List: Sources of Equity Financing for Food Startups

Equity Financing for Food Startups

As someone who loves food, wants to change the world, and believes that start-ups and early stage financiers can help drive much-needed change in our food industry, I keep tabs on investors working in the food and agriculture spaces. Here’s a quick list of groups working in the industry — and for startups, potential sources of equity financing.

Note: Originally published on April 28, 2015. The current publication date reflects the last time the list was updated.


What: Time-bound programs that typically offer mentorship, co-working space, and usually funding, often in the form of equity. Check out my list of accelerators and incubators here. The cash you’ll receive from these programs is usually not very substantial. If you’re truly fundraising, keep reading.

Angel Investors

What: Angels are individual investors who choose to invest their personal money. They often invest at the seed round. Note: Some angel investors prefer debt-financing to equity financing. (And as a start-up, you might prefer that, too.) More on convertible notes later.

Angel Food NetworkChicagoILno investments as of 2015
Austin Foodshed InvestorsAustinTX“connecting accredited investors with local sustainable food companies”
Branch Venture GroupBostonMAProvides funding and advice to early-stage food companies with a focus on beverage CPG, foodtech, and agtech spaces
Colorado Food InvestmentsBoulderCOsustainable food investments
Food AngelsNew YorkNYfood, alcohol, CPG, drink or foodtech companies
Hyde Park AngelsChicagoILthey have a consumer group that does some food business investing
Slow MoneyNew YorkNY“$57 million has been invested in more than 632 local and organic food enterprises through our network”
Sustainable Local Food Investment Group (SLoFIG)ChicagoILsupporting Chicago’s foodshed
The Cascadia Foodshed Funding Project (CFFP)EdmondsWAcollaboration of foundation and individual impact investors seeking to use market-based strategies to grow the Pacific Northwest’s regional food economy

Equity Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has gained a lot of attention in the last decade. There are two types.

Cash-for-perks: Crowdfunding is a way to take your fundraising efforts to the crowd. In exchange for some kind of perk (a shout out, early access to a new product, a t-shirt, etc.), startups get cash from the crowd.  See the list of crowdfunding platforms dedicated to food & beverage, consumer goods, and agriculture here.

Cash-for-equity: The other model for crowdfunding, which became a legal reality after the Title IV of the JOBS Act Jobs Act got the green light, is cash-for-equity.  Investors may be angels or funds, which puts CrowdFunding (for equity) nicely between Accelerators & Venture Capital in terms of sources of equity. The platforms listed below curate deal flow for their investors, so you’ll have an additional round of selling to do just to get listed. From there, each investor makes their own decision on whether or not they’re interested in investing.

AgFunderSan FranciscoCAAgTech
CircleUpSan FranciscoCAConsumer Goods, including food & beverage
FundersClubSan FranciscoCAFunds a variety of startups; food startups that have utilized this resource include SpoonRocket, Zesty, Goldbely, and Instacart
Venture.coBurlingtonVAEarly stage investment bank packaging and selling raises from $400k-$15M; features some consumer-facing companies including food & bev

Venture Capital

What: VCs are institutional investors (i.e., individuals investing from a fund). Venture Capital firms usually invest at a slightly later stage than angels and in larger amounts, but these things are usually functions of their fund size, mandate, and investment themes. Venture Capital funding is hard to get.

