There’s a new plant-based powerhouse on the block. Today Foods United announced that it has bought vegan media platform LIVEKINDLY and rebranded as The LIVEKINDLY Co., creating an alternative protein group which will focus chiefly on plant-based chicken. The group is backed by Swiss investment firm Blue Horizon, which has previously invested in both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. As it came out of stealth, LIVEKINDLY Co. also announced that it has raised $200 million in capital from 10 to 15 investors, including its founders.
The LIVEKINDLY Co. has already made two large alt-poultry investments: it holds the majority stake in South African company Fry Family Food Co, which makes meatless burgers, chicken and seafood for retail and foodservice, and the German startup LikeMeat, which makes plant-based chicken products.
Judging from these investments it’s clear that The LIVEKINDLY Co. is thinking globally. It seems the company will continue to do so: according to Reuters, the company has already signed with a partner in Asia and are about to sign with two more in the U.S.
In addition to plant-based meat and media, The LIVEKINDLY Co. also has an equity stake in PURIS Holding, a purveyor of plant-based ingredients (specifically pea protein). According to a press release from the company, this makes The LIVEKINDLY Co. “the only company in the plant-based food sector to own and operate the entire value chain of production.”
That could help their portfolio companies scale quickly and cut costs in order to stand out from other alternative chicken players on the retail shelves. Blue Horizon, The LIVEKINDLY Co’s chief backer, has also invested in numerous plant-based chicken startups, including Planted and Rebellyous, so we’ll see if those companies get folded into to the LIVEKINDLY portfolio as well.
Perhaps the most intriguing move by The LIVEKINDLY Co. is its purchase of its namesake: LIVEKINDLY (which Blue Horizon has also invested in). The digital media platform, which has been a source for plant-based news for years, wrote in a blog post that their mission as journalists would “stay the same.” With an entire media platform at its disposal, it’s not hard to imagine that The LIVEKINDLY Co. could use the website as a tool to grow their portfolio company’s brand recognition and reach, especially in the U.S. market. However, LIVEKINDLY’s association with the brands could be a knock against the publication’s journalistic independence.
The LIVEKINDLY Co’s C-suite certainly has the experience to help give the company’s brands an edge in the retail and foodservice world. CEO Kees Kruythoff was formerly President of Unilever North America. The leadership team also includes veterans of Nestlé and food investment firm Blue Horizon Corporation, which has invested in dozens of alternative protein companies. A good team doesn’t guarantee success, of course, but these veterans could leverage connections in retail, foodservice, and supply chain providers to optimize distribution and avoid pitfalls like production shortages.
Considering the ever-growing popularity of plant-based meat, it’s not necessarily surprising that we’re starting to see this type of umbrella parent company form. In fact, it’s like we’ll see more of them companies pop up as alt-meat competition heats up and companies vie for a bigger piece of the market.