Fund, Eminence Capital, LP, and Inherent Group, enables the re-opening of key locations temporarily closed due to COVID-19 and shifts growth to new markets that will bring its total restaurant count from 30 to 60 over the next three years.

At the center of DIG’s growth plans is a people-centric strategy that will provide both industry-leading compensation and benefits, as well as a dedicated learning environment to support career development. Led by CEO Adam Eskin, the company has been building and implementing several programs to this end over the last 18 months, including:

  • DIG Academy: With the goal of providing career development in hospitality, the company launched DIG Academy—a burgeoning training and culinary school—during the pandemic. Anchored by their teaching kitchen on Park Avenue South, DIG Academy offers a 6-week program that all chefs currently go through. Over the next three years, this program will evolve into an immersive education program with both analog and digital experiences including culinary and business classes. The curriculum will range from cooking basics and technical cooking (French basics/bread and pastry making), to business strategy, finance, leadership, and marketing.
  • Industry-leading Wages & Compensation: The company instituted a $2/hr bonus for all CITs (“Chefs-In-Training”, DIG’s term for its hourly teams) throughout the pandemic, which has now been converted to a permanent wage increase. Average hourly wages in New York and Boston are in excess of $18.50 and $17.75, respectively. All employees that stayed with the company through the pandemic are also being granted a ‘gratitude bonus’ in recognition of the teams’ hard work and dedication over the last 18 months.
  • Parental Leave & Support: As of May 2021, all team members (of any gender) from the support team to chefs and CIT’s who have been at the company for 6 months are eligible for 4 months of fully-paid parental leave, a necessary employee benefit that was further highlighted by the challenges working parents faced during the pandemic. DIG is also in development with the city of New York to run a pilot program for a company-supported daycare for the hospitality industry.
  • 4 Day Workweek: The 4-day workweek model has been tested over the past 12 months in their Boston and Philadelphia restaurants whereby all full-time employees (salaried and hourly) have the option of working a 4-day schedule with longer shifts (no hourly wages are sacrificed) and 3 days off. Beta insights show overwhelmingly positive impacts on team members’ ability to create balance and fulfill personal needs. DIG will continue to study the implications of this model with the goal of rolling out the program to other markets in 2022.

DIG continues its commitment to building a diverse food system, including operating its farm DIG Acres, a 20-acre mixed vegetable farm in Chester, NY that supplements DIG’s robust local supply chain. DIG Acres, led by Head Farmer Larry Tse, operates a Farmer Apprenticeship program that provides land, equipment, and mentorship to farmers that are interested in a career in agriculture but have limited opportunities to learn the craft and gain experience.

Part of DIG’s mission to rebuild the food system is to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive food system by prioritizing sourcing from historically underrepresented groups including BIPOC farmers, Queer farmers, Women farmers, and Beginning farmers. Over 17% of their food purchasing has been directed to suppliers from these groups (up ~12.5% from last year). In June 2021, DIG ran a 2x donation matching program to support Rocksteady Farm’s new Queer Farmers Apprenticeship program.

At the start of the pandemic, the company also launched DIG Feeds to support healthcare and other frontline workers with a healthful, nourishing meal. To date, DIG Feeds has donated over 225k meals to hospitals, homeless shelters, and various community organizations. This platform will outlive the pandemic, with a current focus on supporting vulnerable, food insecure communities. DIG Feeds is currently running a weekly produce box program for Project Rousseau, an organization focused on supporting underprivileged youth and enabling them to pursue higher education, as well as weekly food donations to Covenant House, an organization focused on the issues of youth homelessness.

As DIG returns to growth, the company will restart its expansion plans beyond the northeast, building new restaurants in both urban and suburban markets across several formats. In the near future, we can expect kitchen technology, innovations and new format releases from DIG that aim to enable and empower people vs. replace them. One such program is already taking shape with a pilot launching at their 127 4th Avenue location later this fall that combines the best of their quick-service, full-service, and delivery capabilities to provide an entirely new dining experience.

Source: NRN

You may know her best as an actress, but Tracee Ellis Ross’ efforts to highlight diversity, equity and inclusion do not stop in Hollywood. In 2019, Ross launched her line of natural hair products, Pattern Beauty, to fill a void she witnessed in beauty and culture at large.

“My journey in hair care started with my own personal journey,” said Ross, who spent 10 years fine-tuning her vision to embrace the “authentic” beauty of Black hair. “The mission of the brand is to meet the needs of the curly, coily and tight texture community.”

The peak of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 was when “people started to understand that diversity and inclusion need to be anti-racist,” which is why “equity” is the key to implementing change within the beauty industry, she said. “That’s one of the spaces that I have worked on with Ulta Beauty, in holding them accountable and creating measurable goals.” Ulta Beauty has been Pattern’s exclusive retail partner for the last two years.

As Ross heads into the eighth and final season of the ABC show “Black-ish,” her journey with Pattern is far from over. “If you can’t keep growing, if you can’t keep expanding the narrative and expanding the dialogue with your customer, [the brand is] not going to grow,” she said.

Dialogues with customers showed the need for larger sizes of hero products, for example, which resulted in the release of Jumbettes, or Pattern’s styling cream and curl gel in jumbo-size bottles. Down the line, Ross hopes to expand Pattern into other beauty categories. She is currently looking to widen Pattern’s reach at retail.

“One of my original goals and visions for the company [was] that it be accessible to everybody,” she said. Pattern Beauty is currently available at PatternBeauty.com, at brick-and-mortar and online at Ulta Beauty, and at Ulta Beauty shop-in-shops at Target. The brand is set to release in Sephora this fall.

“My goal is to change the industry, so that all of us have choices,” said Ross.

Her mother’s daughter

“I grew up in my mother’s [metaphorical] embrace … It honestly was an entrance into my own identity. It was one of the ways that I discovered who I was, what I loved and how I navigate the world. As a child, I loved my hair; I had a big mane of hair that mirrored my mother’s, and it connected me to the tribe of my family. And then when I moved into my teen years, I saw a world that didn’t reflect the natural texture of my hair. I started on this journey of honestly attempting to beat my hair into submission, to make it [look like] what apparently would make me acceptable. That started this contentious relationship with my hair that led me into that deep dive of, ‘OK, how do I care for my hair?’”

#Blackgirlmagic

“During [my TV show] ‘Girlfriends’ there was no social media; the term ‘Black girl magic’ didn’t exist. That’s not to say Black girls weren’t extraordinary, beautiful, powerful, worthy of celebration and magical at the time, but there was no term. [Lawyer and civil rights advocate] Dr. Kimberly Crenshaw often talks about the fact that, without a frame, it’s difficult to hold facts that don’t have a space that we can qualify or quantify them. During this journey, without the frame of a term called ‘Black girl magic’ and without social media, it was very hard for the beauty industry to understand the importance of the spending and buying power of this community, or how an actress would translate into being a CEO or a founder.”

Beauty as a doorway to understanding identity

“You can look at beauty as an aesthetic, surface-oriented industry. But if you are a woman of color, your beauty actually ends up being a portal into your soul. And it becomes a political statement in how you choose to honor your authentic beauty and your authentic self. My journey was hard-earned and slow. And if you look at that phrase ‘Beat your hair into submission,’ you can see the connection of the political conversation that is there within the beauty industry. For me, personally, I slowly started to nurse my hair back to health. I had moved to Europe and went to high school, [and] I didn’t have access to my mom being able to do my hair in the morning and put a hot comb on the stove in the morning, [or] to roll my hair up at night and to go to the beauty salon. That forced me to have to figure out how to deal with my hair … I became my own best expert. And I realized that, not only were there not a lot of products [for me], but there were not a lot of people who could support me in wearing my hair the way it naturally grew out of my head and in its natural curl pattern.”

Source: Glossy

Pet pharmacy Mixlab has developed a digital platform enabling veterinarians to prescribe medications and have them delivered — sometimes on the same day — to pet parents.

The New York-based company raised a $20 million Series A in a round of funding led by Sonoma Brands and including Global Founders Capital, Monogram Capital, Lakehouse Ventures and Brand Foundry. The new investment gives Mixlab total funding of $30 million, said Fred Dijols, co-founder and CEO of Mixlab.

Dijols and Stella Kim, chief experience officer, co-founded Mixlab in 2017 to provide a better pharmacy experience, with the veterinarian at the center.

Dijols’ background is in medical devices as well as healthcare investment banking, where he became interested in the pharmacy industry, following TruePill and PillPack, which he told TechCrunch were “creating a modern pharmacy model.”

As more pharmacy experiences revolved around at-home delivery, he found the veterinary side of pharmacy was not keeping up. He met Kim, a user experience expert, whose family owns a pharmacy, and wanted to bring technology into the industry.

“The pharmacy industry is changing a lot, and technology allows us to personalize the care and experience for the veterinarian, pet parent and the pet,” Kim said. “Customer service is important in healthcare as is dignity and empathy. We kept that in mind when starting Mixlab. Many companies use technology to remove the human element, but we use it to elevate it.”

Mixlab’s technology includes a digital service for veterinarians to streamline their daily medication workflow and gives them back time to spend with patient care. The platform manages the home delivery of medications across branded, generic and over-the-counter medications, as well as reduces a clinic’s on-site pharmacy inventories. Veterinarians can write prescriptions in seconds and track medication progress and therapy compliance.

The company also operates its own compound pharmacy where it specializes in making medications on-demand that are flavored and dosed.

On the pet parent side, they no longer have to wait up to a week for medications nor have to drive over to the clinic to pick them up. Medications come in a personalized care package that includes a note from the pharmacist, clear and easy-to-read instructions and a new toy.

Over the past year, adoptions of pets spiked as more people were at home, also leading to an increase in vet visits. This also caused the global pet care industry to boom, and it is now projected to reach $343 billion by 2030, when it had been valued at $208 billion in 2020.

Pet parents are also spending more on their pets, and a Morgan Stanley report showed that they see pets as part of their family, and as a result, 37% of people said they would take on debt to pay for a pet’s medical expenses, while 29% would put a pet’s needs before their own.

To meet the increased demand in veterinary care, the company will use the new funding to improve its technology and expand into more locations where it can provide same-day delivery. Currently it is shipping to 47 states and Dijols expects to be completely national by the end of the year. He also expects to hire more people on both the sales team and in executive leadership positions.

The company is already operating in New York and Los Angeles and growing 3x year over year, though Dijols admits operating during the pandemic was a bit challenging due to “a massive surge of orders” that came in as veterinarians had to shut down their offices.

As part of the investment, Keith Levy, operating partner at Sonoma Brands and former president of pet food manufacturer Royal Canin USA, will join Mixlab’s board of directors. Sonoma Brands is focused on growth sectors of the consumer economy, and pets was one of the areas that investors were interested in.

Over time, Sonoma found that within the veterinary community, there was space for a lot of players. However, veterinarians want to home in on one company they trust, and Mixlab fit that description for many because they were getting medication out faster, Levy said.

“What Mixlab is doing isn’t completely unique, but they are doing it better,” he added. “When we looked at their customer service metrics, we saw they had a good reputation and were relentlessly focused on providing a better experience.”

Source: Tech Crunch

Over-the-counter medicine company Genexa Inc. raised $60 million of funding from venture-capital firms and celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle. The round values the company at roughly $200 million.

The company is the latest to capitalize on the so-called clean-health and wellness trend, in this case reducing synthetic ingredients in pain and fever, cold and flu, and allergy medicines for children and adults.

Genexa’s medicines contain the same active ingredients as other over-the-counter options, and they are manufactured in accordance with Food and Drug Administration guidelines. The key difference, the company says, is that it has replaced the typical fillers with a patented preservative system that is free of artificial dyes and common allergens.

It is entering a space dominated by behemoths—including Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline PLC—and winning market share is an uphill battle, a concept that isn’t lost on the two co-founders, David Johnson and Max Spielberg. Neither has a medical background, but they brought on Brian Perkins, a former Johnson & Johnson executive, as chairman.

“The industry that we’re disrupting is a massive industry,” said Mr. Johnson. “For us to really effect change, capital is required.”