Agri-Innovation Venture Capital FundNorwichUnited Kingdom
AgTech Innovation FundDavisCA
Aqua Capital ManagementOmahaNEwater rights investment and management
AquacopiaNew YorkNYVenture Capital for Aquaculture
ArmoniaGreenwichCTregenerative farmland, brands & funds (focus on grass-fed beef)
Arthur Ventures Growth FundFargoNDfocused on software, but sometimes makes ag software investments – Fargo, ND & Minneapolis
Avrio CapitalCalgary, Toronto, MontrealCanada“innovative food & agriculture companies”
Better Food VenturesMenlo ParkCAFood/Tech
Blueberry VenturesSan FranciscoCA“innovate brands in the food and beverage space”
Boulder Food Group (BFG)BoulderCOFood & Beverage
Bradmer FoodsBaltimoreMDConsulting & Investment Firm
Capitol Food VenturesWashingtonDCbusiness advisory and investment firm for food & ag businesses
CAVU Venture PartnersAustinTXCAVU Venture Partners is a venture capital firm that invests in firms in food and beverage; $365M fund
Clearwell GroupTampaFL
Cleveland AvenueChicagoILStarted by McDonald’s former CEO Don Thompson, this VC fund is focused on food, beverage, and restaurant concepts
Cultivian SandboxChicagoILAgTech
Cultivian VenturesCarmelIN
Data CollectiveSan FranciscoCAfocused on big data; has made several AgTech investments
Dom Capital GroupChicagoILfocused on restaurants & hospitality
Edible VenturesBostonMAcurrently raising a fund
Fair Food FundAnn ArborMIfunds good food businesses
Farm2050Palo AltoCAAgTech
Fresh Source CapitalCambridgeMAsustainable food & agriculture
Fund the FoodAshvilleALstudent-led fund started by the Kirchner Private Capital Group, focused on food security
Gastronome VenturesSan DiegoCASpecialty Food
GreenSoil InvestmentsTel Aviv, Torontoproducts and services focused on smart and efficient use of resources such as land and water
InventagesLondon, Hong KongLife sciences, nutrition, and wellness
Isocline VenturesCharlestonSCWine & Spirits
JumpCapitalChicagoILrecently invested in several food companies
Khosla VenturesMenlo ParkCArecently invested in several food companies
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Green Growth FundMenlo ParkCAhistorically interested in CleanTech; venturing into AgTech now
Lewis & Clark VenturesSt. LouisMO“We Provide Series A | B Round Venture Capital To High Potential Innovators Throughout The Midwest”
Liquid Asset BrandsChicagoILfocused on innovative beverage brands, Liquid Asset invests from seed to series B
MaveronSeattle, San Franciscoconcentrates on consumer start-ups only
MetaBrand’s Capital PillarEdisonNJconsumer products with a focus on food and beverage, these guys provide both debt and equity financing and also provide advisory services
Mokja VenturesWashingtonDC$5M fund for local restaurants
New Crop CapitalWashington, DCplant based foods
New Ground VenturesWestportCTFoodTech, Branded Food & Beverage
NGEN PartnersNew YorkNY
Powerplant VenturesLos AngelesCAflying a little under the radar, these guys have invested in Thrive Market and REBBL; focused on plant-based ventures
Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund“Part of Rabo Private Equity, the Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund will invest in early-stage food and agriculture companies in the United States and Western Europe.”
Raptor GroupBostonMArecently invested in several food companies
Salt Partners GroupSan FranciscoCAFood & Beverage
Salt Venture PartnersBostonMAFoodTech; Boston and SF
Seed to Growth (S2G)ChicagoILtransformative food and agriculture companies
SJF VenturesDurhamNCAgTech; NYC and SF
Smallholding InvestmentsSan FranciscoCAearly stage ($1m-$10m revenue) food and consumer products
Sonoma BrandsSonomaCAfounded by Krave Jerky founder
SOS VenturesNew YorkNYruns the FoodX accelerator and has made several investments in the food space
Spiral Sun VenturesChicagoIL“We are a mission-based seed capital fund that promotes a healthier lifestyle by investing in companies that create better-for-you consumer products.”
True North Venture PartnersChicagoIL“invests in early stage companies with disruptive innovations that can reshape socially important industries such as energy, water, agriculture and waste.”
Upfront VenturesSanta MonicaCAPartner Kara Nortman backed Power Supply/Territory in their most recent round
Uprise VenturesNew YorkNYinvested in Sir Kensington’s; focus on the consumer space; emphasize connecting companies with key influencers
Valley Oak InvestmentsSan FranciscoCAEarly-stage food, agriculture, and health & wellness companies
Village CapitalWashingtonDCAlso invests in ag, ag-tech, and aquaculture

Other VC groups making occasional food investments: Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Hospitality Capital (NYC), Maveron LLC, SV Angel, True Ventures, Obvious Collection, Revolution (Steve Case: Sweetgreen), Yellowstone Capital

Corporate Venture Capital 

What: Corporate VCs are institutional investors in the sense that they’re investing out of a fund, but their investments are usually bankrolled by a parent corporation who wants to fund innovations in their industry (often because it gives them a line-of-sight into emerging trends and opportunities). Depending on the size of the fund and its strategy, these groups may have been formed as part of the firm’s M&A strategy. Note that CPGs launching an internal fund is a strong and growing trend.

