10 most successful food start-ups
Start-ups are by definition small new businesses. It’s rather sobering to find out that 20% of start-ups don’t make it past their first year, 30% dissolve in their second and over 50% stop operating after their fifth, but several hugely successful global companies were start-ups and didn’t start operating with a big financial backing behind them. Many had humble – or relatively so – origins.
Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world until recently, and now the second after being dethroned by Elon Musk, according to Bloomberg Millionaires Index, started Amazon in his garage in 1994, using some of the money he saved from working for a fintech company and later in banking, and $300,000 his parents invested in his new digital venture.
We take a look at 10 start-ups who went to become a huge success. All these start-ups were were set up with just an idea, a kitchen and plenty of belief in their innovation and now are some of the best known and best performing food businesses nationally and internationally.
If you live in the UK you can’t miss the ubiquitous advertising campaign for Gorillas, an online German on-demand grocery service that delivers customers’ shopping to their door in 10 minutes using its dark convenience stores. Founded in Berlin just over a year ago, in May 2020, by Canberk Donmez, Jörg Kattner, Kağan Sümer, Ronny Shibley, Sukru Dagdelen, Ugur Samut and Ronny Gottschlich, the start-up has had a meteoric rise. Backed by Atlantic Food Labs, it now operates in Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Belgium and the US.
Founded in Verona, Italy, in 2014, online marketplace Everli currently operates in 80 cities inItaly, France, Poland and the Czech Republic. The e-grocery start-up allows customers to order groceries from their preferred supermarket with a one-hour window of choice for delivery.
Everli has become Europe’s leading e-grocery platform and following a Series C investment round where they raised $100 million, the company is now expanding in Germany and Romania.
Plant-based Swedish company Oatly was founded in 1994 by brothers Rickard and Bjorn Oeste. Famous for its oat-based vegan milk, yoghurt and ice-cream, the start-up is available in over 20 countries around the world.
Oatly’s notable investors include Jay Z’s entertainment company Roc Nation, Natalie Portman, Oprah Winfrey, and more recently, the private equity firm Blackstone who Oatly sold a minority $200m stake to in July 2020. The company is trading on the Nasdaq exchange and is valued at $13 billion.
Innocent was founded by friends Richard Reed, Adam Balon, and Jon Wright in 1998. They started making smoothies in their kitchens using £500 worth of fruit while they were studying at Cambridge University. They have been owned by Coca Cola since 2013, and their primary office is in London.
The start-up struggled for fifteen months to raise capital from investors until American businessman Maurice Pinto took interest in the smoothie-making business and invested £250,000 into the company. Innocent smoothies are currently available in 14 European markets and in Australia and the company has branched out into plant-based milk, soft drinks and juice. The global company now has a net worth of around $500 million.
One of the most successful start-ups, Beyond Meat was founded in Los Angeles by Ethan Brown in 2009 with the aim of replicating the texture of meat in plant-based food products. The brand is available in over 80 countries. In 2019 Beyond Meat went public, trading on the Nasdaq exchange and in June 2021, the company was said to have a market cap of $9.44billion.
Some of the company’s well-known investors include Jeff Bezos, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill Gates, actress Jessica Chastain, Snoop Dogg, and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.
Recipe box start-up Gousto was founded by Timo Boldt and James Carter in 2012, with headquarters in Shepherd’s Bush, London.
Its leading investors include Perwyn Private Equity, Canaccord Genuity, Unilever Ventures, BGF, MMC Ventures and Joe Wicks. The company did particularly well during the pandemic, achieving Unicorn status in November 2020, after raising £25m from Perwyn and BGF, which gave the company a valuation of around £770m. This allowed it to join the other two companies with Unicorn status in the country: Brewdog and Deliveroo. Gousto is currently only available in the UK and isn’t planning to branch out abroad.
Healthy snacks start-up Graze was founded in 2008 by seven friends brought together by Graham Bosher, founder of film rental business Lovefilm. The company started expanding to Europe in 2019 when it started sending its snacks to the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands.
Bought by the Carlyle Group in 2012, Graze is now owned by Unilever, who bought the company in 2019 for £150m.
A boat trip gave Devon school friends Myles Hopper, Giles Humphries and Robert Grieg-Gran Mindful Chef the idea for recipe box Mindful Chef, which they launched in 2015. The subscription business distributes healthy recipe boxes to customers on a weekly basis. They are currently still a UK-based delivery service, but don’t operate in Northern Ireland, Isle of Wight, Isle of man and the Channel Islands, as well as certain Scottish postcodes.
In May 2021, the company was heading for a £9 million turnover, and has been backed by tennis player Andy Murray, Will Greenwood MBE and Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton. Nestlé invested £6M in the company in December 2018 and bought it in 2020.
Stanford University biochemistry professor Patrick O. Brown took a sabbatical in 2009 to find a solution to intensive animal farming and develop food without the use of animal ingredients. In 2011 he founded Impossible Foods and launched its first product, plant-based Impossible Burger, in 2016. Impossible Foods products are currently available in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and the UAE.
The start-up has received investment from Google Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Viking Global Investors, UBS and Horizons Ventures, as well as tech moguls Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, music entrepreneur and rapper Jay Z, tennis champion Serena Williams and singer Katy Perry. Overall Impossible Foods has raised $1.3 billion over 12 rounds of funding. Impossible Foods is currently in talks to launch on the stock market.
Chilean plant-based start-up NotCo produces plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. Founded by technologists Matias Muchnick, Pablo Zamora and Karim Pichara in 2015, the Jeff Bezos backed company reached Unicorn status in July after their latestfunding round raised $235 million, reaching an overall value of $1.5 billion. Notable investors includeFormula One driver Lewis Hamilton, tennis champion Roger Federer, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and American musician DJ Questlove.
The start-up currently operates inthe United States, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.