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Danone Manifesto Ventures Invests in Baby Food Disruptor

September 29, 2017

Danone announced it has acquired an undisclosed stake in Yooji, a French baby food startup, through its venture arm Danone Manifesto Ventures. Through the deal Danone now joins with existing investor Caravelle, a family-owned industrial group, and Capagro, the first venture capital fund in France dedicated to agriculture and food.

The deal was also facilitated through the efforts of Blédina – another brand owned by Danone that operates in the French infant nutrition market.

Founded in 2012, Yooji is disrupting the infant nutrition industry through providing frozen portion-sized organic products that use 100 percent natural ingredients with no salt or other additives. All of the company’s frozen vegetable purees (eggplant, broccoli, carrots, green beans, yams, peas, and pumpkin) are produced in their own facility and all vegetables used in their foods are sourced from organic farms located in the EU.  

The deal marks the fourth for Danone Manifesto Ventures since Danone launched it in 2016 as a way to capitalize upon consumer shifts toward healthier diets.

Like many global CPG companies, Danone has been challenged by shifting consumption trends driven by health-conscious buyers. Sluggish sales have driven these companies to launch food-focused venture capital funds as a means of gaining greater exposure through smaller, more nimble food brands that have the ability to rapidly connect with shifting consumer demands, and have a reputation for more natural, transparent, and niche category products.

Indeed, this strategy seems to be widely playing out across the industry as the largest food companies launch venture capital funds and accelerators to invest in smaller, more nimble food brands that have the ability to rapidly connect with shifting consumer demands and have a reputation for more natural, transparent, and niche category products.

One of the most prominent such funds is 301 Inc. launched by General Mills in October 2015. Others include the $125 million Acre Venture Partners launched by Campbell’s Soup; Eighteen94 (1894) Capital launched by Kellogg’s; Startup Next Food & Tech, which was launched by Land O’Lakes in partnership with Techstars; and Techstar Connection, launched by AB InBev’s venture arm, ZX Ventures, also in partnership with Techstars.

Previous investments made by Danone Manifesto Ventures include the acquisition of a significant minority stake in France’s Michel et Augustin, a producer of premium biscuits, dairy products, fresh desserts, and beverages; Farmer’s Fridge, a vending machine startup that sells organic salads and healthy snacks; and its most recent investment in AccelFoods Fund II – a move through which Danone can gain exposure to AccelFoods’ portfolio of 28 innovative and disruptive brands including: Exo, a producer of protein supplements and protein bars derived from crickets; Tea Drops, a producer of loose tea that dissolves in hot water without the need for a tea bag; Brami, a producer of lupini bean snacks; and mushroom-based superfood company Four Sigmatic.

-Lynda Kiernan

Lynda Kiernan is Editor with GAI Media and daily contributor to GAI News. If you would like to submit a contribution for consideration, please contact Ms. Kiernan at lkiernan@globalaginvesting.com.

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