WeWork is getting into the superfood business.

The co-working startup recently invested in a $32 million private funding round for Laird Superfood, a natural food company co-founded in 2015 by big-wave surfer and fitness entrepreneur Laird Hamilton. WeWork declined to disclose the amount of its investment, but Laird co-founder Paul Hodge says that the funding round involved fewer than a dozen investors.

Sisters, Oregon-based Laird Superfood makes a variety of vegan and gluten-free health food products, including powdered coconut water and "nutrient-dense" creamers for coffee, tea, and smoothies. WeWork will soon offer Laird Superfood products to its members and employees at select locations in New York City, and will sell the products in WeMrkt retail stores and Honesty Markets, the company's snack and beverage self-serve kiosks.

After selling its products primarily online for its first two years, Laird Superfood has expanded into more than 1,000 U.S. grocery and retail locations. The 70-person company declined to share revenue data, but grew sales by more than 260 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to Hodge. The private funding round brings Laird Superfood's total investment capital raised to $43 million.

The company's products are designed to be more affordable alternatives to products like bottled coconut water and healthy juices. "A bottle of coconut water might be $3 to $6," Hodge says. "We're able to freeze-dry the product in its natural state, and the serving cost is 70¢."

Hamilton and Hodge launched the company after Hamilton's friends began asking for his homemade recipes for energy supplements. One of the main challenges the co-founders identified during the formulation process was to come up with nutrient-rich products that would still have mass-market appeal.

"You're not going to get somebody who's consuming high amounts of sugar on a daily basis to go drink some Himalayan lichen that tastes like a bandage," Hamilton says, adding that coconut sugar has the good taste and health appeal to become a mainstream alternative to traditional sugar. Hamilton and his wife, professional volleyball player and TV personality Gabrielle Reece, previously founded Extreme Performance Training, a fitness and lifestyle program that includes water workouts.

The Laird Superfood investment is not WeWork's first health-related move. Last July, the company committed to a global meat-free initiative, telling its 6,000 global employees it would no longer purchase red meat or poultry for company events or allow workers to expense meals including meat.

Earlier this week, WeWork rebranded as the We Company to better reflect its different business lines, which include WeLive, a short-term-housing business; WeGrow; a group of elementary schools; and its original co-working business, WeWork.

Published on: Jan 11, 2019