- Moringa superfood producer Kuli Kuli closed a $5 million round of series B funding led by Kellogg Company’s venture capital fund eighteen94 and global product company Griffith Foods, according to a statement. Griffith Foods plans to include moringa in a range of the company’s offerings.
- Kuli Kuli founder Lisa Curtis said the investment will help her company launch its new moringa ingredient business while continuing to scale its powder, bar and shot segment. Kuli Kuli's moringa products are currently available in 7,000 retail stores, and CPGs will still account for most of the company's business.
- "Kuli Kuli was eighteen94's first investment and has served as a model for how large food companies can partner with startups to the benefit of both," Simon Burton, managing director of eighteen94 Capital, said in a press release.
For years, nutritionists have hailed the moringa plant as a superfood because of its nutritional profile, powerful anti-inflammatory, high antioxidant activity and tissue-protective properties. The leaves, pods and oil of the plant are known to provide a good source of nutrients, including iron, calcium and vitamin A — making it one of the most functional ingredients on the market.
With so many consumers demanding functional food and ingredients, it’s no surprise that moringa saw 460% growth between 2014 and 2017, according to the NEXT Trend data shared by Kuli Kuli. Today, Nielsen estimated the super ingredient has achieved 3% household penetration.
Seeing the market penetration and potential for further growth, Kuli Kuli is planning to provide the raw ingredient to more CPG manufacturers that have deeper market connections and larger production quantities. This could expedite growth for Kuli Kuli instead of just developing its own products. Investments by Kellogg's venture capital fund eighteen94 show bigger companies are buying into the idea. By providing Kuli Kuli with increased funding, companies are hoping to benefit from the increased production of the product, which they can then introduce into their own product lines.
Kellogg, in particular, is likely eyeing Kuli Kuli's ingredients as an opportunity to further entrench itself in the health and wellness trend after several years of soggy sales in its core cereal business. Although there are other moringa suppliers, Kuli Kuli estimated it has more than half of the U.S. retail moringa market. In addition, Curtis claims Kuli Kuli's moringa is higher quality. The reason, she told Food Navigator, is because the company spent years developing transparent supply chains that work with small farmers as well as proprietary processing methods to ensure the moringa powder they produce is free from contamination.
Consumers of this superfood are likely to appreciate the transparency that Kuli Kuli is bringing to the market. Millennials, who are the largest living generation, are more likely to purchase products based on issues such as environmental sustainability, fair trade and zero waste. As everyday consumers look for cleaner and more ethical products, more companies are trying to cater to those demands. According to a survey from Food & Wine, 67% of millennials said they would shell out more money for ethically produced, on-the-go foods.
While it's unknown whether moringa will surpass the popularity of established superfoods such as wheatgrass and spuirilina, Kellogg and other companies are willing to invest and take that bet now to help reinvigorate their better-for-you portfolios.