Allergen Free, Not Cash Poor: New Fund Invests in free2b Foods

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Two generations of food company executives have come together in a new fund whose purpose is to help build the next set of natural food brands.

Former Popcorn, Indiana CEO Hitesh Hajarnavis and Michael Caridi, the former VP of Kozy Shack, started VG Growth Partners last year and have done two investments thus far, one in Crunchers, a sprouted bean snack, last October, and the latest, in allergen-free candy and snack brand free2b Foods, last month.

The free2b investment infuses $1 million into the nine-year-old Boulder, Colorado-based brand, which is best known for its Sun Cups.

Hajarnavis told NOSH that his own children have food allergies and he’d pledged “as a personal mandate” to do something in the allergy space. He pointed out that while some brands advertise that they are free of the “Top 8” common food-based allergens, free2B extends the list to the top 12. The company has also brought in So Delicious veteran Mike Murray as CEO.

Hajarnavis acknowledged that the brand is entering a competitive marketplace, which lots of new and incumbent companies, ranging from Udi’s to newly-hatched Safe + Fair, chasing the opportunity they see in the growing ranks of food allergy sufferers in the U.S. and abroad.

“There’s always competition, so it’s very important to define who you are,” he said. “You can’t be a deer in the headlights, and we are stressing our manufacturing safety, which is super critical.”

Full Release below. 

Boulder, CO, March, 2017– free2b Foods, a natural foods company with snacking solutions for families looking for “free-from” foods announces VG Growth Partners as their new strategic investment partner and advisor.

free2b Foods makes delicious snacks that are free from the top 12 food allergens, environmental impact or artificial ingredients. The brand is most widely recognized for their popular Sun Cups. In 2016, they introduced a line of Top 12 Allergen Free chocolate bars and are currently rolling out the first and only Top 12 Allergen Free and plant-based line of premium snacking chocolate – Snack Breaks.

Over the past year, the company reformulated recipes to eliminate dairy from its entire product line and facility in order to offer Top 12 Allergen Free and vegan foods.

With a wealth of experience in successfully operating and building high growth brands, VG Growth Partners is poised to guide and support free2b Foods during a time of rapid growth.

“40 Million Americans or 13% of the U.S. population are affected by food allergies. This health challenge is only becoming more common as food allergies and sensitivities continue to rise,” said Mike Murray, CEO for free2b Foods. “We are enthusiastic about growing a company and team that serves this important community and are thrilled to be working with an investment partner who shares our vision and passion to provide ‘free from’ foods.”

“We feel that free2b Foods is uniquely positioned to provide great tasting snacks to millions of families looking for safe, allergen friendly and ‘free from’ food options. Their team took difficult yet necessary steps to remove dairy from their product line and facility last year to become a Top 12 Allergen Free and plant-based company. We are excited to work with them and support strategic opportunities in innovation, operations and distribution, and grow the brand to new heights,” said Hitesh Hajarnavis, co-founder & Managing Partner of VG Growth Partners.

To learn morning about free2b Foods, please visit Facebook @free2bfoodscompany, Twitter and Instagram @free2bFoods, or online at www.free2bfoods.com. Or pick up one of their snacks to enjoy at retailers nationwide or on their website store.

About Free2b Foods:

Based in Boulder, CO, free2b Foods helps families live brilliantly with delicious snacking solutions free from top allergens. The company first introduced their popular Sun Cups in 2008 in response to a father’s plea to make a chocolate cup that was safe for his son. Today, free2b Foods has a dedicated facility that is free from the top 12 food allergens. Sourcing highest quality ingredients, their treats are made in small batches by a passionate team who deeply understands food allergies. Their snacks are all free from artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and hydrogenated oils. They believe that food should be fun, delicious, safe and compassionate. They are proud to be offering foods that are kind to people, animals and the planet. In addition to making a variety of gourmet chocolate cups, and chocolate bars, they recently launched a new line of premium snackable chocolate called Snack Breaks that are all Top 12 Allergen Free. free2b Foods are available in retailers nationwide and on their website free2bfoods.com.

About VG Growth Partners :

VG Growth Partners (“VGGP”) is an advisory and investment firm led by highly experienced operators and investors focused on building category leading consumer companies. VGGP brings significant industry expertise, proven track record as brand-builders, and hands-on operational experience of its co- founders to help promising brands grow sustainably. VGGP is excited to partner with young branded consumer companies looking to leverage VGGP’s operational know-how, strategic resources and financial capital. VGGP is flexible in structure and stage of investments ranging from $500k to $3+ million.