Jared Stein, co-founder and partner at Monogram Capital Partners, which led the funding round, reached out to Genexa late last year. Unilever Ventures, Verlinvest, North Castle Partners and Point King Capital joined in, along with more than a dozen celebrities including Ms. Paltrow, Mr. Cheadle, Chris Pratt, Donald Glover and Regina Hall.

Mr. Stein told The Wall Street Journal that the company chose to raise more money than planned to have extra funds to spend on consumer education about the brand, something that is particularly important given how large Genexa’s competitors are.

Genexa products are sold at stores including Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and Whole Foods, but Messrs. Johnson and Spielberg said they hope the money—and the new celebrity backers who have big social-media followings—will help increase brand awareness.

The clean-living trend has gained steam in recent years, particularly among celebrities and their followings. Honest Co. , the consumer-goods company co-founded by actress Jessica Alba that is known for its eco-friendly baby and cleaning products, went public earlier this year. Its stock now trades below its IPO price.

Oatly Group AB is another recent IPO with celebrity backers. The Swedish oat-milk maker raised money from Oprah Winfrey in a Blackstone Group Inc. -backed funding round less than a year ahead of its May IPO. Oatly’s stock trades more than 20% above its IPO price.

Source: WSJ

Foundry, the brand platform that acquires, nurtures and grows enduring online brands, officially launches today with $100 million in debt-free equity capital from LightBay Capital and Monogram Capital Partners. The funds will be used to selectively build a robust portfolio of omni-digital brands, hire new team members, and deploy its data-driven technology platform designed to cultivate lasting brands. This patient capital structure allows Foundry to unlock the potential of brands and create long-lasting relationships with founders to support their next big idea and advance their legacies.

“Foundry’s team has the sourcing expertise, growth playbook and digital know how to build a portfolio of brands with marketplace and category dominance”

To help these brands win on a global scale, Foundry has built several first-of-its-kind assets that draw from its uniquely experienced team of both direct-to-consumer (“D2C”) e-commerce executives and former Amazon and Walmart executives; its data-driven technology platform; and its ethos that great founders can and should have multiple liquidity opportunities. Foundry is creating a powerful portfolio of highly-selective brands and helping them leapfrog the challenges of business ownership, while continuing to work with its entrepreneurs post acquisition to help them in their future endeavors and pursuits.

“Our aim with Foundry is simple — we want to transform the lives of founders with a pledge to unlock the massive potential of their brands so they can achieve life-changing exits and build multiple legacies,” said Helen Vaid, CEO of Foundry. “We are focused on building omni-digital brands that are essential to the households that buy them, and Foundry is uniquely positioned to bring the capital, the commitment and the capabilities to scale these brands beyond a founder’s wildest dreams. We operate knowing that the sum of our efforts is greater than the individual parts, and with this we envision a future where Foundry redefines the standard for how great brands are built.”

Foundry targets brands with revenue ranging from $1 to $50 million that will be loved and used by customers every day across categories such as home & kitchen, pets, outdoor & fitness and beauty. To identify and scale those brands that will ultimately become lasting names, Foundry has created a toolkit to enhance marketing, product development and technology.

While channel agnostic, Foundry accelerates the brand’s growth by optimizing it for third party marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart by improving product pages and marketing. It will also enable brands to expand across D2C e-commerce channels, ramping up new product development and improving cost structures to help companies run smarter. Foundry is deploying a proprietary and back-tested ScoreCard Assessment of 29 key quantitative and qualitative metrics to vet brands’ qualities like scalability, durability and growth potential. Foundry will also offer flexible purchase arrangements that allow brand owners to maintain a portion of their equity and have ongoing participation, as desired.

The leadership team consists of:

  • Helen Vaid, CEO, was previously Chief Global Customer Officer at Pizza Hut, where she set up “Pizza Hut Digital Ventures” an in-house incubator that built and scaled their e-commerce platform globally and launched Team member applications that helped digitize store operations leveraging AI and ML– these solutions have been scaled across the globe. Ms. Vaid also served as Vice President, Digital Store Operations & Experience, Web & Mobile at Walmart, where she was responsible for US e-commerce across all platforms and channels. Her international career has spanned startups and global corporations, in retail and CPG, and she was the first international employee at Snapfish prior to the company’s acquisition by Hewlett-Packard. She serves on the board of Groupon, where she is passionate about championing local small businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Tom Shipley, President & Co-Founder, has built brands such as Hydroxatone and Keranique that have sold over $2 billion through e-commerce and D2C and become household names.
  • Stefan Haney, Strategic Advisor, Interim CTO, was a key leader in building Amazon’s Seller Central and Marketplace as it grew from $9 billion to over $160 billion. He brings a proven track record of launching new technology in a variety of industries.
  • Kyle Walker, Chief Acquisition Officer & Co-Founder, managed some of Amazon’s most successful brands, creating two brand accelerators where he oversaw 10,000 brands go from early stage/smaller startups to longer-term, enduring brands.
  • Matt Rhodes, Chief Development Officer & Co-Founder, is an experienced investor in digital brands and e-commerce. He previously worked in the private equity group of Ares Management, a publicly traded global asset management firm.

“Our team is committed to championing great founders who build brands that households can’t live without. Brands like that can be born anywhere online today, whether that is on Amazon, Shopify, Instagram or a D2C channel. Those brands simply need access to the best capabilities to thrive. What sets Foundry apart is that we are a team of seasoned operators with the talent and experience to not only identify brands with massive potential to grow across multiple channels, but also build brands that will endure the test of time. We are excited to be partnering with the LightBay and Monogram teams on this journey,” said Tom Shipley, President and Co-Founder of Foundry.

“Foundry’s team has the sourcing expertise, growth playbook and digital know how to build a portfolio of brands with marketplace and category dominance,” said Adam Stein, Co-Founder and Partner of LightBay Capital. “Foundry’s mission of accelerating the growth of founder-led brands aligns well with our philosophy of making a transformational impact on our people, our companies and our communities. We are delighted to be partnering with the Foundry leadership team and Monogram Capital as long-term investors in the company.”

“Foundry is powering online retail forward, and we’re thrilled to back the team as they build one of the strongest consumer brand portfolios on the market,” said Jared Stein, Co-Founder and Partner of Monogram Capital Partners. Added Oliver Nordlinger, Co-Founder and Partner of Monogram Capital Partners, “Foundry’s commitment to providing entrepreneurs with the next generation of platform data, experience and shared resources to build the next chapter of their brand’s legacy is one of many reasons why we at Monogram were drawn to Foundry. As a founder-focused firm, we can’t wait to see the incredible impact Helen and the team will have in supporting the growth of these digital brands.”

About Foundry

Foundry is a brand acquisition platform setting a new standard for e-commerce performance and brand excellence with its data-driven technology platform. The team finds exceptional online businesses and nurtures them into epic, enduring brands to curate a selective portfolio of companies that households depend on to make life better. Founded by the group who helped build Amazon Marketplace, in addition to founders of transformational e-commerce and D2C brands, Foundry partners with entrepreneurs for the long term. It aims to profitably scale online brands to build the leading collection of top consumer companies with private equity, continuous resources, a vast network and unmatched experience. For more information, please visit www.foundrybrands.com.

About LightBay Capital

LightBay Capital is a Los Angeles-based growth-focused private equity firm that applies a flexible capital approach to middle-market investing. Primarily focused on the healthcare, consumer, and business services industries, LightBay invests across the capital structure and in all market environments to help accelerate the growth of high-quality companies. For more information, please visit www.lightbay.com.

About Monogram Capital Partners

Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA and founded in 2014, Monogram Capital Partners focuses exclusively on investing in high-growth consumer brands and service providers. With more than $500 million of assets under management, the firm seeks to partner with inspirational founders and talented management teams across the consumer ecosystem. Foundry represents Monogram’s twenty-ninth portfolio company. To learn more about Monogram, please visit: www.monogramcapital.com.

Source: Business Wire

Bowery Farming (“Bowery” or “the Company”), the largest vertical farming company in the United States, has secured $300 million in additional funding in a round led by Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, with significant follow-on investment from existing investors GV (formerly Google Ventures), General Catalyst, GGV Capital, Temasek, Groupe Artémis (Pinault-owned), as well as new participation from Amplo and Gaingels, a fund representing the LGBTQ community and allies. Additional individual investors in the round include plant-based eating advocates like Lewis Hamilton, Chris Paul, and Natalie Portman, as well as world-renowned chef and hunger advocate José Andrés and singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake.
Bowery will use the funds to continue expansion of its network of smart indoor farms across the United States, to further accelerate its technological leadership, support ongoing research and product innovation efforts to bring crops beyond leafy greens to market, and recruit top talent to meet the explosive consumer and retail demand for its reliable supply of pesticide-free Protected Produce.

The Company has secured more than $472 million in funding to date, underscoring its commercial and category leadership, and bringing its valuation to $2.3 billion. Now in over 850 grocery stores, Bowery has experienced more than 750% growth since January 2020 at brick-and-mortar retailers like Albertsons Companies (Safeway and Acme), Giant Food, Walmart and Whole Foods Market, and more than quadrupled e-commerce sales through e-commerce platforms, including Amazon Fresh.

“At Bowery, we’re reinventing a new supply chain that’s simpler, safer, more sustainable and ultimately provides vibrantly flavorful produce unlike what’s available today,” said Irving Fain, CEO and Founder of Bowery Farming. “This infusion of new capital from Fidelity, other new investors, and the additional support of our long-term investor partners is acknowledgement of the critical need for new solutions to our current agricultural system, and the enormous economic opportunity that comes with supporting our mission. This funding not only fuels our continued expansion but the ongoing development of our proprietary technology, which sits at the core of our business and our ability to rapidly and efficiently scale towards an increasingly important opportunity in front of us.”

Bowery’s proprietary farm design and technology, which have been a key priority since its inception, are at the heart of the Company’s efficient and scalable business model. The BoweryOS, the central nervous system of the business, integrates software, hardware, sensors, computer vision systems, AI and robotics to orchestrate and automate the entirety of operations. Each new farm comes online in record speed, collectively benefiting from the power of the network and its billions of data points that would have taken traditional farmers hundreds of years to gather. The funding will provide resources to accelerate advancements in farm design and the BoweryOS, enabling more and more communities access to a reliable supply of locally-grown produce, year-round. In January 2021, Injong Rhee (formerly VP at Google and CTO of Samsung Mobile) joined Bowery as Chief Technology Officer to oversee the seamless integration and ongoing development of technology across the growing network.

The Company is currently transforming an industrial site in Bethlehem, PA into its largest, most technologically advanced and sustainable farm yet, expanding its reach further into the Northeast and Pennsylvania region. Bowery will be breaking ground on additional large-scale commercial farms this year, and is actively engaged in identifying new farm locations in the United States with an eye towards global expansion.

“Bowery’s approach to indoor farming represents a meaningful disruption to the traditional produce supply chain, and its systems-based approach to engineering and farm design is unparalleled,” said Andy Wheeler, General Partner at GV. “I look forward to continuing to partner with the Bowery team as they build and scale the largest indoor farming network in the U.S. and bring more sustainable produce to consumers.”

Bowery’s world-class agricultural science team has been innovating from seed to shelf since day one, and this new capital will help advance its product innovation efforts. Earlier this month, the Company announced the opening of Farm X, its state-of-the-art innovation hub for plant science in Kearny, N.J., which expanded R&D capacity by 300%. Home to a first-of-its-kind in-house breeding program and research lab, Farm X enables the Company to accelerate the commercial timelines for bringing next generation crops to consumers, from strawberries and root vegetables, to tomatoes, cucumbers and more.

About Bowery

Founded in 2015, Bowery Farming is on a mission to democratize access to high-quality, local, safe and sustainable produce. Bowery builds smart indoor farms near cities, growing fresher, pesticide-free Protected Produce with bold flavor in precisely controlled environments, 365 days a year. At the heart of each farm is the proprietary BoweryOS, which integrates software, hardware, sensors, AI, computer vision systems, machine learning models and robotics to orchestrate and automate the entirety of its operations. As a result, each farm creates far less waste and uses a fraction of the water and land compared to traditional agriculture.

