Heavy Meal

Gary Vaynerchuk Leads Investments In ESG-Focused Meal Delivery And Breakfast Oatmeal Startups

Media marketing guru and serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, best known for his forward-thinking investing strategy and bullish outlook on NFTs, is actively expanding his consumer products portfolio, leading two separate investments recently in Canadian meal delivery company Ethey, and plant protein-enriched oatmeal startup Kreatures of Habit that has officially gone live today.

The CEO of VaynerMedia is no stranger to the food and beverage industry as the 45-year-old took the reins of his family wine business in the 90’s, and transformed it to be a predominantly e-commerce business with the launch of YouTube-based webcast series “Wine Library TV.” Most recently, he also participated in the $11 million series A round of Tiny Organics, a New York-based baby food company focusing on savory-forward, whole vegetables.

Vaynerchuk’s latest investment in Ethey, recently rebranded from LiveFit Foods to ultimately create an ESG platform, comes amid the increasing M&A appetite for the meal delivery services market with Nestlé acquiring Freshly for $1.5 billion and HelloFresh purchasing Factor75 for $277 million in 2020.

Ethey’s founder and CEO Nick Spina notes how his team has been bootstrapping for the past five years until Vaynerchuk joined them as an advisor and partner, leading the premium, direct-to-consumer meal delivery firm’s latest $20 million round, $6 million of which came from its previous oversubscribed family and friends round.

Ethey, which currently offers 100 different customized menus for subscribers with various health preferences including vegan and keto, and promises 24-hour delivery across North America, says the newly raised capital will support U.S. marketing as it looks to expand south of the border in the fall, and anticipates to reach $100 million in annual revenue within the next 16 months through the production from its London, Ontario-based sustainable manufacturing plant.

“We’re a zero food waste facility, and we’ve made heavy investments into a worm farm in our basement,” explained Spina. “We deliver all of our food scraps into the basement, where the worms eat the food scraps and produce worm castings, which is worm poop, and then we deliver that back to the farms.”

He said: “As for our packaging, we’re going to be fully reusable, fully compostable, and fully consumable — our ice packs are actually going to be made out of juice,” adding Ethey is also exploring acquisitions in the adjacent categories to compliment its existing product lines in the long term.

Spina expects a continued robust deal landscape for meal delivery services as Ethey has been approached by several private equity groups and one of the category leaders as a potential target, but says the company could also opt for an IPO within a year or two.

The theme of health and convenience continues to resonate with Vaynerchuk’s other investment in Kreatures of Habit launched officially today by restaurant entrepreneur, TV host, and fitness coach Michael Chernow, who aims to foster daily habits that lead to a healthier lifestyle through a line of oat-based breakfast The PrOATagonist combining the nutritional value of pea protein, pumpkin seeds, Omega 3, and Vitamin D3.

The company, which has also onboarded former RXBar’s CMO Victor Lee as an advisor, is the latest player in the $3.3 billion pre-packed oats category, and its three varieties — chocolate, blueberry banana, and vanilla — can be prepared in less than three minutes.

“It is an all-encompassing lifestyle that ultimately will give people an opportunity to implement habits that I have authentically lived by for more than 10 years on a daily basis to hopefully give them an opportunity to be a better version of themselves,” said Chernow, noting how the brand also marks his 17 years of sobriety.

“I also like to think of this product as the first meal of the day,” the New York native added, “because the first thing you put into your body is ultimately a depiction of what you’re going to introduce to your body throughout the rest of the day.”

Vaynerchuk is a major shareholder leading Kreatures of Habit’s $2 million investment round, $200,000 of which came from Chernow personally. The company plans to be a direct-to-consumer brand for “a fair amount of time” before launching into retail, according to Chernow.

“Our target is to hit $1.5 million in sales in the first year, and then two and a half times that in year two before reaching $15 million in our third year,” he said.