French yogurt giant joins Campbell Soup in backing AccelFoods
Large food and beverage companies struggling with tepid sales
Danone, the French yogurt giant grappling with sluggish sales, has turned to a venture capital firm that backs startups selling everything from snack bars containing cricket protein to tater tots made from cauliflower.
A unit of the company, Danone Ventures, has invested in AccelFoods, a fund run by two women that looks for upstart natural and organic brands that are stealing shelf space and sales from established food companies — like Danone itself. Both companies confirmed the deal.
It’s the third investment for Danone Ventures — which was founded less than a year ago — and the latest example of a large food company launching an in-house VC fund in a bid to reignite sales growth. The unit has also put money into Farmer’s Fridge, which makes vending machines that sell organic salads and snacks, and a French baked-goods purveyor.
Founded in 2013 by managing partners Jordan Gaspar and Lauren Jupiter, New York-based AccelFoods has backed about 30 companies. The firm reopened its fund to make room for Danone, raising an additional $15 million in a round that increased its total pot to $35 million. Acre Venture Partners, a fund affiliated with Campbell Soup Co., previously invested in the fund.
Struggling amid a broad shift in eating and shopping habits, large food and beverage companies have increasingly invested in small startups as they search for the next big product in a rapidly changing food landscape. Many companies, including General Mills Inc. and Kellogg Co., have launched their own VC funds. The investments help tap an entrepreneurial spirit that can be difficult to maintain at large global companies.
Danone shares fell after the world’s largest yogurt maker reported the third consecutive quarterly drop in volume and irked analysts by saying it will include this month’s $10 billion takeover of WhiteWave Foods Co. in its like-for-like sales figures for 2017…