Vegetarian frozen food brand Strong Roots looks to expand in the U.S. with $18.3 million funding – gpgmail


The U.K.-based vegetarian frozen food company Strong Roots has picked up $18.3 million in funding from the private equity firm, Goode Partners, as it looks to expand its U.S. presence and build out its technological capabilities.

Advised by global mid-market investment bank, Alantra, Strong Roots has a presence in the U.S. in retailers including Target, Wegmans and Whole Foods, and in the UK at Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer.

Neither a direct to consumer company nor a novel technology developer, Strong Roots is hoping to use the new financing to expand its research and development efforts to provide more functional foods and nutrients, according to chief executive officer Samuel Dennigan.

The company is on track to move $50 million worth of frozen vegan food items in the calendar year, and it expects its sales to more than quadruple over the next four years.

The company’s exceptional growth comes at a time when consumers globally are looking for healthy options. Strong Roots offers a range of tasty plant-based food designed for busy lives. Found in your freezer aisle, the award-winning line includes premium root vegetables, veggie burgers and freezer favorites like Cauliflower Hash Browns.

The company has found a strong partner in Goode Partners, whose previous investments include AllSaints and La Colombe.

Dennigan’s career in agribusiness stretches back 15 years, but his family has long been in the food production and distribution business.

“I started working with some international brands in the late nineties and saw how CPG companies were doing things in a poor way,” says Dennigan. At first the company thought it would go after fresh foods, but saw more opportunity in the frozen food aisle.

Strong Roots began selling its frozen foods in 2015 just as the vegan and health food craze began to surge.

While the company has spent the past four years building up a brand as a vegan alternative in frozen foods, Dennigan is now ready to expand into other categories. “The pieces of IP that are going to be developed and placed in market in the next 12 months especially around the fortification of the products,” he says. “What our research is showing us is that there’s a huge opportunity between extruded and food and what we’re doing.”

Dennigan is, of course, referring to companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods which have built protein replacement businesses over the past ten years and have surged into consumer consciousness with big deals at fast food chains (and no small amount of kerfuffles).

The success of those two companies has set up a feeding frenzy among investors who are voraciously scarfing up vegetarian food companies to add to their portfolios.

 


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Walmart tops U.S. online grocery market, with 62% more customers than next nearest rival – gpgmail


Walmart is dominating the U.S. online grocery market, according to new research out this week from the analysts at Second Measure. The nationwide retailer today offers grocery pickup and delivery in nearly every U.S. state, and had 62% more customers in June than its next nearest rival. And no, in this case, that rival is not Amazon — it’s Instacart.

Like Walmart, Instacart also operates across the U.S., offering both pickup and delivery services.

The same is true for Amazon Prime Now and Peapod, while other competitors are limited to delivery only — like Target-owned Shipt and FreshDirect. Meanwhile, AmazonFresh offers delivery, plus pickup in Seattle.

While Walmart has been steadily capitalizing on its existing brick-and-mortar footprint and proximity to its customer base, Amazon’s strategy in the online grocery space appears to be one of confusion. The retailer is competing against itself by offering two services — Amazon Prime Now and AmazonFresh. The latter, an older service operated before Amazon’s Whole Foods acquisition, is actually one of the few online grocery businesses in decline, the report discovered. Founded over a decade ago, AmazonFresh has only grown to 15 U.S. cities and shut down in others.

This June, AmazonFresh sales were down by 19% year-over-year — the worst sales change in the new research report, the analysts noted.

Prime Now, on the other hand, is booming. Year-over-year sales nearly tripled in June. This is not only due to Whole Foods, whose assortment was added in February 2018, and is now a big driver for orders. Consumers also likely opt for Prime Now because it’s offered as part of their annual Amazon Prime subscription, while AmazonFresh is an additional $14.99 per month.

Prime Now has also been expanding to more U.S. markets, and is on track to reach even more as Amazon invests in building additional Whole Foods locations and possibly other non-Whole Foods stores. 

The new research also notes that Target’s Shipt could be doing better than its estimates indicate.

Since Shipt’s acquisition by Target in December 2017, Shipt’s customer base has grown by 69%. While a membership is required to shop the various grocers and stores offered in the app, Target deliveries don’t require a subscription.

In June, Target launched a dedicated online grocery shopping site on Target.com, powered by Shipt. Second Measure says it cannot distinguish any grocery orders that originate in the Target app or website, so Shipt’s customer counts may be higher than it’s able to determine.

Another question the report answers is to what extent Instacart has been impacted by the loss of Whole Foods.

Following its 2017 acquisition by Amazon, Whole Foods ended its relationship with its first and older delivery partner last year. The company recently claimed, however, that Whole Foods was only 5% of sales. Second Measure seems to back this up, finding that Instacart had 23% more customers in June than it had when the partnership ended in December 2018.  

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Meanwhile, one exception to Walmart’s dominance in online grocery is in the unique urban metro that is New York. Here, locally headquartered FreshDirect has 31% of the NYC customer base for online grocery. (Note that Second Measure counts customers at each company they use — so customers who shop from more than one are counted twice.) Walmart only has 2% of the NYC metro, by comparison.

It also has small percentages in several other big metros, including San Francisco (2%), Boston (8%) and Los Angeles (9%). Walmart is huge in both Dallas and Phoenix, on the other hand — but both have been early markets for online grocery.

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The report additionally found there’s strong loyalty among online grocery shoppers. Unlike with meal delivery services, no grocery delivery company shared more than 9% of another company’s customer base in the second quarter of 2019.

The market still has room to grow, as well. Only 12% of U.S. consumers have tried at least one of the grocery services the report analyzed, up from 9% in June 2018.


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