Chickapea first teamed up with District Ventures in 2017 as part of its accelerator program, and later received a seed capital investment from the firm.
In 2019, Chickapea received an investment from Toronto-based venture capital firm, InvestEco, with participation from EDC, setting the stage for its latest Series C funding round in which all three investors participated.
“Our initial investment in Chickapea was driven by the insight that consumers were looking for nutritious alternatives to traditional pasta. Four years later, this demand continues to increase and Chickapea continues to provide new ways to enjoy a healthy take on a staple household favorite. Chickapea has developed a product which consumers enjoy for both nutritional value and flavor profile," said Arlene Dickinson, general partner of District Ventures Capital.
"The female founded-and-operated company now has the funding needed to scale operations and expand distribution,” said Arlene Dickinson, general partner of District Ventures Capital.
"We have experienced incredible growth, which requires us to continue investing in the business and our people. This funding will enable us to keep up with our growth and realize some great opportunities that we haven't yet been able to explore," Taylor told FoodNavigator-USA.
With 11 different pasta formats available to consumers including penne, spaghetti, lasagna, spirals, and elbows, the company said it plans to use the recent cash injection to expand its product line to include more nutrient-dense pasta options.
"We just introduced oven-ready lasagna, which is a first for the category and a major hit," noted Taylor.
With a similar amount of calories to wheat-based pasta, Chickapea pasta products (made from organic chickpea flour, organic yellow lentil flour, organic red lentil flour) contain 13g of protein and 6g of fiber per 2oz serving [similar to Banza, which contains 13g protein and 5g fiber].
The brand recently introduced its Chickapea +Greens line with two servings of vegetables per serving made with chickpea and lentil flours with the addition of kale and spinach.
According to Taylor, the products have a smooth texture and mild flavor similar to conventional pasta.
"It cooks just like regular pasta, and it tastes the closest to traditional pasta of any alternative pasta on the market," she said.
Pulse-based pasta category
While much smaller than the traditional pasta category, the niche segment of pulse-based pasta is growing at a rapid clip as consumers seek better-for-you options, noted Taylor.
Category giants such as Barilla have also entered the burgeoning space with its own line of chickpea-based pasta products.
According to SPINS US MULO sales data (52 weeks ending 11/29/2020) for the shelf-stable pasta category, pulse-based pasta sales grew by 60.5% to $69.2m, 3X the growth of the overall pasta category. The high protein pasta segment has experienced similar growth during the same time period (+61.7% to $68.3m).
“There’s no longer the question of whether a substantive market exists for nutritious, high-protein pasta, but rather how to keep up with the growth and demands of that market," said Shelby.
Chickapea pasta is sold in more than 4,500 retail locations across North America and distributed nationwide in the US at retailers including Sprouts, ACME, Publix Greenwise, and New Seasons. The company is also about to launch at US Costco stores, noted Taylor.