N!CK’S grabs $100M to create better-for-you snacks

Swedish food tech company N!CK’S is taking on the world, one healthy ice cream pint at a time.

The company on Thursday announced $100 million Series C funding toward creating additional healthy snacks and ice cream products that have a proprietary blend of sweeteners and ingredients, but with a fraction of the calories and no added sugar.

Kinnevik, Ambrosia and Temasek co-led the round and were joined by Gullspang. The latest funding gives the company $160 million in total investments, Carlos Altschul, N!CK’S CEO North America, told TechCrunch.

N!CK’S got started in 2017 in Europe when founder and head of R&D Niclas Luthman’s mother was diagnosed as a diabetic, and Luthman diagnosed as pre-diabetic, according to Altschul.

“He recognized that there was not a lot of food science bringing better-for-you solutions to the space,” he added. “He found that it was easier to change the food versus change the way we eat.”

In Europe, the company makes ice cream, snack bars and confectionery products. However, Altschul says N!CK’S is a snacking brand that is “a platform for changing culture.” The innovation and ingredients, all rooted in the company’s R&D, are what differentiates the company from its competitors, he added.

The company has been busy over the past two years. At the end of 2019, N!CK’S entered the United States with ice cream and is now leading in velocity per store in that category, he added. It also launched a vegan dairy line featuring Perfect Day’s proprietary animal-free dairy proteins and plant-based alternative fat.

Its direct-to-consumer business launched in 2020 and has remained at the top of the DTC ice cream delivery space since July, Altschul said. This year, the company launched a line of Keto protein bars, starting on its direct-to-consumer and Amazon channels, with plans to expand into retail stores by the end of the year.

Between 2020 and 2021, N!CK’S expanded from 4,500 U.S. stores to 6,700, and expanded in the U.K. through a partnership with WHSmith.

The new funding will accelerate the company’s goal of doubling its stores in the U.S. and Europe, hiring additional talent, marketing and making investments in R&D so that it can launch new products.

Magnus Jakobson, investment director at Kinnevik, said he has been investing in the food space for a few years and says the industry is attractive due to the multiple tailwinds of sustainability and health happening at the moment, which is driving demand and the upstream ability to build brands.

He considers it “an exciting point in time,” that the traction N!CK’S has shown to date “is impressive,” especially having done it on its own initially, and that strategy has now attracted other food technology partners.

“How people live and consume food is changing and is what is enabling new brands to be built,” Jakobson said. “Companies like Oatly, Beyond and Impossible started the industry, but we have seen more breakouts in technology and new ways of reaching consumers with standalone brands. N!CK’S is a super exciting one, and even in the early days of the industry, is showing promise.”