Kraft Heinz just announced today a new venture capital fund, Evolv Ventures, for which the Big Food giant has committed $100 million. The firm will invest in food technology startups working in the supply chain, logistics, direct-to-consumer projects, and e-commerce.
For Evolv, Kraft Heinz brought on venture investor Bill Pescatello, a founding member of the Peacock Equity Fund. “At Evolv Ventures, we will move beyond brands to have a committed first look at our industry’s most promising and disruptive tech-enabled companies,” he said in a press statement. “With the insights, data and access available at Kraft Heinz, we look to take full advantage of our unique position and be the foremost value-added investor in the space.”
What the press release doesn’t say is that the creation of Evolv may also be something of a survival move on the part of Kraft Heinz, who needs to stay relevant in a food industry increasingly challenging for Big Food brands. As of May 2018, the consumer staples sector was on track for its worst year in a decade, with stalling sales growth and rising costs production necessities like raw material, freight, and oil. Bloomberg also reports that Kraft Heinz’ “margins are under pressure due to higher marketing and product-development expenses.”
And, of course, part of Big Food’s big trouble right now is competition from smaller brands and a consumer taste that’s craving more local, whole foods as opposed to mass-produced staples.
Kraft Heinz isn’t the first major CPG to understand this and take action. Kellogg Co. did so back in 2016 when it invested $100 million in a venture arm. Tyson is all over the startup landscape via investments, incubators, and partnerships. And many other major food brands are launching accelerators, funds, and other ways of connecting with emerging food startups.
Evolv is Kraft Heinz first official fund, although it does also operate its Springboard Program, which partners with and nurtures emerging food brands. The Springboard Incubator Program just welcomed its inaugural class this year.