Investors in US firm - which produces thin, edible coating for food products to extend their shelf life - include celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry
This morning brings one of the biggest deals yet this year: an infusion of $250m in new financing for food waste crusader Apeel Sciences. What's more, the funding pushes the Santa Barbara, California-based company's valuation to more than $1bn - a status dubbed in VC circles as 'unicorn'.
Cumulatively speaking, Apeel has raised $360m, including the new funding.
The lead backer on the latest round is Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC, which explicitly embeds sustainability considerations into its investments. Other "participating" investors are Viking Global Investors, Upfront Investors, Tao Capital Partners and Rock Creek Group. There are also two highly recognisable minority "non-participating" investors: pop star Katy Perry and media queen Oprah Winfrey, who previously invested in Apeel in 2019.
"I hate to see food wasted, when there are so many people in the world who are going without," Winfrey said in the funding press release. "Apeel can extend the life of fresh produce, which is critical to our food supply and to our planet too."
Food waste is estimated to be responsible for generating close to six per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions: for perspective, that's three times the amount generated by the aviation industry. The issue has been exacerbated by the pandemic: Farmers have been forced to bury vegetables and pour milk down drains, while livestock operations have been forced to euthanise animals with slaughtering capacity idled during the quarantine.
Apeel, which got its start in 2012 with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has attracted funding from many high-profile funds, such as Andreessen Horowitz, as well as several firms that have championed a focus on climate tech including S2G Ventures, DBL Partners and Powerplant Ventures.
The startup's product is literally a peel - made from fruit and vegetable matter - that can be used to coat everything from limes to avocados to mandarin oranges to apples. It's applied in packaging facilities or warehouses using a water-based formula. That layer extends the shelf life of the produce so that it is less likely to spoil during its journey to the retailer and so that it lasts longer on display.
The company says each item can last two to three times longer, because Apeel's coating slows water loss and oxidation. What's more, the coating is edible and because it's made from plant matter, it can be used on organic products. One reason Apeel's approach is so, well, appealing is that it's intended to give nature a boost: fruits and vegetables already seal themselves with a substance called cutin; Apeel's product helps make that seal last longer.
"I think it gives confidence to put more product on the shelf. What we have seen is like a 50 per cent [reduction] of waste, and then also a double-digit growth of sales," Adrielle Dankier, chief commercial officer for Nature's Pride - a Dutch importer of fruits and vegetables that is applying Apeel to avocados - said in a customer video. Since 2018, the company has saved more than three million avocados by using the product, according to the testimonial.
Other organisations featured in the customer video are Cata Fresh, a Spanish exporter of everything from melons to onions, and Sage Fruit, which specialises in pears, cherries and apples. The company is working with suppliers, retails and growers - "ranging from smallholder farmers and local organic growers to the world's largest food brands and retailers".
Some of its partners include USA's largest food retailer Kroger, Germany's biggest supermarket company Edeka, and Sailing Group, the largest retail group in Denmark.
Apeel's coating is being used in dozens of produce categories. This year, it could save up to 20 million pieces of fruit from going to waste in stores, the firm estimates, as well as helping extend the shelf life at home.
The new funding is aimed at helping enable Apeel to continue is international expansion, especially in places such as sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and South America - places where there are higher rates of both food waste and food insecurity, it explained. The company operates primarily in the United States and Europe today.
In a statement emailed to GreenBiz, a company spokesperson said interest in Apeel has grown since the pandemic.
"Our capital raise comes at a critical time - making it possible to accelerate our efforts to improve resilience across the supply chain while it works to rebuild, and provide a better path forward now and into the future," the Apeel spokesperson said in emailed answers to several questions submitted about the funding. "Food service organisations are also an integral part of the fresh food supply chain and another channel that has been greatly impacted as a result of the pandemic. Our efforts to improve efficiencies through the supply chain will absolutely include this sector, as well as work to help food service distributors and operators reduce waste."
This article originally appeared at GreenBiz
University of Plymouth-led study notes that microplastics shed from vehicle tyres are putting millions of square metres of UK waters at risk of contamination.
UN widely expected to approve UK government request for crucial Summit to be rescheduled for November 2021
Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change offers members detailed advice on how to integrate climate risks and opportunities into investment processes
WSP's David Symons, a commissioner of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission, sets out three key areas business can play a part in delivering net zero after Covid-19