A focus on healthy snacks and drinks have helped these fifteen startups raise $1.49B in total.
While historically venture capital firms have been more associated with technology than with food, we’re seeing technology increasingly integrated into the food and beverage sector as startups pioneer new products and ingredients. The fifteen most well-funded VC-backed food & beverage startups have racked up a whopping $1.49B in aggregate funding, mainly by focusing on plant-based foods and drinks.
Of the fifteen most well-funded startups, five explicitly focus on replacing animal proteins with plants (Hampton Creek, Impossible Foods, Califia Farms, Ripple Foods, and Beyond Meat). Two more focus on cold-pressed juices (Suja Life and Juicero) and seven focus on healthy, plant-based foods and drinks (Revolution Foods, The FRS Company, Soylent, Sambazon, Body Armor Nutrition, ALOHA, and Shenandoah Growers). The only one in the top 15 that does not fit into one of these categories is Blue Bottle, which makes high-end coffee.
Several startups on the most well-funded list have faced scandals recently, perhaps in part as a result of pressures to achieve rapid growth. Hampton Creek, the most well-funded startup with $240M, faced waves of accusations in late 2016 of conducting fraudulent buyback programs to inflate sales numbers, advertising inaccurate product information, and more, prompting investigations by the SEC and DOJ. While the government agencies shut down their inquiries in March 2017, in early May, the company’s CFO, COO, and other executives left the company. The company is now going through a rebranding to Just (hamptoncreek.com now redirects to eatjust.com).
Juicero faced a wave of criticism (spurred by a Bloomberg article) after revelations that its fruit and vegetable packets could be squeezed by hand to produce nearly as much juice as the company’s $400 juicer. In 2016, Soylent had to recall and halt production of its powders and snack bars after they made some customers sick, and Beyond Meat recently faced a small, voluntary product recall.
While caution may be warranted, these startups are still in high-momentum and high-potential categories, with plenty of opportunity for disruption. Investors seem attracted to startups focusing on health, as well as those with the potential to disrupt not just single verticals, but entire categories, such as meat or dairy.
In addition to some shared goals, many of these companies share investors as well. VCs including Khosla Ventures, Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Tao Capital Partners have backed multiple startups on the most well-funded food & beverage list.
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See the full table below.
|Rank||Company||Focus||Select Investors||Total Disclosed Funding ($M)||Most Recent Funding Round||Most Recent Funding Date|
|1||Hampton Creek||Plant-based egg substitutes||Khosla Ventures, Founders Fund, Collaborative Fund, Horizons Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, New Ground Ventures||$240||Series D||July 2015|
|2||Suja Life||Cold-pressed juices||Coca-Cola, Alliance Consumer Growth, Boulder Brands Investment Group, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jared Leto||$196||Corporate Minority||August 2015|
|3||Impossible Foods||Animal-free meat substitutes||Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, Google Ventures, Horizons Ventures||$183||Debt||December 2016|
|4||Revolution Foods||Healthy school lunches and boxed meals||Catamount Ventures, Oak Investment Partners, DBL Partners, NewSchools Venture Fund||$146||Debt||March 2017|
|5||Blue Bottle Coffee||Coffee||Index Ventures, Slow Ventures, True Ventures, Google Ventures, Lowercase Capital, Jared Leto||$116||Series C||June 2015|
|6||Juicero||Cold-pressed juices and juicers||Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Thrive Capital, Acre Venture Partners, DBL Partners, First Beverage Group||$100||Series B||March 2016|
|7||The FRS Company||Natural energy drinks and supplements||Oak Investment Partners, Radar Partners, RRE Ventures||$92||Series E||July 2013|
|8||Soylent||Drinkable meals||Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, Index Ventures, Initialized Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Tao Capital Partners||$72||Series B||May 2017|
|9||Sambazon||Acai energy drinks, juices, and snacks||Greenmont Capital Partners, PCGInvestors, Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners, Stonyfield, Verlinvest||$56||Series D||January 2015|
|10||Body Armor Nutrition||Natural energy drinks||Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Bryant Stibel||$55||Corporate Minority||April 2016|
|11||ALOHA||Plant-based snacks, teas, and supplements||CircleUp, Corigin Ventures, First Round Capital, Forerunner Ventures, Khosla Ventures||$52||Series B||July 2016|
|12||Califia Farms||Almond milks and coffee creamers||Stripes Group||$50||Growth Equity||September 2015|
|13||Shenandoah Growers||Fresh herbs||Advantage Capital Partners, Middleland Capital, S2G Ventures||$47||Series C||November 2016|
|14||Ripple Foods||Plant-based milk substitutes||Prelude Ventures, Blueberry Ventures, Google Ventures, Tao Capital Partners, Khosla Ventures||$44||Series B||July 2016|
|15||Beyond Meat||Plant-based meat substitutes||Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DNS Capital, Tyson New Ventures, Union Grove Venture Partners, 301 Inc., Bill Gates, Obvious Ventures||$40||Series F||October 2016|
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