The Long Island-based company was founded in 2019 by Hungryroot co-founder Gregory Harry Struck after he adopted a plant-based diet while battling cancer.
“It was born out of a need when a lot of things were eliminated for me,” Struck told TechCrunch. “During this period of change, I thought about consumption and how it affects our well-being and health system.”
Struck recalls a time in the grocery store looking in the dairy case for yogurt, catching a glimpse of pudding and wondering why this product had never been reimagined, nutrition-wise. He went home, turned his house into a commercial kitchen and began experimenting with recipes, sometimes using his three young children as taste-testers.
When Struck found a recipe that worked, he started handing the pudding out to friends and family and ultimately started Noops. The company’s first product is an oat milk-based line that is organic, free of dairy and gluten, contains prebiotics, plant protein and fiber, and has no added sugar. The pudding comes in traditional flavors like chocolate, caramel, mocha and vanilla.
Joining Lerer Hippeau in the investment are Siddhi Capital, Idea Farm Ventures, Simple Food Ventures, Animal Capital and American Pie executive Alan Mitzner. The latest round gives the company a total of $5 million raised to date, Struck said.
“This, for us, is very significant in terms of having a partner like Lerer Hippeau believe in us that we can be the next-generation,” he added. “And for us, we know exactly where we are going and can see the future and be a part of it.”
As part of the investment Larry Appel, former CEO of The Fresh Market, and Benjamin McKean, CEO of Hungryroot, will join the company’s advisory board.
Andrea Hippeau, partner at Lerer Hippeau, agreed, saying that it was Struck himself, and his background, that led to the firm’s belief that he could make an impact on the plant-based food category and build a strong company. The plant-based foods market was valued at $29.4 billion in 2020, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence report, and is poised to grow to $74 billion by 2027.
As investors in the space, Hippeau said the firm is looking at this category as “the next generation of consumables that will be hitting every category.” And, while the food type has reached a number of categories, like meat and seafood, there is not much in the space of pudding, nor have incumbents come out with better-for-you options, Hippeau said.
In fact, of the $348 billion in annual sales generated by the top 25 food and beverage incumbents in the U.S., some $50 billion of the sales can be attributable to snack brands, like Jell-O, which contain animal byproducts and have remained unchanged since launching in 1897, Struck said.
“Grocers are looking for the plant-based alternatives,” Hippeau said. “Noops is making a pudding with the same flavors people like and nutritional to take yogurt on head-on. Gregory and his team understood this and had those connections already established when they came to us.”
Meanwhile, the new funding will go to grow Noops’ distribution channels and network as it services retailers and direct-to-consumers, develop additional partnerships, make some key hires in finance and sales, bring on a second manufacturing partner as it aims to triple production and create more flavors and products, including a breakfast line that will develop a yogurt alternative.
Noops officially launched in Q1 of 2021 and is now available in more than 750 locations of retailers, including Sprouts Farmers Market and Wegmans Foods Markets. In addition, since its pre-launch in 2020, the company has doubled its projected numbers. It intends to launch in Fresh Thyme this year.