Based in New York City, Bowery is the largest vertical farming company in the United States, serving major e-commerce platforms and more than 850 grocery stores in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, including Albertsons Companies (Safeway and Acme), Amazon Fresh, Giant Food, Walmart, Weis, Whole Foods Market, and specialty grocers, with produce that’s harvested year-round at peak freshness, delivered within days of harvest.

Bowery has raised $472 million from leading investors, including Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Temasek, GV (formerly Google Ventures), General Catalyst, GGV Capital, First Round Capital, and individuals including Henry Kravis, Jeff Wilke, as well as some of the foremost thought leaders in food, including Tom Colicchio, José Andrés and David Barber of Blue Hill.

Source: PR Newswire

Oat milk company Oatly makes its market debut Thursday, after pricing its IPO at $17 a share. The company raised $1.4 billion, valuing it at $10 billion.

Oatly has become a popular new alt-milk in the United States. It can be found at Starbucks, and an investment group that includes Oprah Winfrey and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz invested $200 million in the company last year.

But while Oatly is pretty new to American consumers, the company and its signature product have been around for nearly three decades. Oat milk was invented in 1994 in Sweden by Oatly’s founders, brothers Rickard and Bjorn Oeste, who were researching an alternative to cow’s milk for people with lactose intolerance.

“Our founders just figured, OK, if vast majority of the world population are intolerant to milk why don’t we make something that is actually designed for human beings not baby cows?” Oatly CEO Toni Petersson previously told CNBC Make It.

And for decades, that’s where it languished. That is until Petersson came on as CEO in 2014.

Petersson gave Oatly a rebrand and set his sights on the America, where the plant-based milk market was growing.

First, he changed the logo, from having a small, red “Oatly” on the corner of the carton to bold block and bubble letters spelling out “OAT-LY!” front and center.

He also switched the packaging copy from Swedish to English so no matter where it was sold, many people could read it. This allowed Oatly to reach not only the U.S., but a global audience.

Petersson also commissioned a report that highlighted how Oatly was better for the environment than dairy. (In its filing, Oatly says that “on average, a liter of Oatly product consumed in place of cow’s milk results in around 80% less greenhouse gas emissions, 79% less land usage and 60% less energy consumption.”)

And in what turned out to be a key move, Petersson debuted a special barista blend of Oatly oat milk.

Oatly knew persuading U.S. consumers to try, let alone buy, a new product would be a challenge, U.S. general manager Mike Messersmith told CNBC Make It. So as a way to introduce the plant-based milk to the U.S., Oatly sent representatives to high-end coffee shops in New York City to share the product with local baristas in person. Then the baristas could recommend and use oat milk with customers.

“We thought about specialty coffee shops and tea shops, where if you were able to take the recommendation of your local barista you see every day, and try our product through an expertly prepared latte or cappuccino that would be a really amazing way to kind of be introduced to even just the idea of oat milk,” Messersmith said.

By the end of 2017, Oatly was being served in about 650 coffee shop locations.

From 2018 to 2019, sales of oat milk skyrocketed from $6 million to nearly $40 million, Genevieve Aronson, VP of communications at Nielsen, told CNBC Make It.

“We were a bit unprepared and taken by surprise by the massive hype around the brand,” Petersson says.

As of Dec. 31, Oatly products can be found in about 8,500 retail shops and some 10,000 coffee shops in the United States, according to the company’s SEC filing.

In 2020, Oatly reported revenue of $421.4 million, a 106.5% increase from $204 million in 2019.

State-owned China Resources took a majority stake in Oatly in 2016 through a joint venture with the Belgium-based private equity firm Verlinvest. In July, Oatly secured the celeb-studded equity investment led by Blackstone.

Today, oat milk is the second largest dairy alternative following almond milk. Plant-based milk accounts for 15% of all dollar sales for retail milk, according to market research from the Good Food Institute.

Source: CNBC

Launched in 2018, BEIS is a travel brand built on the concept of giving every consumer the chance to own stylish luggage that doesn’t break the bank. Co-founded by actress Shay Mitchell, of “Pretty Little Liars,” the line makes sleek carry-on and check-in roller bags, totes and weekenders. In the wake of the pandemic, the company set out to redefine what travel meant at the time and translated that definition into “on-the-go”, where it could apply to any staycation or remote travel during a time when the world was largely shut down. “I knew you didn’t have to be jet setting to resonate with consumers,” says Mitchell.

Following are excerpts from a recent interview with Mitchell and the company’s CEO Adeela Hussain Johnson.

Why was BEIS originally created and when did it launch?

Shay: BÉIS launched in October of 2018 and honestly came about out of my own growing frustration with market offerings. I’ve been traveling since I was a teenager and was always a bit frustrated by the travel accessories on the market. I always felt like the bags I was finding were either out of my price range, looked good but lacked function, or were ugly and super packed with features. As I got older, I found more and more that there were no options of chic looking, highly functional AND affordable items in the travel category. This was the white space opportunity that I wanted to carve out with BÉIS.

Was it inspired by your love for travel?

Shay: For sure, my love of travel led me to have my own travel experiences – and experiences with bags and travel accessories – which led me to have very specific opinions about what constituted a “good bag” vs a “bad bag.” I would find myself on a trip, having the best time but with a bag that was epically failing me. This happened a lot and at a certain point, I started taking my frustration to paper…or more often than not, cocktail napkins or whatever other random scraps I could get my hands on…doodling my ideas for my dream bag. The bags in my head always combined form and function and when I encountered a “problem,” I thought through how I would like it to be fixed. Starting BÉIS was one of those “perfect storm” opportunities that I literally jumped at when it came up. All of my experience from travel, and my doodles and ideas from traveling with bags that didn’t live up to my expectations, have endlessly served me as we dream up, design and maximize function (and form!) of BÉIS pieces.

How quickly at the start of the pandemic did Beis see they needed to pivot their inventory and their approach?

Adeela: Right away. I remember calling Shay the day after lockdown and discussing how we have to pivot our assortment strategy and adjust our inventory plan. There was so much uncertainty at the time and my number one priority was to remain nimble so that we could understand the environment, read the consumers’ needs and be able to react, quickly. We leaned in to our top sellers and scaled back a bit on the pieces that were more overtly “plane travel;” such as rollers. We also looked at our future assortment plan and scaled back on luggage innovation but leaned into our smaller and “hands free” fashion and seasonal pieces. No one knew, at the time, how long we would be “grounded,” but we had to make some big bets, without a lot of foresight, because production timelines are at least 3-4 months. With a little luck we got some things right.

Which of these pivots worked the best and why?

Adeela: There were a few key decisions we made early and decisively that I believe helped us. Our inventory and assortment strategy aligned with where we predicated the market would move during a time when people would travel on planes less, but still need to move around. Instead they would travel in cars, go on more staycations with their families, get outdoors more and likely go on more walks – so, our assortment and buy strategy supported what we believed would be the “new normal.”

Also, we had to take some big bets in terms of where to invest. We wanted to be conservative where we could and double down in areas that were important to integrity of our business, our brand and our consumer. We pulled ads that spoke just to plane travel and repurposed those dollars to driving home the brand message of being an on-the-go and versatile brand, We also focused on creative content that highlighted the functional aspects of our products. The consumer responded very well to this because it showed value for their spend and continued to showcase our points of differentiation. The weekender, as an example, drove 4x DTC revenue and the work tote 2x DTC revenue, almost overnight, as we pivoted the message and creative.

Do you see the travel industry picking back up throughout 2021?

Adeela: Yes. Several industry reports are indicating that fall and holiday season this year will bring a resurgence, and I tend to agree. We’ve been anecdotally hearing that it’s going to feel like the roaring 20’s 2.0. If our recent sales trends are any indicator of what to expect, then I feel very confident that people are beginning to venture and move about – in the last month we have increased year over year growth by over 20%, from 113% year over year growth a month ago to 135%, now.

How do you think the travel industry has changed permanently, and what is Beis doing to accommodate this new perspective?

Shay: Honestly, I know that the function of travel has definitely changed, but fundamentally and from a philosophical perspective travel will remain much the same. People travel because they want to explore and grow and educate themselves. People travel to visit family, to seek new experiences, to make new connections….it’s a HUMAN experience. And for that reason – people will travel. They will continue to get on planes BUT maybe they are going to wipe their seats down now, or not use the seatback on the plane, or think twice about stacking their clothes in the hotel dresser.

As seasoned travelers we totally get it, and we are focused on growing our brand around those needs and changes. We’re going to continue to offer innovation in the hands-free space and offer solutions that allow you to essentially live out of our bag, so you can minimize exposure, but stay organized.

Where do you plan to travel to when the pandemic is behind us?

Shay: EVERYWHERE, but the first place will be back to Canada to visit family.

Source: Forbes

Foxtrot Market, the corner store and café redefining convenience for the modern consumer, announces today it has received a $42 million Series B growth investment. The round was led by David Barber’s Almanac Insights and Monogram Capital Partners. Backers also include food and hospitality industry heavy hitters David Chang, Founder of Momofuku; Nicolas Jammet, Co-founder and Chief Concept Officer of sweetgreen; and Walter Robb, former CEO of Whole Foods.

With this investment, Foxtrot expects to double its store count by the end of 2021. This growth will include adding as many as nine stores in Chicago and Dallas where they presently have a footprint, and expansion into new markets including Washington, D.C. Funds will also be used to expand its line of private label packaged goods and gift offerings, and to continue the investment into nationwide shipping which launched in January. By accelerating its ecommerce capabilities and offering nationwide shipping on items like chef-driven packaged products, private label and exclusive-to-Foxtrot goods, and wine, Foxtrot will further itself as the nation’s premier corner store.

Additionally, Foxtrot has made three new appointments to its executive team: Sumi Ghosh, COO; Scott Holloway, SVP, Delivery; and Caroline Barry, VP, Strategy. The newest leadership additions, who have earned their stripes in leadership at Starbucks, Instacart, and sweetgreen, respectively, will be core to the brand’s growth in this next phase.

“With this new round of funding and an incredibly strong executive team now fully in place, we see 2021 as a year of tremendous growth for Foxtrot,” said CEO and Co-founder Mike LaVitola. “We have built a business that marries the local approach of a corner store with the convenience of ecommerce. We know how our stores operate best and in which markets, which is where we’ll be going deep with our expansion efforts next. We also look forward to showcasing to customers coast-to-coast what Foxtrot is all about as we continue to rollout shipping nationwide.”

Launched in 2014, Foxtrot combines an upscale corner store and café with app-based purchasing that makes its entire inventory available for delivery in under an hour. Foxtrot derives its revenue equally between online sales and in-store purchases. The brand’s delivery model has been central to its customer service strategy since inception, making Foxtrot uniquely positioned for strength during the pandemic. In 2020, company sales increased over 100 percent fueled by consistent year-over-year growth across channels. Of that growth, 55 percent derives from retail, largely from same-stores sales, and over 200 percent from ecommerce, driven by a 100 percent increase in app downloads.

“Foxtrot has mastered giving their customers a seamless and convenient shopping experience–using innovation to meet guests where they are, when they want,” said David Barber, Founder of Almanac. “Foxtrot’s commitment to building a sense of community in every market they enter by creating a space for both members of that neighborhood and local makers to test products and grow distribution is admirable. We’re proud to lead this latest investment round and be part of helping Foxtrot reimagine the future of the neighborhood corner store.”

Jared Stein, Co-founder and Partner of Monogram added, “Foxtrot is leading the way in the long overdue re-platforming of the convenience channel, creating an environment that is both a third place for meetings and community engagement and an incredibly easy on-demand convenience offering across both physical retail and omnichannel delivery. The company was built for where the consumer is moving in terms of providing a small format store for all of a customer’s essentials, and a few bonus items that you can’t find anywhere else, elevating the curation with its own best-in-class proprietary offerings.”

In addition to grocery staples, Foxtrot stores offer a full-service café, sommelier-curated wine shop, and unique gift bundles for every occasion via on-demand delivery and in its tech-enabled brick and mortar stores. Select gift bundles are also currently available in Foxtrot’s Ship Shop, which will continue to add offerings as it expands its nationwide shipping capabilities.

