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Japanese Food Tech Startup Raises Seed Round from Global Brain

November 20, 2017

BASE FOOD, a Tokyo-based food tech startup, has raised a Seed round of ¥100 million (just under US$1 million) from Japanese venture capital firm Global Brain.

Founded in April 2016 by Shun Hashimoto – formerly involved in the development of self-driving car technology with the DeNA Co. – BASE FOOD began developing its first product Base Pasta, a functional staple food that contains the full nutrition spectrum of 31 nutrients.

“The idea of nutritiously complete foods like Soylent are excellent, but it may be difficult for some people to adopt because they are forced to change their eating habits into drink-based ones,” Hashimoto told The Bridge. “I thought that improving conventional food itself would be better than serving something new.”

Working within the mission statement, “Make people’s life healthier by innovating staple foods,” BASE FOOD began commercially selling its Base Pasta in February of this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign in November 2016. After conducting trials based on consumer feedback, the startup has seen sales of 40,000 in the first six months on the market.

The startup believes that eating food is not only about taking in nutrients, but about the social aspect of gathering to eat real meals, and Base Pasta is already being served at the Peperosso Italian restaurant in Setagaya, Tokyo; the Odorumen Akira food truck; and to the professional baseball team, the DeNA Baystars, to ensure players maintain their nutrient intake.

Looking forward, BASE FOOD is planning to use the tie-in with Global Brain to target the U.S. for geographic expansion later this year into next, through Amazon or direct-to-consumer sales through regular purchase models. The startup also is planning to expand their product line, add to their team, and build their brand to gain repeat customers.

“Global Brain will leverage its resources to support BASE FOOD on developing their business, including building partnership/ alliances with its potential clients internationally and domestically,” Global Brain stated in a recent company statement announcing the investment.

Form and Function

Demand for functional foods continues to grow. Consumers not only want to eat a meal, but have that meal help advance them toward better health. More engaged consumers, an aging population looking to maintain their health through preventative measures in the face of rising health care costs, and the spreading of a holistic view of eating as a part of a more satisfying lifestyle are driving the category from being a niche market to one being entered by investors, as well as some of the leading global CPG companies.

The global functional food market was valued at US$129.4 million in 2015, is expected to see a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 8 percent through the end of 2021, according to a report issued by Technavio in December 2016. Drilling down, the category is expected to see a CAGR of 6.53 percent in the U.S. alone between 2017 and 2021, according to Research and Markets.

Trends and numbers such as these have led some of the biggest names in food (and other industries) to seek out a foothold in the functional food space through capital investments. Earlier this year General Mills led a $6.5 million Series D for functional food and beverage company Farmhouse Culture, while Irish food and bio-tech company Nuritas confirmed that U2 band members Bono and The Edge were two investors included in the company’s second and latest funding round which gained the startup €2 million in 2016. Last year also saw PepsiCo. invest in KeVita, a leading producer of function probiotic beverages, and later launch its own probiotic juice beverage product line through Tropicana.

“We found a lot of high net worth individuals looking at technology,” Neil Foster, commercial manager at Nuritas, told Froghop in April of this year. “They see food, health and saving the environment as cool things to use technology for.”

-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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