(3532)#foodfodie | Danone’s venture arm invests $10M in plant-based Laird Superfood

Dive Brief:

  • Danone Manifesto Ventures, the investment arm of the French food giant, was the sole investor in a funding round for Laird Superfood, a creator of plant-based superfood products. Danone invested $10 million in the five-year-old company.
  • Laird Superfood will use the capital to develop new plant-based offerings and expand its manufacturing capacity.
  • "Through our time with Paul [Hodge, the CEO], Laird and the leadership team, we have developed a deep conviction in Laird Superfood's culture and its understanding of the needs of today's consumer," Laurent Marcel, CEO of Danone Manifesto Ventures, said in a statement. "Laird Superfood's commitment to a healthy lifestyle and the quality of their functional products and ingredients will continue to appeal to consumers and retailers."

Dive Insight:

Co-founded in 2015 by big wave surfer Laird Hamilton, his decision to closely watch what he ate evolved into a brand with a goal to bring clean, simple superfoods to the masses.

If the $10 million investment from Danone Manifesto Ventures is any indication, the maker of plant-based functional products and ingredients has positioned itself as a strong player in a space popular with consumers. The company wouldn't disclose sales because it is private.

The investment by Danone continues a push to invest in companies that go beyond its focus in animal- and plant-based dairy offerings such as Activia, Silk and So Delicious. Since launching four years ago, Danone's venture arm has invested in at least 15 companies, including Sustainable Bioproducts, an alternative protein manufacturer; Yumble, a children's meal delivery company; Harmless Harvest, which makes coconut products; and Forager Project, a company that produces organic plant-based foods and beverages. These brands fit the venture arm's mission of supporting and developing new companies with high-growth potential that encourage healthier eating and drinking.

For Laird Superfood, the investment gives it extra cash to compete in an increasingly crowded plant-based space. While its focus on functional products and ingredients gives it a valuable way to stand out, food is a competitive marketplace and Laird will need the funding to expand its product offerings and boost its manufacturing capabilities. Danone's experience with other startups in its venture arm, a few of them in the plant-based arena, no doubt proved attractive to Laird Superfood in looking for a partner.

"After thoughtful consideration and developing a strong relationship with the [Danone Manifesto Ventures] team, we believe they are the best partner to help us deliver the mission and vision of the company," Hodge said. "Danone aims to inspire healthier and more sustainable dietary practices around the world, which is perfectly aligned with the vision of our founders."

As big food companies aim to position themselves to compete with new trends and trendy upstarts, Danone's venture arm investments appear to give the French dairy giant a meaningful chance to successfully compete in other areas outside of its core — a fact that has eluded other CPG companies in today's rapidly changing marketplace.

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