Additional investors in Foxtrot’s Series B round include Imaginary Ventures, Wittington Ventures, Fifth Wall, Lerer Hippeau, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, M3 Ventures, The University of Chicago, Collaborative Fund, Wasson Enterprise, Bluestein Ventures, and Barshop Ventures.

About Foxtrot

Foxtrot is redefining convenience for the modern consumer, marrying the best of neighborhood retail and ecommerce technology to create a community of discovery. Its spaces offer all the most-loved aspects of neighborhood cafés, and you can turn to the Foxtrot app for 60-minute delivery of a city’s best goods – from local beers and fine wines to chef-prepared meals, curated gifts and everyday essentials. Whether at their place or yours, Foxtrot connects people to a better kind of convenience with thoughtful curation, so everyone can feel good about the goods they buy every day.

About Almanac Insights

Committed to acting as a positive force in the food ecosystem, Almanac invests in a limited number of hospitality, CPG, and food system technology companies. Almanac engages founders making transformative change across the industry, primarily to how we eat and access food. With deep experience in both regional food system development and hospitality, we look to make meaningful connections and provide key strategic support for our portfolio.

About Monogram Capital Partners

Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA and founded in 2014, Monogram Capital Partners focuses exclusively on investing in high-growth consumer and omnichannel brands with approximately $400 million of capital under management. The firm seeks to partner with founders and strong management teams, typically investing $5 million to $40 million of equity per transaction, backing brands including Chewy.com, Oatly, Country Archer, Olipop, and Vive Organic. Foxtrot represents the firm’s twenty-fifth portfolio company.

Source: PR Newswire

Vessel, the new at-home wellness tracker that helps you to access, understand, and optimize your health and wellness from the comfort of home, today announced a $8M funding round, bringing its total seed funding to $14.5M. The round is being led by Monogram Capital Partners, a leading consumer growth firm. Additionally the round includes participation from Able, BFG, Cove and Sidekick; alongside angel investors Dave Asprey (Bulletproof 360 Founder), Jared Leto (actor), Jarret John “JJ” Thomas (pro snowboarder) and Kelly Slater (pro surfer). Vessel launched in November 2020 and has sold over 100,000 test cards.

“Vessel’s technology enables people to assess their health and wellbeing from the comfort of their own homes at a time when the focus on wellness optimization has never been more prescient,” said Jared Stein, Co-Founder & Partner of Monogram Capital. “We are strong believers in the shift toward at-home diagnostics as the next wave of innovation enabling consumers to assess and optimize their personalized nutrition needs on a far more real-time basis than the traditional annual doctor’s check up. I believe Vessel is extremely well positioned to lead the way in this space and look forward to seeing the company grow as it continues to add even further functionality to its offering and build an integrated ecosystem of health services around it.”

Vessel allows members to test 10 different health metrics in less than 10 minutes for around $10. Users simply pee on one of Vessel’s wellness cards, scan the card using the Vessel app, and receive their “low,” “good,” or “high” biomarker ratings to determine what may be affecting things like their energy, stress, and immunity. Biomarkers tested include Vitamin B7 (Biotin), Vitamin B9 (Folate), hydration, Vitamin C, Cortisol, Magnesium, Ketone A (AcAc), Ketone B (BHB), pH, Creatinine, and Calcium. The app then provides tailored plans to help users instantly understand what nutrition and lifestyle changes will make the biggest impact for them. Daily, weekly, and monthly membership packages are available, so users can try out their custom recommendations and then continue to test over time to see if those changes are making a difference. Vessel recommends weekly testing, which is available for as low as $35 per month.

“The science is clear: our bodies perform better when we optimize them. I’ve experienced how impactful testing and optimizing your nutrient levels can be when it comes to sleep, energy, and brain function. Now, anyone can make meaningful changes without a trip to the doctor or spending thousands of dollars on lab work. The feedback we are getting from customers is phenomenal; they are feeling a difference in a matter of weeks,” said Jon Carder, Founder and CEO of Vessel. “The support of Monogram Capital, Able, BFG, Sidekick, Cove and MVP authenticates our mission to help people around the world feel and perform better.”

Vessel wellness memberships are available for purchase at www.vesselhealth.com and the app is available to download via the Apple App Store. Every purchase supports Vitamin Angels, a charity providing lifesaving vitamins to mothers and children at risk of malnutrition.

About Vessel

Vessel is an at-home wellness tracker that helps you access, understand, and optimize your health and wellness from the comfort of home. With Vessel, you can test 10 different health metrics in less than 10 minutes for around $10. Vessel works with some of the best doctors, nutritionists, and scientists to create its wellness cards and build food, supplement, and lifestyle recommendations tailored to you based on your results. A variety of membership plans enable you to see how your diet, supplements, and lifestyle affect your body over time so you can start to feel and perform better. With Vessel, the science of feeling great fits in the palm of your hand.

About Monogram Capital Partners

Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA and founded in 2014, Monogram Capital Partners focuses exclusively on investing in high-growth consumer and omnichannel brands with approximately $400 million of capital under management. The firm seeks to partner with Founders and strong management teams, typically investing $5-40 million of equity per transaction backing brands including Chewy.com, Oatly, Country Archer, Olipop, Vive Organic and Foxtrot. Vessel Health represents the firm’s twenty-third portfolio company. To learn more about Monogram, please visit: www.monogramcapital.com.

Source: PR Newswire

Michael Allen has been named chief executive officer at Kidfresh, a maker of frozen children’s food featuring hidden vegetables.

Mr. Allen, who joined the company’s board as an operating advisor in 2018, owns and operates Georgian Group LLC, an investment and advisory firm focused on food and beverage companies. He previously was president of Boulder Brands, an operating unit of Pinnacle Foods, prior to its acquisition by Conagra Brands. He also spent 17 years at Kellogg Co. in a series of domestic and international leadership positions.

He joins the Kidfresh executive team as part of a larger leadership shuffle that saw co-founder and former CEO Matt Cohen transition to the role of chief customer officer. Mr. Cohen, who served as CEO since launching the company in 2007, will focus on growing distribution in the natural channel in his new role.

Other additions include Mike Carey, chief financial officer, and Lindsay Kaden, vice president of marketing and innovation.

Mr. Carey brings nearly 25 years of finance management experience to Kidfresh. He held positions at the Walt Disney Co., Telecom and Semiconductors early in his career and later was vice president of finance at bedding retailer Sleepy’s. From there, he moved into the CPG space beginning with The Nature’s Bounty Co., followed by CFO roles at smaller brands No Cow and Roar Beverages.

Ms. Kaden joins the company from Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co., where she was acting chief marketing officer. Before that she was marketing director at Siggi’s Dairy. She also was a brand manager for energy drinks at The Coca-Cola Co. and a brand manager at Le Pain Quotidien.

“I’m thrilled to be working alongside a team of dedicated, intelligent individuals who are committed to continuing to revolutionize Kidfresh and the frozen aisle,” Mr. Cohen said. “The frozen industry has grown exponentially in the last couple of years and Kidfresh has continued to lead the space with innovative and delicious products. I’m looking forward to continuing this upward trajectory with a strong team by my side.”

Source: Food Business News

Beach House Group has raised “a substantial amount of capital” in Series A funding from Monogram Capital Partners, cofounder Shaun Neff told WWD exclusively.

“It’s a big milestone for the business,” continued Neff, who launched the California-based brand incubator in 2016 with cofounder PJ Brice.

“I see us now with this partnership with Monogram having the resources necessary to optimize the brand portfolio and obviously do more in the future,” Brice said. “And when I say more in the future, that will be very much in the beauty space.”

Their portfolio comprises of six brands: Moon, the oral care company fronted by Kendall Jenner; Florence by Mills, 16-year-old “Stranger Things” actress Millie Bobby Brown’s Gen Z makeup line; Béis, a luggage and travel brand by “Pretty Little Liars” actress Shay Mitchell; Pattern, the hair-care line developed with “Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross; Marlowe, a men’s grooming brand, and Cleen Beauty, a clean line available at Walmart.

“I don’t think when we started we would have thought we would have done five [of the] brands in [a span of] 18 months, which I never want to do again, because it was pretty wild,” Neff shared. “But knock on wood, every single one of our brands is far exceeding our wildest expectations.”

The company has surpassed its $100 million sales goal total, WWD has learned. And since the pandemic, their direct-to-consumer business has grown more than 300 percent.

“I don’t think there’s one beauty retailer that exists that we haven’t met with that hasn’t wanted to build a brand with us,” added Neff. “And our influx from talent, insane. Every week or two, there’s new talent that’s reaching out that wants to start a brand.”

Brice attributes the success to a number of factors, including how selective they are with their partnerships. They only collaborate with influencers who are “really credible, highly engaged, highly motivated and incredibly aligned with [Beach House Group] every step of the way.”

 

Since the brands were launched before the impact of COVID-19 hit, the company has been well positioned during the pandemic. The event, though, has “tightened up infrastructure,” Neff said. “COVID-19 in a weird way was kind of a unique opportunity for us to hit the pause button. As you can imagine, starting five brands, it’s so fast. Everything is crazy. You’re hiring a new person almost every week. It was just so fast and a bit out of control, in a good way. But COVID-19 really allowed us to pump the brakes, be smart, analyze the business, look at how we’re structured, set up and operate.”

With the help of financial advisory firm Financo, the two founders met with upward of 200 potential investors. Monogram Capital Partners stood out because of its approach, with the investment led by co-founder and partner Oliver Nordlinger.

“When we first met him and talked to him four months ago, his excitement around the business, around the brands that we’ve built, just his energy and passion to really get behind us as founders, to give us the fuel we need to make our wildest dreams come true, it was really amazing,” Neff said of Nordlinger. “His rhetoric never changed.”

“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with PJ, Shaun and the rest of the Beach House organization,” Nordlinger said. “The six brands they’ve launched in less than two years — a heroic feat in itself — have all found success in market and are realizing tremendous growth, which simply highlights Beach House’s uncanny ability to identify white space opportunities for new brands and bring them to market on the back of their deep retailer relationships and digital marketing expertise. We’re eager to partner with Beach House to grow and monetize their existing slate of brands as well as launch new brands to market in the months ahead.”

Moving forward, there will likely be one or two launches a year, said Brice: “We’ll only do them if they’re totally and utterly game-changing concepts….The key now is using this capital wisely and really picking the right projects for the future.”

“Less is more,” Neff added. “And [the goals is] to find and pick out those diamonds in the rough opportunities that we feel we can scale quickly.”

Source: WWD

Immunity-boosting beverage company Vive Organic has closed a $13 million series B funding led by Monogram Capital with participation by Cambridge Companies SPG and PowerPlant Ventures that also led its earlier fundraising.

The investment comes as Vive Organic’s annual sales have been growing by 400% on average since its inception in 2015, and the overall wellness shot category continues to gain momentum amid the ongoing pandemic.

CEO and co-founder Wyatt Taubman said the Vive Organic team started raising this round in mid-March when coronavirus was declared a pandemic in the U.S.

“We’re looking to continue to lead the wellness shot category, and this [funding] helps us further accelerate sales, marketing and product development efforts,” Taubman told me recently.

He noted how the company decided to partner with Monogram Capital for this round because of their focus in the health-positioned CPG category.

“We’re fortunate to be selective about which investors to work with, and we were looking for relevant expertise and filing any gaps that might exist on the board level,” Taubman added. “We found they were a good fit through our [fundraising] process.”

Monogram Capital’s co-founder and partner Jared Stein notes how Vive Organic also provides an “efficacious solution for wellness and comfort” during the global health crisis.

“We started with making sure the product has an emotional resonance,” Stein said, “and more consumers today are looking online for a convenient fulfillment solution, and Vive sets that up incredibly well, [making] it a valuable part of customers’ daily routine.”

Stein anticipates COVID-19 will drive people to reevaluate their purchasing decisions for the foreseeable future, and in turn push Monogram Capital to invest more in functional foods.

