Since launching in 2016, Partake has raised $19m with founder and CEO Denise Woodard as the first Black woman to raise more than $1m publicly for a CPG food startup, according to the company.
The funding round was led by a diverse group of investors supporting Black, brown, and female leadership including Cleveland Ave's CAST US fund, Fearless Fund, Supply Change Capital, Kaya Ventures along with returning investors Marcy Venture Partners, CircleUp Growth Partners, Black Star Fund, FF2032 (Lotus Bakeries’ venture arm), and Black Capital.
"This round of investment will allow us to invest in capital expenditures to increase our capacity, support our expanded distribution at retail and across other channels, and help us continue to build out the team. We’d like to meet our consumers where they live, work, and play, so you’ll continue to see Partake pop up across other channels," Woodard told FoodNavigator-USA.
Its team has expanded from one full-time employee in 2020 to 20 in 2022, including recent new hires including Keli Wilson (formerly Beyond Meat) as SVP of operations, Beth Hanson (formerly Purely Elizabeth, General Mills) as VP of retail sales, and several other strategic hires including a marketing coordinator, an FP&A analyst, a sales planning manager, and a technical services manager, noted Woodard.
'Inclusivity is at the heart of what Partake is doing'
From a brand mission perspective, the funding addresses the broader industry need for more diverse representation in the CPG world both in leadership (which skews heavily white and male) and in consumer audiences targeted.
"Inclusivity is at the heart of what Partake is doing. This shows up most notably in creating foods that over 90% of Americans can enjoy safely, the doors we’re opening with our Black Futures in Food & Beverage Fellowship, and the 1,000,000 meals we’ve committed to providing with No Kid Hungry in 2022," noted Woodard.
"With this newly raised capital, Partake will continue to champion radical inclusivity by scaling our team and operations ensuring we can continue to deliver on our promises of making eating and sharing simple and worry-free and lifting as we climb.”
"Our enthusiasm for Partake's future lies not only in offering the brand's tasty foods to the millions of people with dietary restrictions but also in its incredible mission to partner with organizations fighting global food insecurity," added Arian Simone, co-founder and general partner of Fearless Fund.
#2 allergy-friendly brand
Woodard, who originally started the company to address the lack of allergy-friendly snacking options (that also tasted good) for her daughter with allergies to nuts, eggs, corn, and bananas, said the brand is appealing to much a wider audience than the 32 million Americans with food allergies proven by its strong growth track record over the past two years.
"Partake Foods appeals to health-conscious consumers seeking delicious products made with better-for-you ingredients and consumers living with food allergies (either personally or within their home)," said Woodard.
Since launching its line of allergy-friendly cookies (its top-selling SKU being its Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookie) and expanding into the adjacent category of baking mixes, Partake has recorded 200% year-over-year growth between 2020 and 2021 and 100% growth from 2021 to 2022.
Currently sold in over 9,000 retail stores including national distribution with Whole Foods Market, Walmart, Target, Kroger, and Sprouts, Partake is growing 8x faster than the total snacking category in the MULO + Convenience and Natural & Enhanced Channels over the last 52 weeks, according to SPINS data.
It has also become the #2 allergy-friendly brand in the US Natural & Enhanced channel by growth, according to SPINS 12-week data ending March 20, 2022.
“Partake has had an impressive track record of growth and continues to build momentum in driving its mission of providing consumers with delicious, healthy, and allergy-friendly foods. We are excited to have them become part of the CAST US portfolio,” said Andrea Zopp, managing partner of CAST US Fund, a $70m initiative that aims to bridge the resource gap between Black, Latinx, and women entrepreneurs in Chicago's South and West Side neighborhoods.
'More stores, more products, more impact'
The new round of funding unlocks accelerated growth for Partake in the form of "more stores, more products, more impact," commented Woodard.
"You’ll see Partake increase our distribution in new retailers, as well as across new channels in 2023 while launching additional products. We will continue to prioritize our social impact initiatives aimed at increasing diversity in the food industry and eradicating childhood food insecurity," said Woodard.