Since 2015, global food giants from Tyson Foods to Land O'Lakes have launched venture funds and incubator programs to attract early-stage startups.
Pasta giant Barilla is the latest major food company to launch a venture fund. In November 2017, the company unveiled Blu1877, a new fund which will invest in sustainable pasta and condiment startups.
Since 2015, we’ve seen a domino effect of leading global food companies establishing venture funds and startup incubator programs.These include Campbell’s Soup with Acre Venture Partners($125M fund), Kellogg’s with Eighteen94 Capital ($100M fund), Chobani with its food incubator (provides $25K grants), and AB InBev with ZX Ventures.
We used CB Insights data to create a timeline of major food corporates launching venture funds and incubator programs, and analyzed their early investment and acquisitions activity in the private market.
Food corporates announce startup initiatives
As the timeline below shows, alcohol companies Constellation Brands, AB InBev, and Diageo were slightly ahead of the curve in launching funds. Major CPG companies followed, including General Mills, Campbell’s, Kellogg’s, and Danone.
These funds operate across various structures. Some, such as General Mills’ 301 Inc., are managed internally by the corporation; others, such as Campbell’s Acre Venture Partners, are managed by external investors with the corporation (e.g. Campbell’s) as the sole limited partner (LP).
Business Social Graph: funds begin to invest
Apart from Grupo Bimbo’s Eleva and Barilla’s Blu1877, the funds in this analysis have all backed startups. Some have also strengthened their ties with other investors in the ecosystem; Danone Ventures, for example, poured $15M into NYC-based food VC firm AccelFoods.
In the infographic below, we illustrate the investments and acquisitions of each of these companies and their venture funds/incubator programs.
- Tyson Foods, a leader in global meat production, chose plant protein startup Beyond Meat for Tyson New Ventures’ first and only venture investment to date.
- Kellogg’s Eighteen94 Capital has backed two consumer plant protein brands — packaged smoothie pod startup Bright Greens and moringa energy bar and drink startup Kuli Kuli — and one B2B plant protein company, MycoTechnology, which creates mushroom-based sweeteners and protein ingredients.
- Yogurt brand Chobani helped incubate Banza, a chickpea protein pasta startup, and Grainful, a healthy frozen meal brand based on oats.
- General Mills‘ 301 Inc. has focused on packaged plant-based snacks so far, with investments to Tio Gazpacho, Rhythm Superfoods, and Farmhouse Culture.
- AB InBev‘s ZX Ventures backed Starship Technologies, a small self-driving delivery drone that has already partnered with DoorDash, Postmates, and others to deliver food to consumers’ doors.
- Campbell Soup‘s fund Acre Venture Partners has focused on supply chain and delivery startups, rather than emerging food brands. Its portfolio companies ImpactVision and Sample6 provide safety monitoring tools for food supply chains, while Spoiler Alert and Back to the Roots aim to reduce food waste. Acre Venture Partners also backed ag tech startup Farmers Business Network ($189.6M in total disclosed funding), which offers farmers a collective bargaining and analytics platform. Campbell’s Soup itself invested in two food delivery startups, Habit and Chef’d, which could become distribution platforms for branded products.
Below, see the table of the companies and funds highlighted above, as well as a sampling of their investments.
|Parent Company||Type||Fund||Announcement Date||Select Investments|
|Chobani||Incubator||Chobani Food Incubator||7/20/2016||Grainful, Banza, Pique Tea Crystals, Love the Wild|
|Land O’Lakes||Incubator||Land O’Lakes Dairy Accelerator||7/12/2017||Petit Pot, Dreaming Cow, Yooli Foods, Jouzge|
|AB InBev||Venture fund||ZX Ventures||9/1/2015||Canvas, Owl’s Brew, Starship Technologies, RateBeer|
|Kellogg’s||Venture fund||Eighteen94 Capital||6/20/2016||MycoTechnology, Bright Greens, Kuli Kuli|
|Campbell’s Soup||Venture fund||Acre Venture Partners||2/17/2016||ImpactVision, Evolve BioSystems, Farmers Business Network, Spoiler Alert|
|Tyson Foods||Venture fund||Tyson New Ventures||12/5/2016||Beyond Meat|
|General Mills||Venture fund||301 Inc.||10/22/2015||Good Culture, Purely Elizabeth, Rhythm Superfoods, Farmhouse Culture|
|Danone||Venture fund||Danone Manifesto Ventures||6/28/2016||Yooji, Farmer’s Fridge, Michel et Augustin|
|Constellation Brands||Venture fund||Constellation Ventures||8/17/2015||Crafthouse Cocktails|
|Diageo||Venture fund||Distill Ventures||10/9/2015||Seedlip, Starward Whiskey, Stauning Whiskey|
|Hain Celestial||Venture fund and brand incubator||Cultivate Ventures||11/1/2016||Better Bean Company|
|Barilla||Venture fund and innovation center||Blu1877||11/16/2017||N/A|
|Grupo Bimbo||Internal venture fund/accelerator program in partnership with BlueBox Ventures||Bimbo Ventures/ Eleva Accelerator||7/6/2017||N/A|