“We look for brands that have the potential to be category leaders, and the best metric is velocity on shelves,” he said. “We’re also looking to invest in functional snacks made with clean ingredients … they’re fundamentally real food that is not highly processed.”

Partners at Cambridge Companies SPG, Filipp Chebotarev and Polina Chebotareva, also stressed how Vive Organic has been a leader in the wellness shot sector within broader functional beverage category, and their investment firm has been a champion for the company since early 2018.

“We believe that immunity building behavior and products will occupy the mindshare of consumers of an entire generation and are therefore very bullish on the performance of this investment,” they wrote me in a joint statement via email.

From non-existent to a national trend

While multiple wellness shot brands have sprung up in retail recently, the category, which was largely non-existent a few years ago, remains a sub-sector of the overall functional beverage market dominated by traditional energy drinks, and more recently kombucha.

However, SPINS data showed the skyrocketing growth of the category as its sales increased by 39.6% in the natural channel during the 52 weeks ending July 14, with total sales in conventional, natural, and specialty gourmet channels posting more than $365.6 million.

Taubman recalls how he experienced his first ginger and turmeric shot on a business trip in 2014 and was excited to see how it helped him recover from a cold. He later co-founded Vive Organic with Kyle Withycombe and JR Simich, who currently serve as the company’s COO and VP of sales, respectively.

“We consider a wellness shot to be a concentrated but also fresh dose of powerful herbs contained in a shot, and we are really a first mover in the market,” he said.

“Our shots are typically incremental to drinks like healthy sparking waters, so we often see consumers pick up a kombucha and a Vive shot at the same time.”

Adding subscription services on DTC platform

Vive Organic, which recently expanded its portfolio with “energy+focus” and “electro restore” varieties, is currently available in over 8,000 U.S. retailers, including CVS, Target, Whole Foods, and Safeway, as well as e-commerce platforms such as Amazon.

In February 2020, the company also added subscription services on its direct-to-consumer site to extend its reach to the entire country after realizing consumers are increasingly incorporating its products into their weekly diets.

“Subscription services make it much more convenient to deliver [our products] on a regular basis,” Taubman told me. “This is definitely something we are seeing a lot of CPG brands invest in to drive recurring customers.”

Vive Organic expects to continue its current growth momentum with a near-term net sales target of $40 million — a sweet spot where Taubman said the company will be able to finance its own growth with limited outside capital and reach a large scale over the next 10 to 20 years.

Source: Forbes

Kidfresh, the fastest growing brand in the better-for-you segment of frozen kids’ meals, just announced a fresh capital infusion to accelerate its growth. The round was led by its existing institutional investors – Monogram Capital Partners, together with Emil Capital Partners and AccelFoods. The capital will be used to continue to fuel accelerated growth, introduce its new branding, launch innovation, and strengthen the brand’s leading position to extend its avid customer following deeper with existing partner retailers and into new doors across the country.

Co-Founders Matt Cohen and Gilles Deloux created Kidfresh as a solution to parents looking for nutritious and convenient meals for their children. Now as the brand celebrates its 10th anniversary with over 28 million meals sold, Kidfresh has become the #1 fastest growing brand of natural better-for-you frozen kids’ meals and a thought leader in the space. Kidfresh’s wholesome frozen meals are targeted at kids’ favorite items like Mac N’ Cheese and Chicken Nuggets with a cleaner ingredient deck of high-quality natural ingredients, healthier nutritionals and hidden vegetables.  These signature items are loved by kids and trusted by parents and still provide the value and convenience that customers associate with frozen offerings.

“As parents who believe children deserve the best foods, we’ve created a version of kid classics that are as mouthwatering good as they are good for us all,” says Kidfresh Founder and CEO Matt Cohen. “We are incredibly fortunate to build our brand with investment partners who wholeheartedly believe in our mission. They bring vast experience and knowledge to accelerating growth strategies for CPG brands and we look forward to reaching our next milestones together.”

“In a category that has been historically slower to evolve to meet the changing tastes of consumers with better-for-you offerings and with a customer that is so eager for healthier alternatives for their family, Kidfresh continues to deliver a differentiated offering of the hero products kids love with a cleaner ingredient deck and more functionality,” said Jared Stein, Co-Founder and Partner of Monogram Capital. “We are extremely excited about the path ahead for Kidfresh.”

“As the first institutional investor of Kidfresh, we at Emil Capital are thrilled to see the company’s tremendous growth and how it is redefining the kids’ frozen food segment with delicious and healthy meals made with clean ingredients and hidden vegetables,” said Marcel Bens, Managing Partner & COO of Emil Capital Partners.

“At AccelFoods, we are always searching for the next generation of enduring brands helmed by quality-driven management teams and as a long-time partner of Kidfresh, it has been amazing to be part of their growth as they’ve become a household staple for families across the country,” said AccelFoods’ Managing Partner Jordan Gaspar. “Kidfresh has built an incredible business backed by an impressive and collaborative group of investors. We look forward to continuing to work hand-in-hand with the brand as they enter this next stage of growth.”

Source: PR Newswire

The creator of KIND snack bars, Daniel Lubetzky, has developed a taste for yogurt.

Equilibra Partners Management,  Mr. Lubetzky’s family office, has invested $18 million in Ellenos, a Greek yogurt brand that originated in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. The yogurt brand is one of a small but growing portfolio of consumer brands that have received funding from Equilibra.

“The minute I tried the product I told my team we need to connect with them,” said Mr. Lubetzky, who had heard of the brand from a friend in Seattle. He said it took multiple conversations with the company spread over about 18 months before the commitment was made.

The husband-and-wife team, Bob and Yvonne Klein, started Ellenos in 2013 as a small yogurt bar in Seattle, in partnership with father and son, Con and Alex Apostolopoulos, to bring the latter’s family yogurt recipe to the U.S. The company has since expanded to include a factory in Washington state and having retailers, including Whole Foods, sell its yogurt across 29 states.

Ellenos plans to use the new investment to build up its yogurt-making facility, and to hire a team that will include sales and marketing people, said co-founder Con Apostolopoulos.

The KIND founder said he sees a number of parallels in Ellenos to his own company. These include the “word-of-mouth” customer base and devotion to the brand, the obsession with quality and the family feeling that emanates from the management team.

“They’re definitely on a meteoric rise,” Mr. Lubetzky said of the company’s growth. He said his role is to work with the management team and to help open doors and provide “perspective from our journey.”

Equilibra is the company’s second private-equity backer. In 2018, Los Angeles-based Monogram Capital Partners also invested $18 million in the yogurt company. The firm remains an Ellenos investor.

Founded in 2018, New York-based Equilibra backs entrepreneur-run businesses that offer packaged goods to consumers. Mr. Lubetzky said that key attributes he looks for in a company include people he and Equilibra enjoy working with, products that are differentiated and disruptive, and products or services that have already proven themselves—so the firm can help it scale. Equilibra primarily takes sizable minority stakes in its portfolio companies, Mr. Lubetzky said, adding the firm has long-term investment horizon.

The firm has made a couple of investments—in nutritional products provider Before Brands and falafel maker Tadah! Foods—before committing to Ellenos, according to the family office’s founder. A fourth deal is expected to be announced soon, he added, without going into detail.

Mr. Lubetzky launched KIND granola bars in 2004. The company sold a minority stake to private-equity firm VMG Partners, and in 2014, Mr. Lubetzky bought back that stake in KIND. Mars Inc. later took a minority stake in 2017.

Source: WSJ

California-based prebiotic beverage maker Olipop has raised $10 million in a Series A funding round, the company announced today.

The round’s participants include current investors Monogram Capital Partners, Rocana Capital, Finn Capital Partners, Boulder Food Group and Collaborative Fund, as well as first time investor Döhler Ventures. The Series A follows a $2.5 million seed round which closed in January 2019.

“The timing of this Series A coincides with our completion of a foothold on the West Coast,” a company spokesperson told BevNET in an email. “We wanted to test out our ability to scale and know that we can, this year. The new funding will support that. We think that OLIPOP can become a leader in natural soda, as much as a leader in next generation digestive health.”

Founded in 2018 by president David Lester and CEO and head of formulation Ben Goodwin, Olipop produces a line of low sugar, prebiotic tonics which aims to provide a better-for-you alternative to CSDs in flavors like Strawberry Vanilla, Cinnamon Cola, Ginger Lemon and Classic Root Beer, the latter of which launched last month.

Much of the funding will go towards expanding Olipop’s sales and marketing team and growing its direct-to-consumer business. The company currently has 15 full time employees and recently announced three new additions, including former Ripple Foods finance lead Adam Beier as senior director of finance, former Health-Ade Kombucha sales director Scott Goldstein as senior director of sales and former Aloe Gloe regional sales manager Brad Bevens as district sales manager for the Pacific Northwest.

In 2020, the brand is focusing on expanding its retail footprint on the East and West Coasts, projecting to be in over 1,800 doors by the summer, the spokesperson said. The brand has partnered with distributors including UNFI, KeHE and LA Distributing Co. and is available in retailers including Whole Foods, Erewhon, Bristol Farms, Lasens, Jimbo’s, Lazy Acres, QFC and Fred Meyer. Earlier this month, Olipop launched in Wegmans and the brand will roll out to Sprouts locations in May.

“In 2019 it was important for us to firmly establish our brand in the western half of the U.S.,” said David Lester in a press release. “We wanted to ensure OLIPOP fit well in the marketplace. We wanted to test our growth drivers and supply chain before expanding the beverage nationally. We were fortunate enough to be able to turn down potential distribution opportunities and still grow the business significantly. Now we’re in a position to start sprinting.”

Part of the funding will also go toward product innovation. The company intends to launch two new flavors later this year, which will “draw upon the same nostalgic taste inspirations” as the root beer variety, according to the spokesperson.

Source: BevNET

Pet parents don’t have to feel helpless when they have to give their pets medicine, now that Mixlab is around. This modern pet pharmacy schedules same-day or next-day delivery of medicine with a few clicks. The company also has built expertise in compounding allowing them to provide medicine that is customized and tailored to your pet’s preferences. Medications are easy for pets to consume by adding flavoring (e.g. beef, bacon, or marshmallow), adapting dosages depending on the size of the animal, and transforming pills into various forms (treats, liquids, gels, etc). Mixlab’s mission is to make pill time stress free for dogs and pet parents.

AlleyWatch spoke with founder and CEO Fred Dijols about creating the pharmacy that every pet parent loves, the company’s future plans, and recent round of funding.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

We closed a $8.5M Seed round led by Global Founders Capital. Other investors include Monogram CapitalBrand FoundryLakehouse VenturesMars PetcareJoyance Partnersand TQ Ventures, among others.

Tell us about the product or service that Mixlab offers.

We’re a modern pet pharmacy that provides a delightfully personalized, headache-free experience. Veterinarians seamlessly prescribe in seconds on our proprietary online platform and we contact pet parents to schedule same-day or next-day delivery. Pet parents receive a customized care package with a personalized note from the pharmacist, clear instructions and a handpicked toy for their pet.

Our primary focus is compounding: instead of force-feeding your pet five different pills or cutting a pill into eighths to tailor the dosage, we can combine multiple medications, add flavoring (like beef, bacon, marshmallow), transform pills into various forms (treats, liquids, gels, and even gummy bears), and adapt dosages for size.

What inspired you to start Mixlab?

My cofounders and I share a strong belief that pets are family and they deserve the same level of care. When my 11-year-old pug, Bob, was diagnosed with a health condition, she was prescribed a medication that needed to be compounded for her weight. However, the local pharmacies had trouble getting the medication delivered fast enough and it took weeks to get it from an online pharmacy. The entire process—with back and forth calls, lack of transparency and delays–was quite frustrating at a time of distress. I knew that there had to be a better way. The expectations for our pets shouldn’t be any different than the ones we have for our human patients.

How is Mixlab different?

At Mixlab, we focus on providing the best level of care for pets and delivering an amazing experience for pet parents and veterinarians. We want to make their lives easier and better by utilizing technology and adding a healthy dose of TLC. Everything we do is personalized, from the medications that are tailored to pets’ needs, to the care package that comes with a note from the pharmacist and a toy that changes every time. We’re always there for pet parents and aim to bring joy at a time of distress.

