Kencko expands beyond instant smoothies to offer plant-based bowls following $10m fundraise

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Kencko
Source: Kencko

Related tags: smoothies, New product development, plant-based, fundraise

After shaking up the smoothie set with its blender-free, instant fruit and vegetable powder blends and making gum drops it claims aren’t just better-for-you but actually good for you, plant-based nutrition company Kencko is heating things up with the upcoming launch of ready-to-heat bowls.

The bowls, which will launch this month, rely on the same technology that made its fast-growing organic smoothies a success – freeze drying – to create fruit and vegetable blends that becomes a nutritious, well-balanced full meal in minutes with the simple addition of water.

But that is where the similarities stop, said Lucy Greeves, the company’s vice president of brand. She explained to FoodNavigator-USA that the bowls are “not like soups, and they’re not hot smoothies.”​ Rather, they will have layers of textures, a balance of carbs, protein, healthy fats and vitamins and be available initially in six flavors that are appealing for lunch.

“The idea is that as long as you can boil water or use a microwave, you can have a really tasty, filling, plant-based lunch in under 10 minutes with zero prep, other than a quick stir,”​ Greeves said.

She added that the inspiration for the bowls came from the brand’s ethos of creating “moments of the day” in which Americans can easily fit in the fruits and vegetables that many people are missing.

“We started with the smoothies, which is the perfect way to get more fruits and vegetables into your morning routine. And then last year we launched the gumdrops, which is a little treat for those moments when your sweet tooth kicks in or you need a little energy boost”​ but want something that is healthy, she said.

Lunch is the next natural extension for the brand, which proved consumers are hungry not just for more produce, but also convenient options to help them meet USDA’s recommendation for five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, as illustrated by its 500% year-over-year since it launched three years ago.

$10m fundraise helps bring bowls to the table

Impressed by the company’s initial success and plans for future growth, a fleet of new and current investors have come together to help get the bowls on tables (or desks), and take Kencko to the next level through a $10m series A fundraise announced last week.

Led by existing investor Siddhi Capital and filled out with additional contributions from Next View Ventures, Riverside Ventures, Silas Capital, Cheyenne Ventures, Shilling Capital, Indico Capital, Mission Point, Gather Ventures, Nakhla Ventures and Nextblue Venutres, this round brings the brand’s total funding to $13.5m.

In addition to supporting the launch of the bowls, the fundraise also will help the DTC company improve its customer delivery and optimize shipping – both for a better consumer experience and reduced environmental impact, company CFO Mike Erickson told FoodNavigator-USA.

“We are trying to be more and more local to our customers so that we can cut down on shipping emissions, which we already carbon compensate, but its better not to have carbon in the first place,”​ especially as a certified B-corp dedicated to sustainability, he said.

To this end, the company is working with partners in the US to produce and fill orders, which also will enhance the business’ speed to market and improve customer relations, he said.

The funds also will help the company to build out its team to better support its expansion so that quality and consumer experiences don’t suffer as the business scales.

“Like most fast growing startups, our headcount hiring has lagged the growth of the business. So even though we have invested in this, we need to really right-size the group to mee tout needs today,”​ Erickson said.

He added that as a food-tech company, Kencko is looking for “good engineers, developers, registered dietitians, customer service and marketing. Really across the board.”

Between building out its staff, production and offerings, Greeves says the most exciting part of the fundraise is the ability to “just reach more people at more moments of the day”​ and help Americans meet the USDA recommended intake of fruits and vegetables.

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