With additional participation from SOSV and AMADEO in the Series A funding round, Grupo Bimbo said it will partner closely with LiveKuna on superfood innovation and support its expansion plans in the US, Canada, and Mexico.
“As we double down in the better-for-you category, we know LiveKuna – a purpose-led brand committed to sourcing superfood ingredients from family farms – will push the limits of what’s possible in snacking,” said Constantino Matouk, director of Bimbo Ventures at Grupo Bimbo.
As part of the partnership, a Grupo Bimbo representative will also join LiveKuna’s board of directors.
“We’re thrilled to bring Grupo Bimbo’s experts into the fold,” said co-founder and president Carlos Gutiérrez.
“They have a long history of working with top CPG brands in the food industry, and their category know-how will be instrumental in evolving the LiveKuna brand.”
Consumers demand transparency and function from superfoods
Launched in 2014 by co-founders Carlos Gutiérrez and Santiago Stacey, LiveKuna has expanded throughout South America (Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador) and more recently the North American market where it's gaining strong consumer traction after launching in Canada and Mexico just over one year ago, Stacey told FoodNavigator-USA.
"We saw really great performance and response from customers in Mexico and Canada," said Stacey, noting how revenues for its quinoa and chia puffs have doubled between 2020 and 2021.
This past summer, LiveKuna's KunaPops rolled out to all 362 Sprouts stores in the US, select locations of Ralph's, and on Amazon, where customers can also order some of the brand's other products including quinoa, banana, and chia flours.
"That was a huge step for us because we’re doubling down on the North American market. They were very excited about the product. It’s been performing really well in the gluten-free and superfood aisle," said Stacey, who added that in LiveKuna will begin selling its other products (garbanzo + chia and kale gluten-free pastas and chia/quinoa-based cereals) through more US channels beginning with Amazon in Q1 2022.
Acknowledging that ingredients such as quinoa and chia aren't as novel to consumers as they once were when first entering the US market, Stacey commented that shopper now care about where and how these ingredients are being used.
"It’s good that consumers know what superfoods are, but now they want to know where they’re coming from and how they’re being used in the product, and I think that’s our competitive advantage," Stacey said.
As a vertically-integrated company, LiveKuna works directly with over 500 family farms in Ecuador to source its quinoa and chia ingredients. The raw ingredients are then shipped to one of the company's two warehouses in Miami (serving East coast accounts) or California (for its west coast distribution where they are processed and packaged into its finished, branded products).
A recent addition to the company's operations, the opening of its California facility was a pandemic-related decision, said Stacey, who noted how the company had trouble getting its products to the West Coast without incurring late fees and penalties with distributors.
"With the pandemic, we adapted a new point of view on logistics. So now we ship from Ecuador to the L.A. port. That for us has alleviated a lot of the turnaround time," he said. Stacey believes that while the company is better equipped to handle its logistics and meet distributor time frames, efficient distribution will be an ongoing challenge to manage as a result of the ongoing pandemic and fluctuating economic environment.
"It's going to accelerate issues, but it’s also going to accelerate solutions," said Stacey.
A significant portion of the money raised in its Series A will also go towards distribution and operations, added Stacey.
Looking ahead to 2022, Stacey said the company is working with Grupo Bimbo on several new innovations, including sweet varieties of its KunaPops.
The company added that it also expects to grow revenues by double digits year-over-year over the next five years.
“Both LiveKuna and Grupo Bimbo have exciting advancements on the horizon,” added Stacey.