- Biena Snacks received $8 million in its latest funding round led by MAW Investments, with participation from Blueberry Ventures, Centerman Capital, Tastemaker Capital and New Ground Ventures.
- The company plans to use the new funds to expand sales, distribution and marketing efforts for its Roasted Chickpea Snacks and a new line of Chickpea Puffs, Biena Snacks CEO and Founder Poorvi Patodia told NOSH.
- MAW was created by a group of snack industry veterans offering experience from Snyder's Pretzels, Kettle Chips and Late July Organic Snacks. Peter Michaud of MAW Investments, who will join Biena's board, said in the release Biena is ahead of the plant-based trend, which attracted the group's investment.
Since launching in 2012, Biena has grown its reach to 15,000 retail locations nationwide. The company plans to nearly double its year-over-year revenue in 2019, with its growth largely fueled by fundraising efforts. This is the third funding round for Biena in three years. The company raised $2.3 million in 2018 and $3.75 million in the summer of 2017.
Biena is introducing three flavors of its new Chickpea Puffs — Aged White Cheddar, Vegan Ranch and Blazin' Hot — which the company said will be in Whole Foods stores nationwide next month and in 3,500 total locations by the end of the year.
Biena's new product, designed as a more nutritious snack, could encroach on the market share of Pirate's Booty puffed rice, corn and cheese snacks. Hershey bought Pirate Brands from B&G Foods last year for $420 million and has positioned Pirate's Booty as a better-for-you snack in its portfolio.
Healthier snacks have seen increased investment in recent years as consumer interest grows. With MAW's team of industry veterans coming on board to help Biena, the company could take a bigger piece of the market.
Peter Michaud, who led sales and marketing for Snyder's-Lance better-for-you products, could bring valuable experience as a member of Biena's board of directors. This expertise could do a lot to keep the Biena brand growing and meeting the company's revenue goals.
Besides the new Chickpea Puffs, additional innovations could be coming down the pipeline from Biena, thanks to this latest capital injection. Patodia told NOSH that new products might not use chickpeas, but the company could decide to "stretch the brand equity" to include other plant-based ingredients.
Chickpeas' popularity has shown no signs of slowing down, so Biena has several competitors both in the snack segment and other categories. Hippeas raised $10 million from CAVU Venture Partners in 2017 to expand its organic chickpea puffs. Israel's InnovoPro also raised $4.25 million last year to boost its chickpea-based protein concentrate. Banza is now offering chickpea-based rice and pasta products.
All of this investment and interest is in part because the legume is adaptable to such a wide range of foods and contains significant amounts of protein and fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. Besides its most well-known use as the main ingredient in hummus, chickpeas have been included in chips, other chickpea puffs, chickpea flour and even craft mustard.
As Biena and other food manufacturers take advantage of this growing consumer trend, more applications for chickpeas will likely be dreamed up and produced.