Diverse investor base behind $3.8 m fundraise will help Asian American food startup immi go mainstream

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: immi
Source: immi

Related tags Ramen Investment

For the co-founders of the better-for-you Asian American food startup immi, the most exciting part of closing their seed fundraise wasn’t the $3.8m that will help them relaunch an improved version of their low-carb, high-protein, plant-based instant ramen – it was connecting with a diverse set of investors who could help the new brand break into the mainstream.

Earlier this week, immi​ announced Siddhi Capital led its fundraise with participation from Palm Tree Cree, Constellation Capital, Animal Capital, Pear Ventures, Collaborative Fund and individuals, including Patrick Schwarzenegger, Kat Cole, Nik Sharma and the CEOs and co-founders of Thrive Market, Caviar, Daring Foods, Madhappy, Twitch, Kettle & Fire, MUD/WTR, Native, Amity Supply, Visionary Music Group, Italic, Tatcha and Casper.

“I am obviously very grateful to have been able to raise from a lot of respected founders in the space and food-tech. But for this fundraise, we were really also focused on ensuring that we could raise from people across industries like music and even apparel – investors who have a firm grasp on culture and what it takes to bring a food brand into the mainstream culture,”​ immi co-founder Kevin Lee told FoodNavigator-USA.

"For example,”​ he said, “Palm Tree Crew, which is the internationally renowned DJ Kygo’s fund, as well as Animal Capital, which has a lot of TikTok creator stars, both of these, as well as all the other investors, will be helping us a lot on the distribution side. For example, feeding immi amongst their influencer network, and helping us reach audiences that historically haven’t heard of or even known about immi, yet.

“So, I think this fundraise is really going to propel us both from an operations and pricing standpoint, but more importantly, just making sure we can reach a broad subset of audiences across the US.”

A solid foundation of ‘beta testers’ and fans

While immi’s investors no doubt will expand immi’s reach to new consumers, the young company, which launched earlier this year, already has proven its chops by cultivating a solid fan base, including 4,000 beta testers who have helped the startup tweak its offering to appeal to broader consumer base than those for whom the instant ramen was originally created.

When immi first launched it was with a goal to bring a more nutritious option to the $46b instant ramen category that people could enjoy without fear of contributing to high blood pressure or the development of diabetes, which is why it prioritized a low-carb, high-protein, high-fiber and reduced sodium option.

“We wanted to improve the diets of our parents and loved ones,”​ co-founder Keven Chanthasiriphan said. “My dad eats ramen every single night, even though he has high blood pressure and is starting to develop pre-diabetes,”​ which the high sodium and carb count of traditional instant ramen can worsen.

Beyond keto-friendly

Chanthasiriphan said the startup’s original instant ramen “was good,”​ but that “didn’t meet the internal bar that we had,”​ because it required some trade-offs in taste, texture and experience that most keto-followers or extremely health-focused consumers wouldn’t mind, but which mainstream consumers would be less likely to concede.

“We knew that in order for us to build a sustainable business, we had to make a product that tastes just as good as the traditional instant ramen that is currently on the market,”​ he said. “And so, we have been heads-down focused on reformulating our products.”

The result is a product that taps into many hot trends, allowing it to appeal to a broad consumer base.

Chanthasiriphan explained that the company’s original noodle tasted and had a mouthfeel more akin to a soba noodle than a traditional instant ramen noodle, but by changing the ingredient deck and manufacturing process, immi was able to replicate what is on the shelf currently – “allowing it to appeal to a much wider audience and not just folks who are very strict on a keto, low-carb diet and willing to make tradeoffs between health and traditional flavor.”

The reformulation, which the current fundraise will help scale, also packs more fiber at 18 grams than the previous version, along with 21 to 22 grams of protein, depending on the flavor, and only five or six grams of carbs per serving. It also has 35% less sodium than competing products.

As a 100% plant-based product, immi’s ramen not only will tap into the influential low-carb trend but also appeal to the 70% of Americans who the company says want to eat more plant-based proteins instead of animal-proteins.

Likewise, the high fiber content will appeal to consumers’ heightened interest in digestive health, Lee said.

Beyond ramen and ecommerce

A portion of the fundraise also is earmarked for research and development with an eye towards “ambitiously being able to launch something in eight to 12 weeks,” ​versus the more standard 12 to 24 months incumbent players need for innovation, Lee said.

He explained the company wants to bring “many, many more new flavors” to market that will build on the nostalgia many people have for instant ramen – but with a better nutritional profile.

Eventually, immi will move beyond instant ramen to offer healthier versions of other beloved Asian foods. The team also wants to bring more traditional Asian flavors the mainstream US market.

The funds also will go towards staff recruitment and in-house expertise to help facilitate new launches, he added.

Finally, while the company is focused on direct-to-consumer and ecommerce, currently, Lee said that the company plans to expand into brick and mortar in the future and the team is excited to start talking to more retail buyers and partners.

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