Fundraising isn’t really anyone’s idea of a good time, but for the team behind the just-closed Boulder Investment Group Reprise, it had to be done to keep the good times rolling.
So even after seeing their initial natural foods venture fund, Boulder Brands Investment Group (BIG) marginalized by its parent conglomerate’s spiral into a takeover, the fund’s three former leaders, Duane Primozich, Carole Buyers, and Bill Weiland, refused to be discouraged. Instead, they set to work raising a new fund, christened Boulder Investment Group Reprise, or BIGR Ventures.
“We’re just having too much fun to quit,” Primozich said, “That’s the bottom line.”
Investors decided they weren’t ready to see the three managing partners quit, either, providing $56 million in backing for BIGR’s initial fund, which closed last week. There are three investments on the books following its initial, $18 million raise (including Bonafide Provisions and Hope Foods), which closed in January. One more is scheduled to follow in short order, according to Primozich, although he wouldn’t divulge the company.
The three partners have deep roots in the space and complementary skills and experience to inform their investments, with Buyers supplying experience from Wall Street, while Primozich has operational expertise that comes from running and working at several natural and organic food companies. Weiland, meanwhile, brings both the brawn and the insights, having turned his regional natural foods brokerage house, Presence Marketing, into a national power.
“Having Bill Weiland as our third partner allows us to flex the muscle of the largest independent natural foods Broker in the U.S.,” Buyers said. That means that BIGR’S portfolio companies will have access to a huge network of retailer and natural foods consumers, she added.
Weiland, who has a long history of making investments in the sector, will also now direct his investment through the fund. Buyers and Primozich are both fund investors themselves, along with a family office, an institutional investor, and what Primozich described as several individuals from the industry. With $55 million, the fund is aiming to help supply early growth capital to natural and organic product companies in the $1 million to $15 million revenue range.
With Weiland getting early looks at many brands in the category, and their own visibility in the space, BIGR has a strong network. But there’s also a big charge:
“We’re intentional about investing in companies that will propagate the values of the industry to which the three of us have devoted our careers,” Weiland said. “The strongest companies we see are those that have a mission or some form of social responsibility woven into the fabric of their purpose. We like to see success broadly defined to include shareholders, employees, suppliers, consumers, and the planet.”
They certainly pulled it off the first time around, when, as Boulder Brands employees in 2013, Buyers and Primozich brought Weiland into the fold to start that company’s in-house VC unit. They saw successful returns on investments in Suja Juice and Epic Bar — both of which were sold to larger entities — before Boulder Brands was itself sold to rival Pinnacle Foods.
Having each committed early to the natural and organic space, there’s something of a defending the faith attitude to the BIGR team, as well. Investor groups ranging from small family funds to large strategic companies have formed in recent years to try to cash in on the growth of the natural product set, and as veterans of the industry’s early years, they feel a strong sense of responsibility to it.
“There’s a lot of money flowing into the natural foods world,” Primozich said. “Today’s consumer can find out whatever they want to about ingredient and source. We want to make sure the products we are backing — and the ones they are buying — are walking their talk. I do want to protect against those values being watered down.”