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Danone’s venture capital arm invests in oat milk maker Minor Figures

Diving Brief:

  • Danone Manifesto Ventures, the investment arm of the French food giant, took a minority stake in Minor Figures, maker of oat milk and ready-to-drink tea and coffee. The plant-based company also received a minority investment from Green Monday Group, a social enterprise platform focused on sustainable living. Dollar amounts were not disclosed.
  • Stuart Forsyth, co-founder and CEO of UK-based Minor Figures, said Danone shared his company’s vision of creating a sustainable future, and cited the venture capital unit’s B Corp certification. “They are the perfect partner to help us optimize and grow our multi-geographic and multi-channel business,” he said in a statement.
  • While Danone has an extensive portfolio of traditional dairy offerings like Oikos, Activia and Two Good, it has accelerated its presence in plant-based products, highlighted by its $12.5 billion purchase of WhiteWave in 2017. .

Overview of the dive:

To date, Danone Manifesto Ventures has spent over $300 million since its inception in 2016, with several investments in the plant sector. These include the manufacturer of herbal products Laird Superfoods; Harmless Harvest, a producer of organic coconut products; and Forager project, an organic, plant-based family creamery. The venture capital unit has been among the most active in the CPG space, with over 20 investments to date.

While not an outright acquisition or even a majority investment, Danone’s minority stake in Minor Figures further highlights the importance of plant-based products to the food giant. and drinks. It is also in line with Danone’s efforts in terms of the environment and sustainable development, a major priority for the company.

“We believe Minor Figures is a unique brand that resonates strongly with consumers in the fast-growing plant space,” said Clemence Delcourt, Chief Investment Officer of Danone Manifesto Ventures, said in a press release. “Minor Figures is fully aligned with our goal of partnering with mission-driven food and beverage companies that create a healthy and sustainable future.”

Danone is no stranger to oat milk, having both Silk and So Delicious brands in its portfolio. Last year he announced that he distribute nearly $50 million in 2022 to transform a dairy in the south of France into a production site for drinks mainly based on oats under its Alpro brand.

But Minor Figures will no doubt give him a better understanding of the category through his work with the fast-growing, scrappy upstart. The Veg Economist noted in March that the company forecast 100% year-over-year growth for the next three years.

Oat milk is among the fastest growing segments in the plant-based milk space. According to SPINS statistics, it is the second largest sub-category, growing more than 44 times over the past three years. Oat milk now accounts for 17% of category sales, up from just 0.5% in 2018, the data shows. The expansion is only expected to continue, with the global market expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14.2% from 2020 to 2028, data from Grand View Research show.

Danone, with its large presence in the United States, will help Minor Figures further expand its retail presence and better navigate the supply chain headaches that affect businesses of all sizes. Forsyth told Food Navigator that its brand’s presence in the United States is largely limited to small independent super premium stores as well as the natural and specialty channel through outlets like Whole Foods. It now aims to “break the biggest chains”, he said.

As oat milk giant Oatly has discovered, growth can come at a price. oatly has struggled to meet demand, lowered its sales forecast and seen its shares lose around 75% of its value since its IPO last year. The expertise of Danone’s venture capital arm could allow Minor Figures to avoid some of these growing pains while navigating competition from other brands like Planet Oat and Chobani if ​​it ever reaches a large enough scale.

If Minor Figures continues its rapid growth, it could become an acquisition target for Danone like two other venture capital investments: high-end snack maker Michel et Augustin in France and Harmless Harvest in the United States. In March, Danone pledged to restore the company’s growth. and admitted that he underperformed in categories and compared to his peers. Investments from Danone Manifesto Ventures could one day play a major role in its efforts to revive growth.