The waning days of August usually mean a slowdown in news, but not so in the red hot food tech space. This week’s food tech funding news includes (yet another) quarter-billion round for food waste unicorn Apeel, a bug farm’s fresh $10 million, and the continued steady drumbeat of funding going into ghost kitchens.
Food waste reduction continues to garner investor interest and food-life extension startup Apeel is leading the pack. The company, which announced this week it had raised a $250 million Series E, plans to use its new funds to ramp up operations for 10 new supply networks over the next year to add to its already impressive 30 food suppliers and 40 retailers in 8 countries.
The new funding round comes just a year after its celebrity-infused (Oprah, Katie Perry) Series D – also for $250 million – and brings the company’s total funding to $635 million at a $2 billion valuation. That makes Apeel the most highly valued startup in food waste prevention, above Imperfect Foods (valued at $700 million in January of this year).
Apeel’s, um, appeal is that life-extension technology is perhaps one of the most effective tools to fight food waste at grocery stores, which throw away about one-third of produce in any given year. Apeel isn’t the only player in the space as Hazel and Ryp Labs (the 2019 Smart Kitchen Summit Startup Showcase winner) also have life-extension tech, but Apeel is the one with far and away the most market traction.
I’ll be watching to see if Apeel uses its funding and strong market position to continue to expand its product portfolio beyond its core life-extension coating technology. This year’s acquisition of hyperspectral imaging company ImpactVision was a move in that direction, and I can see the company making more adjacent moves under the broader food waste prevention umbrella.
Ghost Kitchens/Virtual Restaurants
C3, $10 Million: C3, a virtual restaurant startup that operates 40 different concepts as part of its virtual food hall concept, has secured a $10 million strategic investment from private equity firm TriArtisan Capital Advisors. The investment, announced this week, is part of a larger $80 million series B funding round announced last month.
BigSpoon Foods, $2 Million: BigSpoon Foods, a ghost kitchen and virtual restaurant operator based in India, has raised a $2 million pre-Series A round from Dubai-based NB Ventures. BigSpoon runs its own kitchens in a number of mid-sized (what it calls tier 2) cities and also has a portfolio of virtual restaurant brands. It offers a “digital franchise” model that turnkeys a new franchise with a ghost kitchen facility and an arsenal of delivery-only restaurant brands for approximately $20 thousand per location.
Beta Hatch, $10 Million: Cashmere Washington-based mealworm farm raised a $10 million funding round which it plans to use to expand production at its flagship production facility east of Seattle. Beta Hatch’s 42 thousand square foot facility produces mealworms for use in feed for livestock and pets and plans to use its cash infusion to increase production by 10x over the next year.
Melt&Marble, €750,000: Melt&Marble, formerly known as Biopetrolia, announced this week it had raised a €750,000 (~$876,000 USD) seed round to further develop its fermentation-based fats for plant-based foods. M&M and others like Motif are building out the toolbox for plant-based meat brands to make their products more meat-like.
Shandi, $700,000: Singapore-based Shandi, a maker of plant-based chicken analogs (including shreds, pieces, strips, and drumsticks), has raised a $700 thousand seed round. This round, its second seed round, was led by the large Singaporean food conglomerate Tolaram Group.
Delivery & Marketplaces
Trifecta, $20 Million: Organic meal kit startup Trifecta has raised a $20 million Series B. While many first-gen meal kit startups fizzled, some of the entrants’ focus on health and sustainability seems to be gaining traction. Trifecta, Thistle, and Freshrealm have all raised funding rounds this year, which means the category has moved beyond the cold-shoulder many of them got after the disappointing Blue Apron IPO and closures of companies like Chef’d and Plated. As for what it plans to do with the money, Trifecta will expand its meal offerings and hopes to (perhaps ill-advisedly)become ‘Peleton of Nutrition’ with an expanded set of digital offerings.
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