Powerplant Ventures, a year-old venture capital firm, has raised a $42 million inaugural fund to invest in plant-centric food and beverage companies.

The Los Angeles-based firm was co-founded by a team of industry heavy hitters. Its managing partner, Mark Rampolla, was the founder of ZICO Coconut Water, which was acquired by the Coca-Cola Company in 2013 for $200 million. He is joined by Kevin Boylan and T.K. Pillan, co-founders of the fast-casual restaurant chain, Veggie Grill, and Dan Beldy, the former managing director of Disney's venture capital arm, Steamboat Ventures.

In recent years, interest in plant-based diets has been on the rise as consumers reduced meat consumption due to health concerns. In turn, the market responded with a flood of new products to address changing preferences. Between 2011 and 2015, global food and beverage launches touting vegetarian claims increased by 60 percent, according to Innova Market Insights.

A number of those products hitting the shelves have been from venture-backed upstarts looking to challenge Big Food. Impossible Foods has raised $183 million in venture funding for its plant-based burger. Bloomberg recently revealed that Hampton Creek, the company famed for its eggless mayonnaise, Just Mayo, is said to be raising $200 million in funding. And in May, Kite Hill, a maker of plant-based dairy alternatives, closed an $18 million Series B round.

With some estimates valuing the plant-based food market at $4.9 billion, it is apparent why investors are captivated by the space. "Companies are clearly poised to capitalize on the massive shift that is underway to change how we grow, process, distribute and consume food," said Kevin Boylan, partner, Powerplant Ventures.

Powerplant Ventures is primarily focused on growth and emerging growth companies that have demonstrated early category leadership in the marketplace. It will pursue investments in the $1-2 million range in businesses with $1-10 million in revenue. "Particularly, in a first time fund you want to have good, solid returns and these types of companies have already shown traction and velocity," explained Boylan. While Powerplant Ventures will make some seed investments, they will only represent about five percent of the fund.

Previously, the partners backed Hail Merry, REBBL, Thrive Market, TerraVia, Hampton Creek, Treasure8 and Juicero with their own money. They will contribute those portfolio companies to the new fund.

Published on: Aug 3, 2016
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