Local baby food brand attracts $ 12 million in venture capital as it moves from e-commerce to traditional retail

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Organic baby food brand Amara just announced $ 12 million in Series A funding. The lead investor was Eat Well Investment Group, a vertically integrated plant food investment company.

“Amara has proven its impressive ability to scale through excellence in retail distribution and e-commerce, and the funding and industry expertise of the Eat Well Group will help accelerate Amara’s growth as the schedule approaches.” 2022 ”, Marc Aneed, president of the Eat Well group, said in a press release.

CEO Jessica Sturzenegger co-founded the profitable business, which now sells its products in more than 1,000 stores, with Chef Vicki Johnson in 2016 and relied on the help of independent consultants, such as a nutritionist and food engineers, to develop the direct-to-consumer brand. Amara has developed a proprietary dehydration process to preserve both the texture and flavor of shelf-stable baby foods – now known as Nutrient Protection Technology – once water, breast milk or baby food is released. infant formula are added. It is now used in products such as “Sweet Potato and Raspberry” and “Oats, Mango and Strawberry Ancient Grains” vegetable blend. The brand, which launched its first products at Whole Foods, has also ventured into new products such as “Plant-Based Yogurt Smoothie Melts”.

Amara, which grew through word of mouth and expanded into traditional retailing, raised the funding at a time when it had $ 200,000 in backlogs and had staff to fuel a strategy of. omnichannel growth. Sturzenegger discovered that the brand has a competitive advantage because of the way the food is prepared. “We can compete more effectively in stores and online because we are not refrigerated,” says Sturzenegger.

Amara has already raised more than $ 2 million from investors such as the former chairman of the CPG group of Hershey and Pharmapacks, an e-commerce distributor. Like many other online businesses, Amara has benefited from the rapid growth of e-commerce during the pandemic. The global dried baby food market will experience a compound annual growth rate of approximately 13.5% from 2021 to 2026, according to projections by Global Market Estimates.

Natural and organic brands have gained increasing interest amid growing concerns among parents about the purity of the food they serve their babies following a report released in February by the Oversight Subcommittee and House reform on economic and consumer policy in February. It said, “[C]Commercial baby foods are tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. dangerous’ toxic heavy metals in some brands of baby food.

“Consumers are well informed,” says Sturzenegger. “They don’t just want convenience. They want whole foods.

Sturzennegger took a local approach to running the business, spending time talking to customers at the retail stores of the first 100 stores that carried the brand to understand what drew them to particular baby food products. When she learned that many buy based on ingredients, she switched to one-color packaging with the ingredients listed on the label prominently. The brand has chosen to keep its price moderate, with some meals retailing for $ 1.80.

Aware of the high odds faced by women raising venture capital, Sturzenegger worked with a storytelling coach, referred by a board member, to hone his pitch and was pleasantly surprised by the level of interest. for brand support.

“We had an unusually fast run,” she says. “We received a few term sheets. We had no idea how much interest we were going to generate, but we are really different in the babies category. We’re the only brand that can deliver ingredients that are fresh, on this scale, with shelf life ingredients at a price everyone can afford.

Armed with more funding, Sturzenegger is now looking to hire a senior CFO and performance marketing manager, and get into paid advertising to promote the brand. Amara is focused on strengthening its presence on Amazon while continuing to improve its direct-to-consumer platform. “Fundraising is a big responsibility,” she says. “We’re using $ 12 million of other people’s capital to grow. “


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