- Kite Hill, a producer of yogurt, cheese and dips made from almond milk, has received $10 million in its latest round of funding, according to a Form D filed last week with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The investment came from one undisclosed investor, Food Navigator reported.
- This is the fourth funding round for the California company since 2014 and brings the total raised to $75.5 million, according to Crunchbase. Previous backers include General Mills' 301 Inc venture capital arm and CAVU Venture Partners.
- Kite Hill CEO Rob Leibowitz told Food Navigator the company plans to use the new investment on innovation, infrastructure, people and marketing. Kite Hill recently introduced a new packaging design and logo, plus new plant-based dips, spreads, yogurt and pasta filled with plant-based ricotta, the publication noted.
Kite Hill continues to get significant backing since its launch in 2013, establishing itself as a big player in the non-dairy yogurt and cheese category. Including other investment rounds in 2014, 2016 and 2018, the company — co-founded by Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown — has managed to accrue an impressive $75.5 million to build on its plant-based product line and introduce innovations.
Its funding has often come from some major players in the food industry such as General Mills' VC arm, which has participated at least twice in Kite Hill's funding rounds. The 2018 round this past fall brought in $40 million for the company, which shows a high level of confidence in its products, operations and direction.
CEO Rob Leibowitz told Food Navigator at the time the company had roughly doubled its revenue each year and expected to continue on that path this year. And, in 2021, Kite Hill expects to see five times the business it had in 2017, the publication reported this week.
While Kite Hill is privately held and doesn't report earnings, it seems to be attracting an increasing number of customers and driving sales through product availability at Whole Foods, Target, Kroger, Safeway and Meijer. Revamping its logo and packaging design and introducing innovations could also be helping keep the brand current in the face of ever-increasing competition from other plant-based manufacturers.
It's clear plant-based dairy products are resonating with today's consumers. According to Nielsen data cited by TechCrunch, annual sales of vegan cheese jumped 41% through August 2018, while sales of conventional dairy cheese were flat. Sales of plant-based yogurt increased 39% for the year ending April 21, while conventional yogurt sales dropped by 3%, figures from The Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association show.
Consumer acceptance of dairy alternatives presents an opportunity for Kite Hill and the plant-based dairy category to continue to capture growth. Whether that means it will continue on the same general path for the next few years or position itself for a possible acquisition remains to be seen. Leibowitz indicated last year after being named CEO that "nothing is off the table" for the company.
Meanwhile, Kite Hill may venture away from its almond milk product base. The almond-shaped images on its previous packaging have been replaced with triangular color blocks, and it could be time to add oats, hemp, pea and/or blends of plant-based source ingredients to stay relevant with adventurous consumers. While almond milk is still popular, Danone and Califia have recently added oat-based products to tap into the trend.
Leibowitz didn't provide specifics about where Kite Hill might look next for source ingredients, but he acknowledged to Food Navigator the company didn't have to exclusively stick with almonds and was open to exploring other options.