Kite Hill seals $40m investment round led by General Mills' 301 INC

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Kite Hill will use the investment to enter new categories and support the brand's rapid growth.
Kite Hill will use the investment to enter new categories and support the brand's rapid growth.

Related tags General mills Kite Hill 301 Inc

Plant-based 'chef-inspired' food brand Kite Hill has closed a $40m capital raise led by General Mills' venture arm 301 INC. with participation from CAVU Venture Partners, which according to CEO Rob Leibowitz, will be put towards expanding production and fueling brand growth.

Kite Hill brand owner Lyrical Foods closed an $18m fundraising round also led by 301 Inc. in 2016 with 301 INC. founder and managing director, John Haugen, serving as interim CEO until Leibowitz took over in February 2018. 

Founded by vegan chef Tal Ronnen, cheesemaker Monte Casino, and Stanford biochemist Dr Pat Brown, Kite Hill makes its plant-based cheese and milk products from almond milk (made from nuts and water), and then cultures it using proprietary cultures and enzymes to separate it out into solids and liquids. The company has seen strong demand for its products -- available nationwide in thousands of stores including Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Kroger, Target, and Publix -- as consumers add more plant-based alternative products to their diets. 

The company has roughly doubled [revenue] each year and expects to continue on this path in the coming year,” ​Leibowitz told FoodNavigator-USA. “We expect capacity to expand 2x to 3x in the near term.”

Leibowitz added the company will be investing "substantially​" in factory capacity expansion while continuing to drive product innovation forward, something the brand had to tone down after overextending itself​ in order to focus more on its core products, withdrawing -- and later reintroducing -- its probiotic almond milk yogurt drink and kids' almond milk yogurt tubes. 

Kite Hill Ravioli

“The company did pull back last summer on some innovation to focus capacity on servicing demand for the core items. Those items have now been relaunched to the market. This investment will allow the company to continue to expand the core items, launch new flavors and sizes as well as new platforms to the market,” ​Leibowitz said. 

In terms of further product development, Leibowitz previously told FoodNavigator-USA​ that there is "nothing off the table"​ in terms of entering new product categories and that Kite Hill has an opportunity to extend beyond cheese, yogurt, and yogurt drinks while continuing to deliver a superior taste and texture profile. 

In addition to its yogurt and artisanal cheese products, Kite Hill's portfolio includes ravioli pasta and cream cheese items. 

“Kite Hill continues to set itself apart in what is now a mainstream demand for plant-based nutrition,”​said John Haugen, founder and managing director of 301 INC.

“As more people are making changes in their diet, we see incredible untapped potential in the market for the brand to expand its consumer base and grow.”

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