Danone’s venture unit was part of an additional $15m investment round that boosted AccelFoods’ funds to $35m, Bloomberg reported, greatly expanding the scope in which AccelFoods can nurture its startups.
“While our philosophy has always been centered around investing in companies in multiple stages, we are now able to write checks that range from $250K to $2m, allowing us to invest as much as $3m (or more) in a given company,” Lauren Jupiter, co-founder and Managing Partner at AccelFoods, told FoodNavigator-USA.
Accelfoods declined to comment on the specific amounts Danone Manifesto Ventures and Acre Venture Partners (Campbell Soup's venture unit) invested. The incubator's partnership with Acre was part of the initial close of $20m in Q1 of 2016, and the fund was reopened this year to add another $15m from several new limited partners, including Danone Manifesto Venture's.
The incubator focuses its investments on natural and organic startups. Brands under AccelFoods’ wing include snack company JicaChips, hot cereal brand Purely Pinole, and ‘better-for-you,’ low sodium bouillon brand BOU.
Keeping authenticity, bridging the gap
Cash coming from the two VC funds is bridging “the gap between the innovative thinking of start-up organizations and the resources they need to scale,” Jupiter said.
AccelFoods will still remain fully independent, with all decision-making power ultimately lying with the managing partners of the fund, but its ‘Big Food’ investors are “hands-on, value-add investors with unique resources and insights to bring to the table,” she said.
A common concern in the industry is the consumer misconception that indie food brands, even with just a hint of Big Food backing, will lose their authenticity. So independent brands partnering with accelerators make it a point to advertise how they still stay true to their main mission, and that the Big Food backers are providing support from a distance.
“Our belief is that cooperation between the driving forces in the industry—strategics (like Danone and Campbell), investors, retailers, and distributors–fosters innovation and growth and allows early-stage companies to bring innovation to consumers more quickly,” Jupiter said.
“While there is tremendous opportunity for our investors to act as meaningful resources to our portfolio companies, AccelFoods and our portfolio companies operate independently of our strategic investors,” she added.
“With that in mind, the goal of AccelFoods and our investors is to support the mission and vision of the industry's most innovative thinkers, not to alter or dilute that vision.”