Scaling Local: Ellenos and Here Gain Investments

Meagan McGinnes

Seattle-based Ellenos and Illinois-based Here both take pride in their local roots. But that doesn’t mean the companies are hesitant to become national brands.

This month, the two food brands both made major funding announcements and declared plans to expand their reach nationally. Here’s the latest on both investments.

Monogram Capital Invests in Ellenos

Monogram Capital Partners acquired a substantial minority stake in Greek yogurt brand Ellenos this week, according to the firm. This marks Monogram’s 13th investment in a total of nine businesses with over $200 million of capital under management.

Ellenos founders Bob and Yvonne Klein started the brand by selling yogurt and fruit parfaits from a stand within Seattle public market Pike’s Place in 2013. The yogurt is made from the heritage cultures imported from Australia and is strained and blended over a proprietary five day process.

Aside from Pike’s Place, the yogurt is also sold in just under 500 doors across the Pacific Northwest at Whole Foods Market and independent grocers.

Monogram Capital founder and partner Jared Stein said the firm was interested in Ellenos because of its track record and velocities across the Pacific Northwest and its potential to expand as a category leader nationwide. According to Stein, the company sells up to 300 units per store per week within some Whole Foods locations.

“When we see tremendous brand evangelism among customers, it’s a great indicator as to what can happen for a business with a bunch of support and additional capital resources to go scale,” Stein said. “In Ellenos case, that was definitely a strong testament to the brand… You look at a lot of the social media engagement and it just over indexes significantly the size of the brand today. You look at all the retail level data and the velocities you see they are unlike any other brand in the category.”

The funds from this investment will be used to make strategic hires to round-out the management team and support brand growth. The capital will also be used to expand Ellenos’ production facility and extend its distribution footprint. The company also plans to introduce new product innovations; customers will still find signature flavors like marionberry, lemon curd and passionfruit, but will also see new additions this year with flavors like mango, pumpkin pie and balsamic pomegranate.

Here Raises $4 Million

Here, a “farm-to-label” refrigerated bean dip, dressing and cold-pressed juice brand, announced earlier this month that it has raised $4 million as part of its Series A round. The round was led by Chciago-based venture firm Listen Co. A number of individuals close to the company, including Mike McCloskey of Fair Life and Kimbal Musk of the Kitchen, also participated in the round and the aforementioned investors have received a seat on the company’s board.

Here, which launched in March 2017, makes its lines of bean dips, cold-pressed juices, and salad dressings from produce grown in the Midwest. The Carol Stream, Ill.-based brand is currently sold exclusively in the Midwest in over 350 stores, including Jewel Osco, Mariano’s, Whole Foods, Martin’s, Woodman’s locations, and in all La Colombe cafes in the region.

Here president Megan Klein said with this capital, she hopes to grow the company’s mission of bringing local sourcing and transparent food production to more consumers outside of the Midwest by expanding its network of partner farms. Klein said she expects Here products to be in 500 stores by the end of 2018, adding that the company’s current network of farmers has the capacity to serve 1,000 stores “easily.”

“We can [currently] reach 75 percent of the population within a day’s drive for four regions of the U.S.,” Klein said. “So we are really doing everything we can to establish ourselves as leaders in local here and source from farmers here but we were forward thinking when we created our SKUs so most dips, salad dressings and juices can be recreated from the four regions of the country using ingredients from those different regions.”

Ingredients for all Here products are sourced from nearly a dozen Midwestern farms and co-ops like MightyVine, Green Sense Farms, Carlson Arbogast, Urban Canopy, and Belle Harvest. As she scales the company, Klein said she is working with farmers to better educate them on how the brand is able to buy produce that would otherwise go to waste or, at the very least, can’t be sold on a grocery shelf.

“For example, we don’t take Mighty Vines nice tomatoes that they can sell for more money to the grocery stores, we take their orange and yellow tomatoes at the bottom of the vine that they would maybe compost or sell to bottom of the barrel food stores,” Klein said. “So, in theory, the more bean dips we sell, the more tomatoes seconds we can buy from them.”

The funds will also be used to grow the company’s team. Klein said this month the brand has brought on four full time sales and marketing-focused employees and four part-time brand ambassadors, bringing their total roster to 40. Klein added that the round has not officially closed due to more interest, and that the brand is looking to raise an additional $1 million with more strategic advisors by the fall.

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