What market does Mixlab target and how big is it?

About 60% of all US households have a pet and the US pet medications market is $10B within the $75B pet industry.

What’s your business model?

We’re a pharmacy and work with veterinarians to receive prescriptions for pets. We deliver medications in the most convenient manner for pet parents and veterinarians.

What was the funding process like?

We had built strong relationships over time with our investors and so it was mostly a matter of delivering on our promises. Once we went out to raise we were fortunate to receive a term sheet very rapidly and ended up being way oversubscribed. We were able to assemble a great team of investors who have helped build amazing companies across various industries.

What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?

It’s always important to be very efficient with the fundraising process so that the business can continue to operate smoothly and grow at the pace you want it to. Juggling the many priorities well is critical.

What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?

Many investors are interested in the pet industry because of the positive macro trends and there are many great pet companies out there. When it comes to pet meds, there’s a great deal of complexity and hurdles to overcome, which is why few companies have actually attempted to innovate in the space. When investors saw that we had laid a strong foundation to be a defining company of the space, they were excited to partner with us.

What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?

We’re planning on fueling growth in the Northeast, obtaining additional licenses, hiring many more people and building out another lab. There’s definitely lots to do.

What are the biggest challenges as you expand nationally?

We’re expanding nationally by building out additional labs so that we can be close to our customers and provide our high level of service. Because quality is so important to us and we focus on compounding, our buildouts are actually quite complex.

What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?

I think perseverance and focus are key. It’s so critical to show strong progress over time and hit the milestones that matter for your business. Not having fresh capital can be scary but it allows entrepreneurs to hone in on what really needs to be done.

Where do you see the company going now over the near term?

We see Mixlab deepening and broadening our relationships with veterinarians across the country, launching new features for them and for pet parents, and establishing ourselves as the go-to pharmacy for pets.

What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?

It’s more of a bakery, but I’m pretty obsessed with the chocolate babka at Breads.

Source: AlleyWatch

New York-based fast-casual chain Dig Inn has received a $15 million investment from Enlightened Hospitality Investments, in which Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group is a minority general partner.

The firm is the majority investor in a $20 million round of fundraising. As part of the deal, Mark Leavitt, Union Square’s chief investment officer, will take a seat on the executive board of 26-unit vegetable forward chain.

“We have talked about the difference between [setting] values and [accruing] value and in Danny’s experience, if you focus on the former, the latter will come,” Dig Inn founder Adam Eskin said. “Union Square Hospitality Group has the incredible capability of scaling a brand […] with what we want to do in terms of culinary training and putting real food in the hands of the people, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better partner.”

Eskin said he plans to use the funding to further expand the Dig Inn brand with 10 new locations in the New York City and Boston area in 2019, and plans to venture outside of those markets for the first time with an undisclosed number of new locations in 2020.

“Dig Inn is working to bring unprecedented and lasting change to our food system, and we’re proud to partner with them on their journey,” Danny Meyer said in a statement.

Enlightened Hospitality Investments has previously invested in such brands as ice cream brand Salt & Straw, food delivery platform Goldbelly and reservation platform Resy.

Dig Inn’s plans also include a new sit-down restaurant in New York City’s the West Village this fall — the brand’s first venture outside the fast-casual service model. Eskin did not divulge many details about the new restaurant, but he did say that the restaurant would serve as an incubator of culinary creativity. Dig Inn plans to hire 300 new chefs in the near future, many of whom would receive intensive culinary training and essentially learn how to cook at the sit-down Dig Inn store.

“We don’t want to just crank about a bunch of monochromatic boxes as fast as possible,” Eskin said. “We don’t necessarily want to build this huge restaurant chain, although we believe we can have many more stores.

“But we do want to interrupt the food chain through vegetables, he added. “We can do that in a number of ways: in a fast-casual setting or in sit-down. Sticking just with our current format has its limitations.”

The company also wants to improve upon what they do best: lunchtime delivery. Earlier this year Dig Inn debuted a beta test for its new delivery service, “Room Service,” with a menu that’s specifically designed for delivery: food containers that are designed to keep dishes warm but not overcook them in their own steam, recipes that are designed to “finish cooking” on the way to customers, and innovative ways to keep hot and cold items separate. Room Service will launch in Downtown Manhattan later this year.

Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

Indie fragrance brand D.S. & Durga is bringing its signature brand of “badass fancy” to Manhattan with a new store on Prince and Mulberry Streets.

Asked to describe the vibe of the store, cofounder and perfumer David Moltz landed on “badass fancy.” He runs the brand with wife and cofounder Kavi Moltz, who trained as an architect and handles all things design for the fragrance line.

She worked closely with architects K&Co., with support by Pliskin Architecture, to come up with the design for the space.

“There’s a lot of references to the aesthetics that we love [in the store],” Kavi said. “Brutalist architecture, punk rock, texture…which I think for most people, would translate to dark and edgy.”

Design elements include a poured-concrete monolith in the center of the store where customers can read fragrance descriptions and smell the scents in overturned cups, as well as a wall unit that contains David’s used ingredient bottles. The point of sale is a floating concrete desk, which “was a little bit of an engineering feat,” Kavi said.

The space is outfitted for events, and the pair are planning to deep-dive different fragrances each month during an event in the store. Each scent has its own playlist, created by David, and film, which can be projected onto a wall in the store. “We’re going to have monthly events where we just theme out on each scent, so we’re going to have a Bowmakers night, and David will speak about it, and we’ll project a film about it and smell it,” Kavi said.

The idea is to provide the option for customers to explore a fragrance story by showing the actual reference points David used during the creative process. “We’re psyched to let you, at your own pace, get as deep as you want, rather than jamming it down your throat,” David said.

While the store will have plenty of Instagrammable moments, like David’s perfume bottles, which were frequently posted by visitors to the couples’ Bedford Stuyvesant headquarters, the duo are building the space to generate dollar sales rather than just Internet buzz, they said.

“We need all the foot traffic we can get,” Kavi said, noting the store’s location is prime real estate for tourist traffic.

Beyond foot traffic, the shop will give DS & Durga’s founders more opportunities to engage with customers directly. “Once David gets in there and he has excited customers, he’ll get very excited to show new things,” Kavi said. “If he knows we’re having a Bowmakers night, but he’s working on things that are near completion, knowing him, he’d bring them and be like, ‘we have this, and this.’”

D.S. & Durga is doing between $8 million and $10 million in sales, according to industry sources, and is growing. The business took a small investment from Monogram Capital Partners in October, which is helping propel growth inside the business with new hires and with the relocation of the company’s Brooklyn headquarters to a space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Other plans in the works for the year include building out the brand’s space at Liberty in London, as well as launching a body-care collection, which will be available in the brand’s Rose Atlantic, Debaser and Bowmakers scents.

Source: WWD

Country Archer is deepening its relationship with investor Monogram Capital. The meat snack brand announced this week that it has closed a $10 million round of funding from the investment group. The deal follows Monogram’s previous investments of $6 million in 2017 and $5 million in 2016.

Country Archer founder Eugene Kang told NOSH that he wanted to partner with Monogram again — despite receiving interest from other firms — because of the strategic value the firm has brought to the company.

“There’s a lot of money out there but it’s really hard to find the one true value-added partner. It’s far and few between about how many investment companies out there add value,” Kang said. “[Monogram] wanted to invest more in the business from the beginning, I was just more sensitive to dilution.”

The investment will first go toward increasing output at the brand’s production facility. Unlike other jerky brands that use copackers, Country Archer is vertically integrated and owns the entire jerky production process. Kang said that some of the capital will be used to purchase new machinery that is “industry changing” and allow the company to scale its capacity for the next few years.

If the brand continues on a similar growth trajectory as recent years, that technology will be needed. Over the last two years the producer of meat sticks, jerky and meat bars has increased its retail footprint by more than five times, growing from roughly 3,000 doors in 2016 to over 25,000 doors in the first quarter this year, Kang said. That growth is what also has continued to appeal to Monogram.

“The strongest barometer for differentiation in a category is a brand’s ability to outsell competitors through frequency of repeat purchase rather than promotional activity,” Jared Stein, founder and partner at Monogram, told NOSH “Country Archer has exhibited incredibly strong and consistent expansion within each of its key retailer partnerships since inception.”

Kang believes there is still plenty of white space in distribution. Currently Country Archer has a solid presence in natural retailers — the brand went nationwide in Whole Foods Market earlier this year — and in conventional grocery. However, mass and convenience are the next frontiers for the company. For example, Country Archer currently is sold in Walmart but only in 500 stores and only with one SKU, and Kang said he sees an opportunity to go deeper.

This retail journey will come with increased competition though. In mass and convenience, larger players like Tillamook, Jack Links and Oberto have massive reach and large marketing dollars for trade spend. It’s a battle that many upstart jerky brands have struggled to take on.

However, Kang said that by y cutting out a middle man, Country Archer is able to maintain better margins that are closer to those of his major competitors as well as rapidly bring products to market.

“[Smaller jerky brands] can only get so much specialty distribution and, the next thing you know, you look at this big frontier of mass, grocery and convenience and you’re fighting really big companies,” Kang said “It’s an uphill battle but if you’ve got the margins, if you’ve got the vertical integration, if you’ve got the quality control, then you’re able to sustain the battle and emerge out of the natural world.”

Source: Nosh

Monogram Capital Partners has held a final closing of Monogram Capital Partners I LP at its hard cap of $152 million. The new fund was oversubscribed and secured commitments from endowments, foundations, family offices, and fund of funds.

“We are deeply appreciative of the support received from such a high‐quality investor base, many of whom have been investing with us for several years now,” said Jared Stein, Co‐Founder and Partner of Monogram.

Monogram Capital Partners makes invests from $5 million to $30 million in companies with revenues of $5 million to $50 million. Sectors of interest include apparel and accessories; beauty and personal care; pet products; consumer healthcare; food and beverage; and restaurants. Since founding in 2014, Monogram has completed fourteen investments across nine platform portfolio companies. The firm is headquartered in Beverly Hills (www.monogramcapital.com).

 

“We look forward to continuing to execute Monogram’s thesis‐driven approach to identifying promising consumer brands and working alongside them to build the next generation of category leaders,” said Oliver Nordlinger, Co‐Founder and Partner of Monogram.

Acalyx Advisors (www.acalyx.com) was the placement agent for this fundraise. “Amid a crowded fundraising environment, the investor community was compelled by Monogram’s ability to apply its network of strategic and managerial resources to help emerging brands achieve their full potential,” said Joe McDonald, a Partner at Acalyx.

Source: Private Equity Professional

Ellenos, a premium Greek yogurt maker, popped up in Pike Place Market five years ago by way of Australia, via Canada. Now the company wants to build a yogurt empire, and its factory in Georgetown, capable of producing 10,000 pounds of yogurt a day, isn’t big enough. Ellenos has raised $18 million from Los Angeles private equity investor Monogram Capital Partners to help fund its expansion.

A new Federal Way factory will be able to produce about 100,000 pounds of yogurt a day. At first the new capacity will be used to better fulfill orders from Northwest customers, who buy the product at more than 300 grocery stores and Ellenos retail stores, said Ellenos founder Constantinos Apostolopoulos. “Once we do that, we’ll look to take what we’ve built here with everyone, with this community, and then take it across the country,” Apostolopoulos said.

It’s a local business growth story with a very international beginning. Yvonne Klein, who used to work for Air Canada on a regular route between Vancouver, B.C., and Sydney, Australia, raved to husband Bob about the Greek yogurt she would eat there, eventually smuggling it home in larger and larger quantities. “She was bringing way too much home,” Bob Klein said.

Klein decided to go see about the Australian yogurt business. He had taken a produce stand in Pike Place Market and thought it would be an ideal location for a premium yogurt, he said. He cold-called Apostolopoulos, whose family immigrated to Australia in the 1960s and ran fast-food restaurants and made yogurt and cheese. But Klein didn’t hear back until 2011, when Apostolopoulos said he was ready to try his hand in a U.S. market that’s an order of magnitude larger than Australia.

