BELLEVUE — A small producer of plant-based dairy alternatives that got its start from 500 backers on Kickstarter has now raised $33 million from bigger professional investment firms.
Nutpods, which makes almond and coconut coffee creamers and is headquartered in Bellevue, is a small company of 24 people. But its most recent round of funding was lead by VMG Partners, a private equity firm from San Francisco that has worked with food brands like Spindrift (sparkling water), Justin’s (peanut butter) and KIND Healthy Snacks. Two longtime investors, Sidekick Fund and CircleUp Growth Partners, also contributed.
Madeline Haydon, the founder and CEO of Nutpods, said the company plans on expanding its product line. It has three flavors in stores — the original, unsweetened creamer; French Vanilla; and hazelnut — with plans to add more flavors that Nutpods already sells online. It’s also looking to expand beyond the 11- and 16-ounce cartons.
“We have an innovation pipeline of new flavors and sizes and products that we’re looking at, all plant-based.” she said.
Plant-based dairy substitutes saw 50% growth from 2017 to 2018, according to data from the Plant-Based Foods Association and Nielsen. Plant-based creamers grew even faster — 131% — in the same period.
Last year, Nutpods dramatically increased its retail presence to more than 15,000 stores nationwide, among them big chains like Safeway and Sprouts Farmers Markets, along with smaller grocery stores that specialize in natural foods. While Nutpods says its online sales have grown significantly, retail counted for the majority of its 250% growth for the year. It became the third most popular plant-based creamer.
Haydon said she started the company because creamers on the market could not accommodate her diet. She has gestational diabetes, is lactose intolerant and was, at the time, pregnant.
“At first it was really about all of us had really poor options,” Haydon said. “Now, it’s a good fit for the marketplace where consumers are migrating away from big CPG [consumer packaged goods] companies towards more carefully crafted brands where they’re authentic, they are transparent.”
The coconut and almond coffee creamer product got its start in 2013 as a direct-to-consumer product. It gained a cult following on Kickstarter with small businesses, families and cafes that catered to specific diets like keto or the Whole30.
Nutpods made their debut in PCC Community Markets around the Seattle area in May 2015. A month later, the company began selling list products on Amazon to reach a national audience.
“We are the number one brand of nondairy creamer on Amazon and have been for a couple of years,” said Patrick Coyle, the company’s vice president of marketing.
In four years on the market, the Nutpods team has grown to 24 people. Nutpods works with co-manufacturers with bigger facilities on the East and West Coasts to produce and package the creamer.
“We’ve got so many different market forces that are working for us,” Haydon said. “I can’t think of a better time to launch a brand like Nutpods.”