Already a powerhouse in dairy-alternative drinks, WhiteWave Food Co. has made a small, but significant, foray into the surging cold-pressed, high pressure processed (HPP) juice space with a $3 million equity investment in Austin, Texas-based Daily Greens.
WhiteWave, which owns a number of category-leading brands, including Silk, Horizon Organic and Earthbound Farm, made headlines in September with another financial deal, that of its acquisition of plant-based beverage maker So Delicious. However, it has yet to make a formal announcement about its deal with Daily Greens, which markets multiple lines of green juice and hemp milk products.
News of the investment was first reported by the Austin Business Journal, which, pulling information from a Jan. 12 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, wrote that Daily Greens “collected the capital from a lone investor.”
In an interview with BevNET, Daily Greens co-founder and CEO Shauna Martin today confirmed that WhiteWave was the source of the new funding. Martin said that WhiteWave investment gave the company a minority stake in Daily Greens, based on what she described as a “fair” and “premium” valuation considering its place within the cold-pressed, HPP juice category.
“They see us as one of the top cold-pressed juice companies to really scale,” Martin said.
Through one of Daily Greens’ initial investors, WhiteWave first inquired about purchasing an equity stake in the company in September. The deal closed on Dec. 31, and while Martin noted that in recent months “several” strategic investors have expressed interest in Daily Greens, she praised WhiteWave as a company that is “the right fit for us” and a “big brother that can let us grow.”
“We studied up on WhiteWave’s former transactions, and they have a really good history of leaving their minority investments alone,” Martin said. “They do have two board seats, but their plan is just to support us through synergies with Earthbound Farm.”
Martin noted that while Earthbound Farm grows the top three ingredients used by Daily Greens, and will look for cost-savings with WhiteWave on board as an investor, her company will continue to source most of its components from local farms in Texas.
Most the $3 million from WhiteWave will go toward new marketing and field demo programs, as well as capital equipment expenditures, notably the purchase of an HPP machine, Martin said. Daily Greens has already expanded its lease space in preparation for the addition of the unit, which is expected to go into use in April or May.
Bringing HPP in-house will certainly offer logistical advantages for Daily Greens, particularly at a time of rapid expansion of its product offerings and distribution into conventional grocery stores.
Earlier this month, Daily Greens launched its first 12 oz.-sized offerings, which are distributed at all Harris-Teeter locations and will available in 400 Kroger-owned stores west of the Mississippi, beginning in February. The company also debuted a new chia-infused line of juices (also in 12 oz. bottles) at the 2015 Winter Fancy Food Show. Martin said that the new chia varieties are “prime for conventional” retailers, whose buyers have increasingly requested chia as an ingredient in new products and line extensions, she noted.
While a corporate equity partnership might be a disconcerting notion to some brand owners, Martin stressed that WhiteWave would be “pretty hands-off” and expects the company to be a tremendous, yet relatively quiet, teammate going forward.
“Their belief system is that they don’t want to mess up the magic that happens in an entrepreneurial environment by burdening a young company with all of the complicated processes of a public company,” Martin said. “And [so] we’ll be able to run fast and furious and, hopefully, be able to grow the company as quickly as we’ve been growing it in the past. And that’s the goal.”