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  PUBLISHED AUGUST  11, 2021
Private Investments in Food Waste Reduction

Each month, ReFED tracks food waste investments to give you a snapshot of activity in the space. Here's how things are looking this month. 

Overall, private food waste investment appears to be on track to have a bigger year than 2020 on the back of a heightened focus on food waste, larger deal sizes – primarily for cold chain and rapidly scaling food waste organizations (e.g., Apeel, Misfits Market), and as things pick up post the initial impact of COVID-19 on economic activity. This activity is following in-line with overall private equity investment which is also having a record year. The following charts compare private food waste investment in 2021 to 2020, broken down by reduction categories (prevention, rescue, recycling) and key action areas from ReFED’s Roadmap to 2030

Source: ReFED Analysis and PitchBook Data, Inc. Updated as of August 11, 2021.

Note: Projected 2021 food waste funding represents an annualization of YTD total funding not including the April 2021 Lineage Logistics’ (cold chain) $1.9B transaction, which ReFED views as an outlier in deal value.

Sector Insights & Trends

In a typical summer slowdown, private investment activity has decelerated in the last couple of months. We would expect activity to pick up in the fall (barring any major impacts that might arise from the new COVID variants). 

  • Government funding and proposed legislation are big steps in the right direction

    • The Zero Food Waste Act, introduced in July by Reps. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.), and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) in the U.S. House and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the Senate, would establish an Environmental Protection Agency program to finance efforts by states, localities, and indigenous nations to indirectly and directly reduce food waste. The proposed funding amount is $650M annually from 2022 through 2031, which is in line with recommendations in the U.S. Food Loss and Waste Policy Action Plan.

    • The same legislators also introduced the COMPOST Act, which would be funded with $200M annually from 2022 through 2031 and be incorporated into existing USDA programs (e.g., grant and loan guarantees). 

    • Over the last year, our neighbors in Canada have approached funding food waste solutions through a ~$20M challenge model, which is segmented by ideas ready for commercialization and those in prototyping/testing.

    • Key Takeaway: We’re excited to see this level of public funding come to the space, but more is still needed. ReFED’s analysis estimates that public funding of approximately $1.8B each year is required to scale food waste solutions to reach the national 50% reduction goal by 2030.

  • Private investors accumulating funds for climate initiatives

    • Traditional investment institutions (TPG and Brookfield) have been able to raise capital for products focused on addressing climate issues. Participating in both vehicles are major investors such as Temasek, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, Public Investment Fund, School Employees Retirement System of Ohio and others.

    • Additionally, Generate Capital (one of the US’ largest anaerobic digester facility owners) raised $2B from institutional investors to accelerate the deployment of sustainable infrastructure, including the development of recycling solutions like anaerobic digesters.

    • Key Takeaway: Organizations continue to acknowledge the issues of climate change - including the role fighting food waste can play - and importantly, how investments into these sectors can achieve attractive risk-adjusted returns.

  • Restaurant inventory ordering and management tools are hitting larger deal sizes

    • Berlin-based Choco has raised $100M in a Series B (at a $600M valuation) led by Left Lake Capital, with participation from Insight Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners. It’s worth noting that over a year ago, Choco raised a Series A at a $230M valuation for their tool that streamlines procurement and prevents ordering errors. They are currently operating in Germany, France, Spain, Austria, Belgium, and the U.S., with the goal of expanding to new markets and doubling headcount by the end of the year.

    • Notch raised a Series A in July with a similar offering of a software tool that allows businesses to order from every foodservice supplier they have and integrates with their current inventory systems.

    • This subcategory also features software tools such as Local Line that have targeted farmers or food producers, enabling them to sell directly to restaurants. Across the supply chain, firms such as Big Wheelbarrow enable wholesale food buyers to find and work with local food producers.

    • Key Takeaway: Startups are finding significant funding opportunities to scale their work optimizing foodservice operations.

