Deal Roundup: Opus Bank Invests in Healthy Snacks; Nestle & CircleUp Bet on Meal Kits

Meagan McGinnes

Lots of money changed hands this month across the food industry. From convenient meal kits to a premium pasta sauce line with history, here’s what some of CPG’s biggest companies and players are betting on.

Opus Bank Invests in That’s It Nutrition

Opus Equity Partners made a growth equity investment in fruit- and vegetable-based snack company, That’s It Nutrition, last week.

Opus Partners has more than $13 billion of custodial assets and approximately 47,000 client accounts, according to the company. The investment speaks to the trend of healthy, nutritional on-the-go snacks.

“Lior and his team at That’s It have worked very hard to build an innovative brand that has clearly redefined the healthy snacks category, by creating delicious, non-GMO fruit products for the on-the-go consumer focused on a healthy lifestyle,” Dale Cheney, managing partner at Opus Equity Partners, said in a statement. “From our first meeting, we have been extremely impressed by the clear brand vision and growth strategy, and we are thrilled to partner with Lior and his very talented team to support the next stage of the growth story.”

Glencoe Capital Acquires Robert Rothschild Farm

Glencoe Capital acquired Ohio-based, specialty food industry leader Robert Rothschild Farm earlier this month. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Rothschild has specialized in clean label gourmet sauces, dips and spreads for more than 30 years. Glencoe was interested in Rothschild to further expand the group’s presence in food. The company will combine with Cincinnati-based Clearbrook Farms, a premium fruit-based food manufacturer that Glencoe acquired in 2016, according to a press release.

“Rothschild has strong brand awareness and a focus on innovative products that are recognized as best-in-class within the specialty food market,” said David Evans, chairman and CEO of Glencoe. “This is an investment in long-term growth. These two businesses are compelling specialty food providers with a strong future together, serving consumers’ rapidly growing desire for all-natural, premium food products.” Acquires Kopper’s Chocolates

Last week,, Inc., an online shop for high-quality nuts, dried fruit and snacks, announced its acquisition of 80-year-old gourmet chocolate company Kopper’s Chocolate.

The multi-million-dollar deal officially closed in 2016, according to the release. Kopper’s has since moved from its Greenwich Village, New York, headquarters to’s home-base in Cranford, New Jersey. All Kopper’s employees and production team members have remained at the company throughout the deal.

“It is very important to us to work closely with Kopper’s employees to preserve, and elevate the Kopper’s brand, focusing on their rich legacy,” CEO Jeffrey Braverman said in a statement. “Our hope is to reignite the creativity in the brand, which ultimately made it what it is today and propel Kopper’s Chocolate into the future by focusing on building innovation and a closer connection to consumers.”

Nestle Looks to Make Money with Meal-Delivery Startup Freshly

Nestle led a $77 million funding round for the meal-delivery startup Freshly earlier this month, according to Fortune. The Swiss CPG giant was joined in the Series C funding round by existing investors like Highland Capital Partners, Insight Venture Partners and White Star Capital. Freshly, which launched in 2015, has raised $107 million in total since its launch.

Meal kits are taking the industry by storm, but Freshly’s model also conveniences out the cooking: The prepared meals can be microwaved. This means they are ready to eat in three minutes or less. Nestle isn’t the only big player paying attention to meal kits. Unilever previously invested in meal-kit startup Sun Basket and Campbell Soup in Chef’d. Blue Apron is in the process of going public.

Rao’s Specialty Foods Joins Sovos Brand Umbrella

The secret’s in the sauce — or at least that is what Sovos Brands is banking on. The new food and beverage company formed by Advent International announced earlier this month it’s acquiring premium pasta sauce company Rao’s Specialty Foods Inc. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a statement did note the transaction does not include the iconic Rao’s restaurants in New York, Las Vegas or Los Angeles.

Rao’s Homemade is a brand with a heritage dating back to the opening of Rao’s Italian restaurant in East Harlem, New York, in 1896. The CPG line was later established in 1992, offering a portfolio of premium natural sauces, dry pasta, dressings, marinades, olive oils, vinegars, tomatoes and fire-roasted red peppers.

Jim Morano, President of Rao’s Specialty Foods, said in a statement that “as [Rao’s] continues to grow the business, [it] will remain true to our co-founder Frank Pellegrino Sr.’s vision” for its recipes.

Rao’s Specialty Foods is Sovos’s second acquisition in less than six months. In January 2017, the company purchased Michael Angelo’s Gourmet Foods.

“Rao’s Specialty Foods is a great addition to the portfolio we are creating of one-of-a-kind brands in the food and beverage sector,” Todd Lachman, President and CEO of Sovos Brands, said in a statement. “Working alongside the company’s talented management team, we see numerous opportunities to grow the Rao’s Homemade brand and expand Rao’s Specialty Foods into adjacent food categories.”

Grainful to Extend Reach With Expanded Investor Partnerships

Early stage consumer brand platform CircleUp is investing in meal kits with Ithaca-based frozen food company Grainful. The funding round, led by CircleUp, closed at $3.3 million earlier this month, with strategic financing also coming from lead investors like Advantage Capital and Rand Capital, according to a release.

“We are excited to partner with the Grainful team, both in helping them raise institutional capital on our platform, and contributing from our own internally managed fund,” Ben Lee, managing director of CircleUp Funds, said in a statement.

Grainful’s platform is to deliver globally inspired, bold-tasting meals that are priced affordably with oat-based meals. Grainful launched around a line of savory oat-based frozen entrees including Vegetarian Chili, Unstuffed Pepper, Porcini Mushroom Chicken and Tuscan Bean and Kale, among others. In 2016, the brand added a shelf-stable meal kit product line. The investment will be used to expand the brand’s product lines.

“We are committed to having the very best be part of the Grainful team – we will continue assembling great investors, teammates, supply chain partners, and retailers to bring oats to the consumer in delicious ways they never imagined,” Jan Pajerski, Grainful’s co-founder and president, said in a statement. “The nutritional power of oats needs to be showcased and Grainful is moving them beyond the safety of ‘me-too’ breakfast recipes to eating occasions throughout the day.”

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