20 Million and ChangeVenturaCAPatagonia’s clothing, food, water, energy, and waste fund
301 Inc.MinneapolisMNGeneral Mills’ corporate VC
7-VenturesDallasTX711’s VC Fund
Acre Venture PartnersSanta MonicaCACampbell’s $125M fund
Boulder Brands Investment GroupBoulderCOBoulder Brand’s early stage investment group; they’ve got an M&A group, too
Constellation VenturesVictorNYConstellation Brand’s venture arm; emphasis on spirits
Cultivate VenturesWashingtonD.C.Hain Celestial’s venture arm
Distill VenturesLondonUnited KingdomDiageo’s VC fund for investing in alcoholic and non-nonalcoholic beverage brands
Dupont VenturesAgriculture, etc
Eighteen94Battle CreekMIKellogg’s $100M fund that launched in June 2017
Emil Capital PartnersGreenwichCTowned by Tengelmann Group
General Mills VenturesMinneapolisMN(for brands with revenues of $3MM or more)
Maumee VenturesMaumeeOHAg Innovation, owned by The Andersons
Monsanto Growth VenturesSan FranciscoCAAgTech
Tyson New Ventures, LLCChicagoILTyson Food’s new $150MM fund focused on innovation in its core fresh meats, poultry and prepared foods businesses
Unilever VenturesEnglewood CliffsNJUnilver’s €450mm fund headquartered in London, with a US office in Englewood Cliffs, NJ
VEBAtlantaGACoca Cola’s fund
ZX VenturesNew YorkNYAB-InBev’s VC fund for investing in alcoholic beverages

Growth Equity

What: Growth Equity shops are institutional investors (i.e., individuals investing from a fund). Growth Equity firms invest at much later stages, and at much greater amounts, than VC firms. Conceptually, you might think of them as sitting between venture capital and private equity (see below), but growth equity is ultimately a segment of private equity.  These investors prefer de-risked investments, invest when companies have tens of millions of dollars in revenues and/or EBITDA, and create value through profitable revenue growth. Hence, growth equity.

2x Consumer Products Growth PartnersChicagoILGenerally with revenue between $2 million and $25 million; no pre-revenue businesses
Advantage Capital Agribusiness PartnersNew YorkNYagriculture investing; some growth equity, some PE (they’re an RBIC)
Anterra CapitalAmsterdam, Bostonfocus on companies that are transforming the safety, security and sustainability of global food
BIGR VenturesBoulderCOgrowth equity fund providing value-added, strategic partnership and capital to promising early-stage natural and organic products;
Greenmont Capital PartnersBoulderCOgreen consumer products
PontifaxLos AngelesCAfoodtech, agtech
Sunrise Strategic PartnersBoulderCOprovides growth capital and expertise to emerging brands in the healthy, active and sustainable living space that resonate with millennials, have a strong proof of concept and have reached approximately $10-$20 million in revenue

Private Equity

What: Private Equity shops are institutional investors (i.e., individuals investing from a fund) using a combination of equity and debt (also known as leverage).  In the eighties, private equity transactions were known as leveraged buyouts, or LBOs.Like other investors, the size of private equity investments are typically a function of fund size and strategy, but these are late-stage buyouts.  Turnarounds may or may not be involved.

AGR PartnersDavisCAevergreen fund focused on food & ag value chain
Alliance Consumer GrowthNYC and LAconsumer goods, including food & beverage
Altamont Capital PartnersPalo AltoCATheir consumer portfolio includes a few food companies
Arbor InvestmentsChicagoILFood & Beverage
Arlon CapitalNew YorkNYmiddle-market food & agriculture
Equilibrium CapitalSan Francisco, London, Portland (OR)recent ACM Permanent Crops Fund is focused on … permanent crops; SF and Oregon
Farmland LPSan FranciscoCAbuys conventional farmland, converts to organic
First Beverage VenturesLos AngelesCAPE arm of First Beverage, focused on “emerging beverage companies”
Goldner Hawn Johnson & MorrisonMinneapolisMN
Hancock Agricultural Investment GroupBostonMArow & permanent cropland
Homestead CapitalSan FranciscoCAoperating farmland
Investeco Sustainable Food FundTorontoCanada
JH Whitney & CoNew CanaanCTinvests in some consumer goods & restaurant groups
Kainos CapitalDallasTX
Kirchner Food Security GroupAshvilleALAgriculture
Paine + PartnersChicagoILFood & Agribusiness; Chicago, NC, CA
Retail & Restaurant Growth Capital LpTXjust like it sounds, but they invest $1-3M along side other PE firms and try to add value through consulting services
Rural America FundChicagoILgrowing middle-market rural American companies, principally in agriculture or ag-related businesses
Sherbrooke CapitalWellesleyMAbranded consumer goods
Southern PasturesAucklandNew Zealandpasture land
Sovos BrandsSan FranciscoCAteam of CPG veterans, backed by Advent International
Swander Pace CapitalSan FranciscoCAconsumer products; SF and NJ
VerlinvestNYC, Singapore, Paris, Brusselsconsumer-focused fund with a food & beverage (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) theme; shareholders are all from AB-InBev
VMG PartnersLos AngelesCAlower-middle market, branded consumer products; SF and LA
Winona CapitalChicagoILsome branded food products

Think this list is missing a group or someone important? Want to update your organization’s listing? Email me.

Be the first to comment on "List: Sources of Equity Financing for Food Startups"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.