In the two-and-a-half years since its brand launch, Califia Farms has rapidly emerged as a fixture in the market for almond milk beverages and, more recently, cold-brew coffee, with the company charging forward on innovation in both fast-growing categories. In a clear sign that Califia has no plans to slow down, the company today announced a $50 million minority investment from Stripes Group, a New York-based private equity firm, whose portfolio includes stakes in a handful of food-related businesses.
Stripes Group describes itself as “a growth equity firm that makes $10-100 million investments in Internet, software, healthcare IT and branded consumer products businesses.” The company has investments in online delivery service GrubHub and cook-at-home meal delivery Blue Apron. Stripes is also invested in several other consumer-focused, Internet-based companies, including Art.com, GoFundMe and NetQuote.
In a company release, Califia stated that new capital “will be used primarily to invest in deepening production and distribution capabilities, research and development, new hires, and sales and marketing.” The company also praised Stripes as having “helped drive rapid product transformation and digital brand building campaigns,” and that the beverage company “will take advantage of this expertise to help build out its resources and scale its digital brand building efforts.”
“Stripes Group is perfectly aligned with our culture of rapid innovation and sustainability, and they are deeply supportive of our commitment to provide delicious, mindful nourishment that enables people to live healthier lives with plant-based products,” Califia Farms CEO Greg Steltenpohl said in a company release. “Plus, we love Stripes Group’s excellent track-record of supporting entrepreneurs in their efforts to build unique brands.”
It’s the first outside investment for Califia Farms, which launched in 2010 and is majority-owned by Sun Pacific, a grower of citrus fruit, tomatoes, kiwi and grapes that packs and market over 35 million boxes of fruit annually. Sun Pacific and Steltenpohl, the founder and CEO of super-premium juice brand Odwalla, debuted the Califia Farms brand in February, 2013 with the launch of a trio of citrus juices, each packaged in a 48 oz. curved carafe that has since become well-associated with Califia. The brand soon expanded into almond milk beverages and later into a broad range of cold-brewed coffee products as well as a line of aguas frescas.
Based on sales data provided by market research firm SPINS, Califia reported year-over-year sales growth of 177 percent for its Almondmilk products for the period ending on March 2. The company, which recently hired former Annie’s SVP of sales Dan Mader for the same position, states that according to SPINS data reported on June 14 that its coffee brand is the fastest-growing among natural products.
Stripes said that while Califia “was not initially seeking outside investors,” the company chose to partner with the private equity firm “given our ability to support Califia’s digital brand building efforts, as well as our track record of supporting product development in both the consumer and technology sectors.”
“We spent a long time getting to know Greg, and saw his product development expertise play out with each of Califia Farms’ exceptional new product introductions,” Dan Marriott, Managing Partner, Stripes Group, said in the release. “A true product visionary, Greg is assembling an amazing team and has cultivated a culture of rapid innovation focused on delivering premium, healthful products. We look forward to bringing our experiences working with disruptors and inventors to help Greg and his team as he builds upon Califia Farms’ industry-leading plant-based food and beverage platform.”
As part of the investment, Marriott and Stripes partner Karen Kenworthy will join Califia’s board of directors.