$4M Seed Investment For Wild Friends Palm Oil Free Nut Butter
Katjesgreenfood, a food impact investor operating out of Berlin, just announced US nut butter company Wild Friends as the latest addition to their portfolio for 2018. Katjesgreenfood is a co-investor together with Cambridge Companies SPG, Echo Capital, the CircleUp Growth Fund and Portland Seed Fund for a combined total of four million dollars seed investment. Katjesgreenfood distinguishes itself from its sweet sister company Katjes - the third largest confectionary company in Germany after Haribo and Storck - by focusing on sustainable vegetarian food investments, while splitting their investments between companies from Germany and the US.
“We launched in the US market because in terms of ‘future food’ and investments, the US is usually three years ahead,” Katjesgreenfood CEO Dr. Manon Sarah Littek, told me just over a week ago, as they were preparing to announce the new Wild Friends investment, “Especially when you visit the west coast. It's more normal that people are investing [in food] there. I think we are the only ones [in Europe] investing as an impact investor into food CPG, because the CPG area is quite hard and difficult - it's capital intensive and slow growth, you really have to know the food market.”
Wild Friends ingredients are preservative and GMO free and they are the first nut butter company to be certified palm oil free as of August this year, when they submitted twenty one of their products to the accreditation programme, which all passed the assessment. The range of flavours like pumpkin spice peanut butter and ginger bread peanut butter have charmed the market.
The peanuts for Wild Friends products are sourced from Virginia-based Birdsong, which has a history going back over a hundred years and works with peanut farms in eleven states across the US. The almonds are from Waterford Nut orchards in central California, where their sustainability efforts include restoring groundwater by harnessing seasonal flood waters.
Keeley Tillotson and Erika Welsh founded Wild Friends in 2011. Their products are for sale nationwide and despite failing to land a deal on Shark Tank early on, the founders successfully secured plenty of funding through Kickstarter, investment platform CircleUp and investment firm Cambridge SPG. Last year Tillotson and Welsh were also featured on Forbes 30 Under 30.
In 2017, only 15% of venture capital went to teams with a female founder - even worse, only 2% of all-female founders get funding in Silicon Valley.
“Everybody talks about it, but nobody really gives female founders money,” Littek said, “What’s interesting about our portfolio is that more than half our companies are female-led. I think it's because we deal with sustainable food companies - there's more purpose behind it."
Other recent investments in the Katjesgreenfood portfolio include Sara Michelle Gellar’s Foodstirs, which aims to disrupt the conventional bakery market with organic baking kits and mixes; Minneapolis based muesli company Seven Sundays and Fora’s FabaButter, a vegan butter made out of aquafaba - the leftover water after cooking chickpeas (Fora source theirs from hummus manufacturers, which would otherwise go to waste). Aquafaba is something of a wonder ingredient, which can be whipped into meringues or mousse - and now butter.
"Here in Germany, the whole start-up scene is really male-dominated. We do look for diversity, it's a core value for Katjes as a family company, it's not that we exclude men - it happens a little bit by chance because we are in the sustainability industry where there are more women around, but it's also something that we definitely support," Littek told me, when I asked if they make a point of investing in women-led companies, "There are a lot of people that don't give money to female-led companies - that's also what I hear from a lot of women. For us it's more something that we support."