It took another two years before Ellenos came together, starting with a 100-gallon vat in the Georgetown factory that Apostolopoulos and Klein built out themselves.  The name wasn’t decided until the night before they opened in summer 2013, Apostolopoulos said. It is a made-up word inspired by Hellenic — meaning Greek — and the first sound in the word Australia.

The business got a break when local Asian grocery store Uwajimaya agreed to give it space.  “An Australian making Greek yogurt, selling in a Japanese grocery store — and that’s pretty much how it took off,” Apostolopoulos said. The company has grown from four people — the Kleins, Apostolopoulos and his son, Alex — to 105 employees now.

The investment, brokered by Seattle investment bank Meridian Capital, gives Monogram a minority ownership stake in the business. The funding will help pay down debt related to the new factory, finance the planned expansion and hire more staff, Klein said.

Apostolopoulos said he’s looking forward to getting back to refining his family’s yogurt recipe and processes. “Partnering up with Monogram will free me up to get back to what I love doing,” he said.

Source: The Seattle Times

 

Monogram Capital Partners has acquired a controlling stake in Atlantic Holdings, a Planet Fitness franchisee. No financial terms were disclosed.

PRESS RELEASE

Los Angeles, Calif. October 30, 2017—Monogram Capital Partners, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm focused exclusively on consumer and retail investments, announced the purchase of a controlling interest in Atlantic Holdings, a newly-formed entity representing a leading franchisee in the Planet Fitness system. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 1992, Planet Fitness (NYSE: PLNT) is one of the largest and fastest-growing franchisors and operators of fitness centers in the US by number of members (10 million+) and locations (1,400+). More than 95% of Planet Fitness clubs are owned and operated by independent franchisees. Atlantic Holdings operates 14 Planet Fitness health clubs with the rights to continue to develop the areas of Miami-Dade and Broward counties in South Florida and the Central California region from Santa Barbara to Fresno. Founded by David Bidwell and Scott Linsky, Atlantic has been developing these areas since 2012, and now with Monogram’s support, has the opportunity to nearly quadruple its locations in the coming years in these regions.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA and founded in 2014, Monogram focuses exclusively on investing in emerging consumer and retail brands through both minority growth and control transactions. The firm seeks opportunities to partner with founders and strong management teams of high growth brands to help foster their next wave of growth. Atlantic Holdings represents the firm’s 12th investment across eight platform portfolio companies.

“We are extremely excited to be partnering with the Atlantic management team on this important next chapter of the company’s growth. Atlantic represents an attractive combination of an operating team that is executing at a very high level with the line-of-sight whitespace to scale their footprint significantly.” said Jared Stein, Co-Founder & Partner at Monogram.

Atlantic Holdings’ Founders and Managing Partners, David Bidwell and Scott Linsky, added, “We are thrilled to be working with Monogram in large part due to their unique ability to bring both best in-class operational and financial expertise to bear. The next chapter of our company will be defined by accelerated strategic growth, requiring continued focus on our meticulous operational processes while simultaneously maintaining disciplined financial foundations. Monogram’s expertise in these areas will be pivotal in helping us with this next stage of our evolution.”

About Monogram Capital Partners
Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA and founded in 2014, Monogram Capital focuses exclusively on investing in emerging consumer and retail brands through both minority growth and control transactions. The firm seeks opportunities to partner with founders and strong management teams, investing $5-30 million of equity per transaction. The investment into Atlantic represents the firm’s twelfth investment across eight platform portfolio companies over the past three and a half years.

Source: PE Hub

Just over a year after closing an initial round of funding with Monogram Capital, meat snack brand Country Archer announced today that it closed a second round with the private equity group. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The money will support sales and marketing efforts, as well as production, said Country Archer CEO and co-founder Eugene Kang. That production is more capital-intensive, Kang said, because unlike other emerging meat snack brands, which often use co-packers, Country Archer is a vertically integrated company that cuts, smokes and packages its own product.

“We looked at the runway here and, given the fact that we’ve been growing rather quickly… I think that we wanted to make sure that we were prepared financially for the next several years,” Kang said.”

Founded in 2011 with Kang’s aunt, Susan Kang, the company has seen impressive growth. Kang told NOSH that the brand has doubled business year over year for the past three years and is expected to more than double its sales in 2017. In a press release, Country Archer referenced SPINS data showing that the company recently surpassed KRAVE as the No. 1 jerky in the natural grocery channel, outpacing the next 15 brands combined in year-over-year dollar growth. The line is currently sold in about 10,000 Starbucks and recently entered 1,500 7-Eleven stores, bringing its total door count to 15,000.

Jared Stein, founder and partner at Monogram, told NOSH that this growth is part of the appeal for the fund.

“For us, finding great brands that have the ability to truly mean something to consumers over the long term is the single hardest piece of what we do,” Stein said, explaining his company’s reasons for reinvesting. “Ultimately, our proxy for the scalability of a brand with additional resources and professional support is really its velocity data at retail vis-à-vis competitors. I continue to be incredibly impressed by Country Archer’s performance in this regard and it has become clear to me that strategics in the space are now taking notice as well.”

Kang noted that Country Archer benefits from more than just the capital by working with the investment group. Greg Willsey, partner and head of operations at Monogram, was previously the CFO and COO at POM Wonderful, also a vertically integrated juice company. When considering investments, Kang said he sought out private equity groups that could provide strategic, first-hand experience to help Country Archer.

Country Archer has expanded its portfolio over the years, expanding from meat snacks to meat bars and, most recently, meat sticks. For its bars, the company tries to separate itself by emphasizing the higher amount of protein,leading them to be stocked in less traditional avenues such as vitamin stores and gyms, and carried by sports nutrition-focused distributor Europa Sports Products.

The company also aims to separate itself by emphasizing its longstanding heritage. Although the current iteration of the company only began in 2011 when Kang acquired the business, its previous life as a co-packer stretches back to 1977.

“The company has these deep roots,” Kang told NOSH “We’re not just a company that was born yesterday that decided to get into the space because KRAVE got sold to Hershey’s. We’ve got some heritage behind it, some culture behind it, some story behind it. There’s some authenticity to it.”

Source: Nosh

Kidfresh, the fast-growing brand of better-for-you frozen kids meals announced today that it has closed on its Series B equity round of funding led by Monogram Capital Partners, alongside existing institutional investors Emil Capital Partners and AccelFoods.

Founded by Matt Cohen and Gilles Deloux, two fathers frustrated by the lack of better-for-you food choices for their children, New York based Kidfresh has grown into a nationally distributed line of frozen meals. The Kidfresh platform offers a line of reinvented children’s favorite meals enriched with vegetables, made with wholesome ingredients and no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. This round of funding will be used to accelerate growth and continue to disrupt the category, expand the Kidfresh team, drive brand awareness and support its rapid expansion into new growth channels.

“We want children to have better food choices than we had as kids,” says Kidfresh Co-Founder Matt Cohen. “Today’s parents are saying no to processed foods and yes to nutritious and convenient meals for their children. We are creating a solution for them and a destination in the frozen food aisle. Monogram, Emil Capital and AccelFoods constitute the dream team for Kidfresh and are simply the best partners in the industry. We are thrilled!”

“We are incredibly excited to join the Kidfresh team,” said Monogram Founder and Partner Jared Stein.  “In today’s often crowded consumer landscape, Matt and Gilles have built a brand with a strong reason to exist in a category of frozen food that is starved for innovation.  At its core, Kidfresh is on an authentic mission to provide parents with food offerings that are equal parts healthy and convenient at an approachable price point. We believe the next generation of moms will increasingly look to Kidfresh as a trusted partner in feeding their families, and look forward to supporting the team in this exciting next phase of growth.”

As a Venture Capital firm focusing on the new American consumer and its desire and demand for ‘better and healthier choices’, Kidfresh has been a perfect fit for us since our first investment a few years ago,” commented Founding Partner Andreas Guldin. “And we are so excited to further support the vision, the brand and the exceptional management of Kidfresh on the journey to provide just better food and real solutions to consumers who care about what their families eat!”

AccelFoods Co-Founder and Managing Partner Jordan Gaspar added, “In partnering with Kidfresh, we see tremendous opportunity in investing behind a company that addresses an underserved market, children. As working moms, we have been looking for a platform focused on nutrition for young families since we launched AccelFoods. It is time for innovation in our children’s meal solutions. We look forward to supporting a banner year for Kidfresh as it continues its mission to transform the food that working parents offer their families.” The early-stage investment fund is known for curating innovative brands in food & beverage and positioning them for high growth.

About Kidfresh
Created by parents for parents with the help of pediatric nutritionists and top chefs, Kidfresh has grown from its initial concept store in New York City to become a pioneer in frozen kid’s meals packed with goodness and hidden vegetables. Kidfresh is the solution to today’s busy moms and parents that want convenient and better-for-you kid’s meal options, now available in over 9,000 grocery stores nationwide. For more information visit the Kidfresh website and follow @KidfreshFoods on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

About Monogram Capital Partners
Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA and founded in 2014, Monogram Capital focuses exclusively on investing in emerging consumer and retail brands through both minority growth and control transactions. The firm looks for opportunities to partner with founders and strong management teams, investing $5-30 million of equity per transaction. Kidfresh represents the firm’s seventh investment in three years.

About Emil Capital Partners
Headquartered in Greenwich, CT, and founded in 2012, Emil Capital Partners focuses on investing in early stage companies in the sector of consumer goods, internet enable services and  digital media. Since its inception, the fund has made 27 investments including key brands in their respective sectors like UBER, Cheribundi, Goodbelly, Chef’s Plate and Kidfresh. Emil Capital Partners has been rated numerous times as one of the most active investors in the space of consumer goods and continues to look for disruptive opportunities in changing “big food to good food”.

About AccelFoods
AccelFoods is an investment fund fueling innovation in the food and beverage industry with access, community, expertise, and infrastructure. The Fund works with founders to bridge the gap between their innovative thinking and the resources needed to scale to the highest levels of growth. To learn more please visit the AccelFoods website at:http://www.accelfoods.com.

Source: PR Newswire

PetSmart has agreed to make the biggest e-commerce acquisition in history, putting a deal in place to snatch up fast-growing pet food and product site Chewy.com for $3.35 billion, according to multiple sources familiar with the deal.

The deal is a huge one by any standard — bigger than Walmart’s $3.3 billion deal for Jet.com last year— and especially for a retail company like PetSmart, which was itself valued at only $8.7 billion when private equity investors took it over in 2015.

But Chewy.com has been one of the fastest-growing e-commerce sites on the planet, registering nearly $900 million in revenue last year, in what was only its fifth year in operation. The company had been a potential IPO candidate for this year or next, but was taken out by its brick-and-mortar competitor before that. It was not profitable last year.

Chewy was founded in 2011 by Ryan Cohen and Michael Day, and built a cult following for its excellent customer service, large selection and fast shipping. It had quietly raised at least $236 million in venture capital from investors including Volition Capital, T. Rowe Price and BlackRock.

Its under-the-radar status was probably aided by the fact that it was headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and not in a big e-commerce market like New York, Los Angeles or Seattle. But it did have a big name in the industry as chairman: Mark Vadon, who also co-founded Blue Nile and Zulily.

The deal seems like the type of bet-the-company acquisition by a traditional retailer that commerce-focused venture capitalists have been betting on for some time. While Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com was a huge deal by e-commerce standards, it represented just a fraction of Walmart’s market value. Silicon Valley investors are surely hoping more will follow in PetSmart’s path, as brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to adapt to the impact of changing shopping behaviors.

PetSmart had announced its intention to acquire Chewy on Tuesday morning, but didn’t disclose a price. PetSmart is owned by a group of private equity investors led by BC Partners.

Source: Recode

Dig Inn, a 15-restaurant chain with locations in New York and Boston, is already a hit with healthy eaters. In both cities, you’re bound to see crowds lined up to get market plates any given day of the week.

With an average meal price of $10 and a focus on produce sourced from local farms, the chain aims to make simple, high-quality food available at a relatively affordable price.

