John Foraker, who led the well-known organic food brand Annie’s for 17 years, is working on a new organic food startup in Berkeley, according to both his LinkedIn account and a recent report in the Star Tribune of Minnesota.
General Mills bought Annie’s for $820 million in 2014. Foraker was supposed to stay for one year. He stayed on for three, but told the Star last month that he isn’t cut out for corporate life and instead wants to pour his time into his new startup, which he expects will grow “big and fast into a highly disruptive force in the organic food space.”
Foraker has also been somewhat active as an angel investor. In 2015, for example, he participated in a $22 million funding round for CircleUp, the crowdfunding platform for consumer brands to raise money from accredited investors.
According to a new SEC filing, Foraker also contributed recently to a $5.3 million round for Bkhati Chai, an iced tea line based in Boulder, Colorado. And he lists Quinn, a new snacks brand that makes pretzels and microwaveable popcorn, among his investments on the platform AngelList.
Foraker remains a special advisor to General Mills. He has said he’ll be taking the wraps off his new startup this fall.
If General Mills is an investor, don’t be surprised. The food giant launched a venture capital arm in 2015 called 301 Inc that’s been betting on small rivals that could someday become big players in the grocery store. Among its investments so far: the plant food company Beyond Meat and Purely Elizabeth, which makes gluten-free, ancient grain granola.
Competition for new organic products has grown fierce for traditional brands. Just today, food giants Unilever and Nestlé each added one new company to their respective portfolios. Unilever acquired Pukka Herbs, a U.K.-based organic tea company; Nestle acquired Sweet Earth, a California company that makes veggie burritos and other healthful, frozen meals.
The global organic food and beverage market is expected to reach a whopping $320.5 billion by 2025, according to an April report by Grand View Research, which cited the popularity of non-GMO products among consumers, owing to the health benefits associated with their consumption.
We’ve reached out to Foraker for more information; we hope to have the skinny from him soon.