Wild Friends Foods and Cusa Tea secure investments from S CAP

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

 ©GettyImages / Jose A. Bernat Bacete
©GettyImages / Jose A. Bernat Bacete

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Nut butter brand Wild Friends Foods and organic instant tea company Cusa Tea have both received undisclosed cash injections from New York-based investor S CAP, which the brands will put towards accelerating distribution and product development.

S CAP targets premium emerging brands disrupting the food and beverage industry, especially those with a focus on providing better nutrition to consumers "with a low environmental impact and good governance,"​ said S CAP managing partner Kunal Sethi. The investment firm invested in Bright Greens and Libre Naturals earlier this spring.

"We see this as accelerating growth and earning premiums in the market - as do our investors. These latest investments illustrate our approach," ​Sethi said in a statement. 

Positioning Wild Friends Foods and Cusa Tea for further success

Wild Friends nut butters launched with a single peanut butter product in 2011 by the company's founders, Keeley Tillotson and Erika Welsh, college students and athletes from the University of Oregon. Since then, the brand has expanded its portfolio with new flavors of nut and seed butters. The brand has also introduced 'superfood' ingredients including chia, collagen and flax into its nut butters.  Wild Friends recently launched "Nut Butter and Oats" oatmeal cups with a packet of nut butter to drizzle on top.

"The natural nut and seed market is part of the $4bn nut butter category, growing more than 20% per year as consumers seek out higher quality and more natural products than the traditional alternatives,"​ said S CAP general partner Andrew Towle. "Wild Friends is one of the most visionary brands in natural butters and has an extremely loyal consumer following." 

Wild Friends is currently available nationwide in Sprouts Farmers Market and with the investment from S CAP will expand its distribution across multiple retail channels within the next few months.

'Cusa Tea is innovating in a huge, but stagnant, category'

S CAP's second investment in Cusa Tea, an organic instant tea brand free from sweeteners and artificial ingredients,  is part of the firm's larger better-for-you beverage investment strategy.

It was founded by Jim Lamancusa, who had a self-described 'light bulb' moment while on a backpacking trip when he had to settle for soggy tea bags to fix a cup of tea while on-the-go, when his friends were all enjoying easy-to-use coffee sticks. 

Cusa tea
Picture: Cusa Tea

As Lamancusa previously told our sister publication BeverageDaily​, there was a huge missed opportunity in the tea category, which is why he created his own instant tea sticks made from dehydrated tea leaves that undergo a cold brewing process beforehand to concentrate the flavor. 

"Cusa Tea is innovating in a huge, but stagnant, category,"​ said Lamancusa. "Retailers love the fact that we're bringing something new to the tea aisle, using only organic tea and real fruit and spices."

S CAP general partner Jim Cali described Cusa Tea as a "breakthrough in the tea category, offering the potential for disruption across the broader functional and healthy beverage market. We're excited about the versatility of the platform, which can also be used as a water modifier and functional beverage. S CAP is thrilled to be part of the Cusa Tea team."

Lamancusa added that recent investments will help the company aggressively expand its distribution, sales and marketing efforts, as well as broaden and accelerate product development. The company has commitments from over 3,000 new retailers to launch in Q3 and Q4 2019.

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