Now Dig Inn has raised an additional $30 million in a Series D funding round led by AVALT. Other contributors to the round (its largest to date) include Monogram Capital Partners and Bill Allen, former CEO of OSI Restaurant Partners (which manages Outback Steakhouse).

The company had previously raised $21.5 million in earlier rounds of funding.

Dig Inn will use the new investment to launch more restaurants, open a culinary training school that’s free for employees, make key leadership hires, and build out its internal tech platform. The chain also plans to open 13 to 15 more locations in New York and Massachusetts by 2019, and expand to a third to-be-determined state in 2018, founder and CEO Adam Eskin tells Business Insider.

Source: Business Insider

Country Archer Jerky Co., one of the fastest growing brands in the premium beef jerky category, announced a minority growth investment by Monogram Capital Partners, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm focused on consumer and retail investments. The Monogram investment will enable Country Archer to accelerate nationwide distribution, expand its product offerings, and build upon its already strong consumer awareness and advocacy.

Founded by Eugene Kang and Susan Kang in 2011, Country Archer is known for its better-for-you ingredient deck and innovative and appealing flavors. “After surveying the category extensively, we determined that Country Archer’s product was uniquely differentiated. In addition to being one of the few self-manufactured brands on the market, and achieving the quality and supply chain controls that comes with that, Country Archer highlights an ingredient driven process that emphasizes grass fed beef and organic seasonings. We are extremely excited to partner with Eugene and Susan on this next phase of rapid growth,” says Monogram Co-Founder Jared Stein.

Over the past few years, the Company has been growing rapidly, roughly doubling its sales annually and expanding into new points of distribution nationwide. “We view Country Archer’s category leading growth metrics in both the natural and conventional channels as a sign of the customer identifying and enjoying a high quality product that has widespread, crossover appeal,” says Monogram Co-Founder Oliver Nordlinger.

With significant innovation in its product lines (including the recent launch of its grass-fed line and the forthcoming launch of its meat-based protein bar) and continued introduction of exciting new flavors, Country Archer is quickly becoming a tastemaker in the category. “As Founders, Eugene and Susan exhibit a special combination of great vision and the manufacturing capability to produce an expanding portfolio of great products under the Country Archer brand,” adds Greg Willsey, a Partner at Monogram who joined the firm after most recently serving as COO and CFO of POM Wonderful.

“In Monogram we saw a value-added partner who could help us execute on our vision and take Country Archer to the next level. Susan and I are extremely proud of the company we have built and believe strongly that this partnership will help us reach our full potential,” commented Country Archer Founder Eugene Kang.

About Country Archer Jerky Co. 

Headquartered in San Bernardino, CA, Country Archer has a rich thirty year heritage as a premium jerky manufacturer. Founders Eugene and Susan Kang purchased the business in 2011 to bring this high quality product to the masses. Country Archer manufactures its own line of artisanal jerky products using grass-fed proteins and organic ingredients and absolutely no artificial preservatives. The company focuses on developing original flavors with widespread appeal, such as Sriracha, Sweet Jalapeno, and Hickory Smoke.

About Monogram Capital Partners 

Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA and founded in 2014, Monogram Capital focuses exclusively on investing in emerging consumer and retail brands through both minority growth and control transactions. The firm looks for opportunities to partner with founders and strong management teams, investing $5-30 million per transaction. Country Archer represents the firm’s fourth platform investment in two years.

Source: PE Hub

The fast-casual Pizza Studio chain has completed a strategic investment round led by institutional foodservice contractor Thompson Hospitality, which will also become the brand’s largest franchise operator, officials said Wednesday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Thompson will hold a minority stake in the Calabasas, Calif.-based pizza chain as a result, said Samit Varma, Pizza Studio co-founder and co-CEO.

Warren Thompson, chairman and CEO of Reston, Va.-based Thompson Hospitality, will join Pizza Studio’s board of directors.

As part of the deal, Thompson has also committed to opening 80 Pizza Studio locations, including 40 in the Washington, D.C., area and another 40 on college campuses, airports, hospitals and other nontraditional locations, mostly in the Eastern U.S.

Thompson Hospitality is the seventh largest foodservice company in the U.S., with a diverse mix of institutional accounts in 46 states and internationally, Thompson said. The firm also has a strategic partnership with global foodservice giant Compass Group.

In addition, Thompson Hospitality owns and operates a number of restaurant brands, including Austin Grill, American Tap Room, BRB Burger and Willie T’s Lobster Shack.

Although the firm is also a Pizza Hut franchisee on some college campuses, Thompson said the investment brings a fast-casual pizza brand into the company’s portfolio.

After looking to invest in the right fast-casual pizza brand for about five years, Thompson said he was impressed by the vision of Pizza Studio’s founders.

“The balance of quality and ease of execution made it something we really wanted to do,” Thompson said. “This format of pizza will work very well in airports because of the speed of delivery, the simplicity of it, and the fact that it allows customers to have it their way.”

The move into nontraditional locations could offer a significant boost for Pizza Studio, which, with 33 units, is racing to catch up to larger players within the rapidly growing fast-casual pizza space, where chains like Blaze Pizza, Pieology and MOD Pizza are nearing the 100-unit mark.

Pizza Studio, however, has the advantage of using a ventless conveyor oven, which gives the brand more flexibility in location, Varma said.

The ovens also cook the thin-crust pizzas in minutes, allowing for fast throughput and a more consistent product, he said.

“In environments where there is a large lunch rush, like college campuses and airports, we perform very well,” Varma said.

Like other fast-casual pizza players, Pizza Studio offers a build-your-own-pizza format.

Unlike most others, however, customers can choose from among several crust flavors, from rosemary herb to the spicy “firecracker,” as well as choosing sauces, toppings and cheeses.

The chain plans to “make a big splash” on college campuses in particular, where the brand will join dining hall options alongside nationally recognized brands like Chick-fil-A, he said. “This will be a great introduction of our brand to a large audience.”

Within the next six months, the brand will open on five or six campuses, probably in Maryland, Varma said. Pizza Studio already has a location near Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, so the brand will be familiar there, he said.

Currently, Pizza Studio is in some mall locations and can go as small as 200 square feet as a kiosk. One of the chain’s smallest units in a downtown Los Angeles food court is about 750 square feet, including back of the house and queue line, and averages more than $1 million in annual sales, Varma said.

This year, Pizza Studio has three more units scheduled to open, with another 60 on deck for 2016. Of the 33 units open, seven are company owned, he said.

Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

Two former executives from Golden Gate Capital and Leonard Green & Partners have founded Monogram Capital Partners.

The Los Angeles-based private equity firm is led by Jared Stein and Oliver Nordlinger. Stein left Golden Gate, where he was a VP, in early 2014 to start Monogram, while Nordlinger, who was a Leonard Green VP, departed at roughly the same time.

Stein said Monogram is “extremely busy” and may need to add an associate in the next year. The firm has already completed two deals and plans to do two or three more.

“Then, potentially, we’ll go out and raise a traditional fund,” Stein said. However, there is no pressure on the firm to raise immediate capital, he said.

Monogram is what Stein calls a “pledge fund.” It raises capital on a deal-by-deal basis from five family offices that it has an ongoing relationship with. Stein and Nordlinger are paid an undisclosed management fee and performance-based carry by the family offices. Stein and his partner also invest their own capital in each deal.

The lower middle-market private equity firm focuses sectors such as apparel and accessories, beauty and personal care, companion animal and consumer healthcare. It will invest anywhere from $5 million to $30 million equity per deal, Stein said.

The firm plans to prove its strategy of investing in consumer retail and finding brands that have a strong customer base. It has already done two deals. On Jan. 20, Monogram and Michael Marks, a Riverwood Capital founding partner, took part in a $15 million Series C round for Dig Inn of New York. Existing investors, including Wexford Capital and Law360 co-founder Magnus Hoglund, also participated, a Dig Inn spokeswoman said.

Monogram has a minority stake in Dig Inn, Stein said. The restaurant chain offers “farm to counter” fresh food, such as grilled steak salads and a “Cluk ‘n’ Kale” sandwich, at prices of $10 to $11 a plate, Stein said.

Monogram is also a backer of Pizza Studio of Calabasas, Calif. The fast-casual restaurant is known for offering thin-crust pizza with unlimited toppings that are competitively priced. An 11-inch pizza starts at $6.99 to $7.99, according to the Pizza Studio website.

The California startup is succeeding in the saturated pizza market, Business Insider said. Pizza Studio has 25 locations, up from three when Monogram invested in the company in February 2014. Revenue for the company jumped to $11.5 million in 2014 from $2.5 million the year before, Forbes reported.

Finding deals was probably easier for Stein and Nordliner than picking a name for their new firm. They went through the names of Greek Gods as well as flowers and “nothing was inspiring,” Stein said. After they played around with their initials, “It sort of clicked that if you put our initials together that it’s your monogram and that is the stamp of a brand,” he said.

Source: Thomson Reuters PE Hub

Ten-outlet New York City restaurant chain Dig Inn has raised $15 million. Who knew sweet potatoes, beets, and kale could be so lucrative?

Farm-to-table restaurant chain Dig Inn Seasonal Market has raised $15 million in its Series C round, bringing its total funding to $21.5 million since launching in 2011.

The round was led by Wexford Capital, with other other participants including Monogram Capital Partners, founding partner of Riverwood Capital Michael Marks, and existing investor Magnus Hoglund, founder of Law360. Dig Inn founder and CEO Adam Eskin was once a private equity associate at Wexford Capital.

Most of the investment will go toward expanding the 10-restaurant chain, which has some $35 million in annual sales. The company plans to open another five to seven restaurants in 2015, including its first outside New York City. Eskin thinks Dig Inn has the potential to eventually go national, but its next market will be on the East Coast for logistical reasons.

About 70% of the chain’s menu consists of vegetables, but the concept stands apart from the plethora of salad chains because Dig Inn specializes in cooked vegetables. “People are getting more comfortable with the idea that meat doesn’t need to be at the center of the plate,” Eskin says, pointing to trends like Meatless Monday and Michelin chefs launching all or mostly vegetable-based menus.

The No. 1 vegetable sold at Dig Inn in 2014 was sweet potatoes (230,292 pounds), with beets the runner up at 217,435 pounds. Kale scored a respectable third (174,708 pounds).

“There’s a lot more than you can do with Brussels sprouts”—tied with red onions at No. 4 with at 162,550 pounds—“relative to how people used to think about it way back when,” he says. “The level of culinary innovation is making vegetables more mainstream.”

Dig Inn is trying to anticipate the challenges that will come with scaling a concept focused on sustainable and local food. It’s an issue that’s top of mind in the industry as Chipotle last week stopped selling pork in about a third of its U.S. restaurants after discovering that one of its suppliers was not complying with the Mexican food chain’s animal-care standards.

Dig Inn has brought in a sourcing manager who was previously a farmer and is building direct relationships with suppliers from the start rather than going through middlemen. Eskin says that’s unusual for a company of Dig Inn’s size. “We’re doing that at a much earlier stage,” he adds.

Eskin is capitalizing on a shift in consumers who want healthier food that’s better for the environment but still accessibly priced (the average check at Dig Inn is $10). “We think given where the world is headed that we have a more viable product,” Eskin says.

He believes the investment interest stems from the size of the $700 billion restaurant industry, compounded by the level of disruption that’s going on in the sector. “The incumbent folks are either going to go away, shrink, or pivot in some way,” Eskin explains. That’s resulted in growth and funding for Dig Inn and other chains with similar values like Sweetgreen, which landed $18.5 million in funding in November.

In addition to expansion, the latest round of Dig Inn’s funding will also in part go toward exploring food tech, which Eskin says has boomed over the last 18 months. “Food has become the new technology sector,” he notes. Companies like Blue Apron, Sprig, and Munchery are figuring out how to deliver high-quality food to people very quickly, and these ventures changed Eskin’s assumptions that food delivery was strictly a New York City phenomenon. The Dig Inn team is investigating whether it should start its own service or partner with an existing one.

“Restaurants will always be our core business,” Eskin says, “but I think it would be a mistake not to be mindful of how the landscape is changing.”

Source: Fortune