Select Organizations Seeking Funding
reBLEND
FOR-PROFIT | DENVER, CO
Co-Founder/CEO: Kathryn Bernell 

Packed with fruits, vegetables, and superfoods, reBLEND is a line of frozen smoothie pops with a mission to radically tackle food waste. reBLEND is advised by one of the co-founders of Imperfect Produce, the Kroger Zero Waste Fund, and is a graduate of Barilla's 1877 Venture Group Good Food Makers program. It’s one of the top five frozen juice products on Amazon and is eager to expand its brand footprint further with key investment partners. 

Ask: reBLEND is looking to scale their online success (with customers like Thrive, Amazon, Sun Basket, Fresh Direct, and QVC) into broader retail channels, build a team to execute, and amplify their brand's ownership of “convenience without compromise” by raising $1.5M.

Email alejandro.enamorado@refed.com for an introduction to reBLEND.
Lovin' Spoonfuls
NON-PROFIT | BOSTON, MA
Co-Founder/CEO: Ashley Stanley

Lovin' Spoonfuls is a food rescue and hunger-relief organization dedicated to facilitating the rescue and distribution of healthy, fresh food that would otherwise be discarded. They work to efficiently deliver this food directly to community organizations where it can have the greatest impact on those experiencing food insecurity. 

Ask: Lovin' Spoonfuls has received seed funding to begin food rescue operations in Worcester County, MA, and rescue and distribute more than 500,000 pounds of nutrient-dense food per year. Their fundraising goal is $175,000 to launch this new route, which covers personnel and auto expenses for one year of operations. Currently, the funding gap is $75,000.

Email alejandro.enamorado@refed.com for an introduction to Lovin’ Spoonfuls.
Vermont Foodbank
NON-PROFIT | BARRE, VT
Co-Founder/CEO: Jon Sayles

The mission of the Vermont Foodbank is to gather and share quality food and nurture partnerships, so that no one in Vermont will go hungry. One in three Vermonters has experienced food insecurity at some point since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Foodbank has responded at scale to the depth of this crisis.

Ask: Over the course of two years, the Foodbank seeks to analyze the current network of food security resources in Vermont and determine how they can better serve communities through the creation of the “Food Security Innovation Lab,” which features an innovation team working on four pilot projects, the most successful two of which will be funded and fully scaled. The Foodbank will also be using funding to make key technology and infrastructure updates in order to bridge any gaps that might exist in their services.

Email alejandro.enamorado@refed.com for an introduction to Vermont Foodbank.
View More Organizations Seeking Funding
Select Private Investments in Food Waste Reduction | Last Month
Source: ReFED Analysis and PitchBook Data, Inc. Updated as of August 11, 2021.
View Full List & Download Chart
Recent Food Waste Capital & Innovation News

Government initiatives supporting food waste diversion

Significant fundraising going towards sustainability initiatives

Innovation continues to attract funding from a variety of VC and PE sources

Cold chain assets are being rolled up into larger platforms

On the horizon and a deeper dive on trends

Funding Opportunities for Solution Providers
Canada Food Waste Reduction Challenge - Novel Technologies
DEADLINE: AUGUST 31, 2021
The Challenge supports novel technologies at the prototyping or testing phase which extend the life of perishable food or which transform surplus food (or food by-products) that would otherwise be wasted into another product. These streams target technologies in their early development phase to accelerate their advancement and prospective deployment in the Canadian market. At this stage of the Challenge, applicants are competing for approximately $100,000 in grant funding and the chance to become a Semi-Finalist entering Stage 2 of the competition. Stages 2 and 3 will result in $450k and $1M in funding, respectively. Learn More
 
EPA Anaerobic Digestion Grant Opportunity
DEADLINE: OCTOBER 7, 2021
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking applications for projects from states, tribes, territories, and non-profit organizations to help reduce food loss and waste and divert food waste from landfills by expanding anaerobic digester (AD) capacity in the United States. EPA anticipates awarding up to $2 million in total AD funding. Individual projects could be in the range of $50,000-$200,000 for the two-year funding period. Learn more.
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