12 FEBRUARY 2020

Brandless calls it a day, blaming "fiercely competitive" D2C market

US non-branded goods firm Brandless has ceased trading, it has confirmed.

In a statement on its website, the San Francisco-based e-commerce firm said: "After more than two amazing years of bringing customers across the country better for you and better for the planet products, Brandless is halting operations."

Brandless provided healthy foods and personal care products under its own Brandless label with a single $3 price point, although it later brought in higher price items.

Set up by entrepreneurs Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler, it suggested that by going direct to the consumer it could offer its goods at a 40% discount to comparable branded products. It also pointed to its ability to strip out the necessity to pay a premium for branded goods - something it referred to as a "brand tax".

But now it has admitted defeat for its model.

Its statement said: "While the Brandless team set a new bar for the types of products consumers deserve and at prices they expect, the fiercely competitive direct-to-consumer market has proven unsustainable for our current business model."

In an upbeat closing remark it added: "We're hopeful the future holds a new version of Brandless and that we see you again."

Reports in the US media suggest Brandless, which raised more than $50m prior to launch, is being forced to lay off its more than 70 employees and shut down. 

Sharkey and Leffler hoped to utilise the likes of Facebook and Instagram to build an audience and find customers online. In the food sector it sold products including canned goods, salad dressings, sauces and snacks.

On launch, back in 2017. it said: "Brandless is reframing the outmoded CPG market and starting a movement that ushers in a new wave of consumer-activist culture and transparency."

The company raised another $240m in a funding round in August 2018.


 12 February 2020

US plant-based specialist Alpha Foods raises millions in funding round

California-based meat-alternatives company Alpha Foods has raised $28m in a funding round led by local investor AccelFoods.

It was joined by mostly existing investors in Alpha Foods, including New Crop Capital, Green Monday Ventures and Blue Horizon.

New York-based AccelFoods said the funding will support Alpha Foods' "continued growth as an emerging global leader in the plant-based meal category".

Alpha Foods has a portfolio of more than 25 vegan and non-GMO products, which are available in more than 9,000 stores across the US, including branches of Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons/Safeway, and Wegmans supermarkets. 

It was founded by Loren Wallis, former founder of Good Karma Foods, which was acquired by dairy giant Dean Foods in 2018, and Cole Orobetz, a former venture capital investor in the food and ag-tech sector. 

Alpha Foods said it plans to put the latest funds toward new product launches, securing "key talent", expanding its distribution channels, both domestically and internationally, as well as boosting its marketing and sales support.

Orobetz said: "As more and more people actively seek out plant-based options, whether for their health or the environment, we are looking to expand our innovations within the category and bring easy to prepare products to a wider audience. 

"We are so fortunate to continue our incredible partnership with AccelFoods and take the brand to the next level through new products, distribution, and talent."

AccelFoods, a specialist investor in the food and beverage space, which has also invested in companies such as Four Sigmatic and Koia, was co-lead in Alpha Foods' previous fundraising round in Q1 of last year

Its managing partner, Jordan Gaspar, said: "We are in the early days of plant-based consumption. As a portable, functional food business geared towards the newly emergent flexitarian consumer, the Alpha platform meets all of its customers' snack and mealtime needs.

"We couldn't be prouder to lead this strong nexus of collaborative investors, who had the opportunity to organically build trust this past year allowing for an incredibly successful outcome in this financing."


11 February 2020

Saputo commits to wide-ranging environmental goals

Canadian dairy giant Saputo has unveiled environmental targets linked to climate, water and waste that it wants to achieve by 2025.

The company said it proposes to allocate additional resources to support the execution of this plan, which it describes as a "formal commitment," including a three-year investment of $37.6m.

Amongst its targets are to reduce CO2 intensity in its operations by 20% and energy intensity by 10% Saputo also wants to reduce total waste by 25% and food waste by 50% as well as reducing packaging by 15% and ensuring 100% of its packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.

"This represents another strong step in the company's journey to create shared value for its stakeholders through the Saputo Promise, its approach to social, environmental and economic performance," Saputo said. 

Saputo said it expects to deliver on these goals with targeted initiatives focusing on renewable electricity, resource conservation and sustainable packaging. It has also established a governance framework to "foster company-wide accountability and ownership" with Carl Colizza, president and chief operating officer (North America), serving as its executive champion.

It also said it will be liaising with the companies it works with to help them tackle issues linked to sustainability.

"Looking ahead, Saputo will extend efforts to its supply chain to further assist in helping address industry-wide environmental considerations," it said.

Last week, Saputo signalled its intention of building a presence in the plant-based area.

However, the company said it has no plans to launch branded, plant-based products.


10 February 2020

Italy's Barilla, local peer Gruppo Petti pull plug on deal

Italy-based food group Barilla and local tomato products business Gruppo Petti have decided not to progress a planned deal.

Last month it was announced that Parma-based pasta and sauces group Barilla, behind brands such as Barilla, Mulino Bianco and Pavesi, was to buy a 75% stake in Gruppo's Italian Food business, which produces tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and ready-to-cook sauces.

However, in a joint statement sent to just-food by Barilla, the companies said: "Barilla Group and Italian Food of the Petti Group have decided by mutual consent not to proceed with the finalisation of the partnership agreement subject to common evaluation in recent months. 

"Italian Food will continue to develop its Tuscan tomato supply chain; Barilla will continue to evaluate with interest development opportunities consistent with its core business."

No reason was given for the decision not to proceed.

The deal, which had been approved by the country's competition watchdog, would have seen Barilla acquire the Petti tomato preserves factory in Venturina, Tuscany. 

Italian Food is managed by Pasquale Petti, a fourth-generation member of the Petti family.



