Pod Foods is keeping grocery shelves full of the emerging food brands that consumers are asking for and announced today $13 million in funding, including $10 million in Series A dollars and $3 million in a previously unannounced seed round, to continue developing its digital wholesale business-to-business marketplace.
We profiled the Austin-based company’s founders Larissa Russell and Fiona Lee back in 2019 when they raised $3 million in a round led by Moment Ventures that also included M12. The company’s technology offers a data-driven approach to streamlining the retailer procurement process with brands while connecting consumers to a wider variety of products, including those from up-and-coming brands.
Following the seed round, Pod Foods launched in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, and also launched a mobile app for more easy inventory management to match the right products to the right retailers.
Then the global pandemic hit. In efforts to keep store shelves stocked, the company noticed emerging brands, the niche it focuses on, were displaced from the shelves in favor of established brands. So the company leaned in on creating brand awareness.
“That created acceleration and amplified all of the things we set out to change,” Russell told TechCrunch. “We took 2020 to lean into the challenges, as a result of the pandemic, and work on the business.”
Both M12 and Moment Ventures returned for the Series A, which was led by Industrious Ventures, and now gives the company $16 million in total funding. Additional investors participating in the round include Unshackled Ventures, Barrel Ventures, Relish Works, X Factor Ventures, XRC Labs, K2 Global and Graphene Ventures.
The latest investment is in line with Pod Foods’ growth trajectory, Russell said. The company is already in seven cities and will expand to 10 as it sees a 20% increase in repeat brand purchases today compared to pre-pandemic data.
The Series A also enabled the company to do more hiring, growing to 58 employees from 33 last December. Pod Foods secured a chief technology officer, Timothy Wee, who has a background from Google, Amazon and Walmart, and will also invest in data to build out new services and products, Lee said.
Delivery services rapidly grew over the past two years, driven by consumer expectations of getting items delivered faster, causing retailers to struggle to keep up with demand. As a result, Pod Foods saw both its revenue and customer base triple year-over-year since 2019, while helping retailers adapt faster to resetting products faster based on what sells and what doesn’t, Russell said.
“We’ve had to adapt,” Lee added. “What used to sell would be things like grab-and-go products, but when the pandemic hit, products selling more were like frozen items and beverages. We have to pivot quickly, but because we are small and nimble, we could quickly say what they wanted and get brands on board and keep retailers’ shelves stocked.”
Next up, Pod Foods’ expansion plans include the Pacific Northwest and a greater footprint surrounding its New York and Chicago locations, the company’s largest market, and in Florida.
Christian Gammill, partner at Industrious Ventures, said Pod Foods’ approach “is the first to provide the logistics infrastructure needed to completely overhaul the grocery supply chain for the better, creating a true end-to-end system that enables both retailers and brands to thrive.”
With commerce setting the tone for the supply chain, the company put digital at the forefront, built a data-intelligent operation and is now leveraging an impending inflection point. If companies like Pod Foods can get the data play right, it will help customers and brands, he said.
“Larissa and Fiona are amazing and have a compatible skill set,” Gammill added. “I didn’t see a lot of attention on this space, but a ton in other supply chains, so it made sense and why we dug in.”