Ocean Spray CEO exits after harassment policy violation

Ocean Spray has terminated the contract of CEO Bobby Chacko.

The US group, which produces a range of cranberry juice products, fruit-based snacks and sauces, said Chacko had violated the company's anti-harassment policy.

James White has been named interim CEO and the search for a permanent replacement is underway.

The company declined to give further details on Chacko's exit. Ocean Spray chairman Peter Dhillon said: "At Ocean Spray, we have pledged to hold everyone accountable and ensure that every decision is made in the best interest of the cooperative."

The chairman praised Chacko's contribution to Ocean Spray, saying the former CEO "helped to right the ship ... and set us on a new path".

"However," Dhillon added, "no matter how valuable someone's contributions may be, we simply cannot accept a violation of our company policy."

Chacko joined Ocean Spray in 2017 as the company's chief growth officer. He was named CEO in 2018, replacing the outgoing Randy Papadellis.

Prior to joining Ocean Spray, Chacko served as regional president of Mars Drinks' North American business. He previously held various positions at The Coca-Cola Co, Anheuser-Busch InBev and GE Capital.



DuPont Nutrition launches new enzyme series for white breads and buns

DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences, a global food solution provider, has launched its POWERBake 6000 and 7000 enzyme series, created for European recipes.

The DuPont business unit claims its new enzymes can preserve the taste and quality of white breads and buns while meeting clean label requirements.

DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences Europe food enzymes regional industry leader Maria Brandt said: “Consumers are looking for bakery products with friendlier labels, driven by their increasing concerns about sustainable eating and heightened concerns of potential negative health effects.

“With our new POWERBake series, we can provide improver houses and bakeries with the ability to meet these needs while maintaining quality in their sliced breads and buns.

“No other solution on the market offers such an effective ability to tackle the widespread demand for cleaner labels in bread.”

The company based the POWERBake 6000 series on its new lipase for its role in emulsification. It helps in dough strengthening and crumb structure.

The company developed its new oxidative module, POWERBake 7000, to improve the performance of white bread and buns.

DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences Food Enzymes global business leader Allyson Fish said: “DuPont has been a forefront innovator in emulsification technologies for the bread industry for decades.

“Tapping into deep ingredient knowledge, full formula understanding and production experience across all types of baked goods, we enable the bread industry to formulate throughout the clean label spectrum to answer customer demands.”

Last September, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences expanded its enzyme range with the launch of DuPont Danisco POWERPasta.

This enzymes range will help to maintain the quality of durum pasta, as well as authentic colour.


 6 February 2020

Iberchem Group acquires flavour companies Flavor Inn and Duomei

Spanish firm Iberchem Group has completed the acquisition of two flavour companies, Flavor Inn Corporation and Nanchang Duomei Bio-Tech (Duomei). None of the parties involved has divulged any financial details.

Iberchem Group CEO Ramón Fernández said: “We are pleased to welcome Duomei and Flavor Inn within the Scentium family.

“This announcement represents another key step in the strategic expansion of Scentium (the flavour division of the Iberchem Group) in Asia, and also in the roll-out of our M&A strategy at a Group level.”

Based in Malaysia, Flavor Inn has manufactured flavours for customers in the South-East Asian region since 1996. Its portfolio includes natural and artificial flavours used in confectionery, savoury, bakery, dairy and beverage products.

Duomei, based in Nanchang, China, has an established presence in the Chinese flavours industry.

Fernández added: “We are confident that both companies will add value and expertise to our existing Flavour offer in China and South East Asia.

“Both Duomei and Flavor Inn share Scentium’s customer-centric culture and values. We are expecting a smooth integration of their activity into our organization in the upcoming year.”

The acquisition forms part of Iberchem’s merger and acquisition strategy, initiated last year with the purchase of South Africa’s Versachem.

Iberchem has released financial results for the full year ending 31 December 2019. It reported net revenues of €174m, a net increase of 19%.

In October 2018, Iberchem Group opened a production facility in Bangkok, Thailand. The new facility included a creative centre, a production plant and a commercial office.


5 February 2020

Ardent Mills acquires Andean Naturals' quinoa operation in all-US deal

US-based flour-milling business Ardent Mills is purchasing local business Andean Naturals' quinoa sourcing, cleaning and packaging operation for an undisclosed sum.

Denver, Colorado-based Ardent Mills, a joint venture between branded food business Conagra Brands, agri-food giant Cargill and CHS, said the deal fits in with its strategy of investing further in speciality grain capabilities. The deal to buy the quinoa operation - based in Yuba City, California - is expected to close later this month.

Dan Dye, CEO of Ardent Mills, said: "Our industry is rapidly changing as consumers' appetite for variety in their diets continues to increase. As a result, we are making proactive investments in [its speciality grains business unit] The Annex to meet consumer demand for high-quality, nutritious grains and other sources of plant-based ingredients. With this acquisition, we will be able to offer a complete solution for quinoa and other gluten-free ingredients." 

Yuba City will be Ardent Mills' first gluten-free sourcing and cleaning facility with the ability to expand to additional grains. It follows the acquisition of an organic grain elevator in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and the Denver RiNo investment to clean and pack speciality grains. 

Andean Naturals' president and founder Sergio Nunez de Arco will join Ardent Mills. 

He said: "For Andean Naturals, this mutually beneficial acquisition is the natural progression of our mission to share quinoa with the world. While we've built expertise in quinoa sourcing and connections to South American farmers, Ardent Mills brings milling and technical expertise, access to markets and the ability to scale quickly with a sustainable approach." 

Ardent Mills has more than 35 flour mills and bakery-mix facilities, along with a speciality bakery and Mobile Innovation Center, all located in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico.