Sustainable Foods Startup Kingdom Supercultures Goes from Microbes to $25M
Microbial food cultures and the microbiome are all the rage in healthy eating right now. While scientists are still researching the benefits of microbial health and the role bacteria plays in overall wellbeing, companies are racing to offer consumers all kinds of cultures that claim to be good for your gut -- and the planet. Fermentation is actually at the heart of the technology that's bringing new plant-based replacements for animal products to market, and the switch to these foods can be hugely environmentally beneficial.
Given the interest, it's no surprise that Kingdom Supercultures, a startup out of Brooklyn that aims to commercialize its array of natural microbial culture for the plant-based food market, would be able to attract $25 million in financing from some of the country's top venture investment firms to build out its offering. With existing microbes, the company creates plant-based yogurts and cheeses; low-alcohol wines and beers with the same flavor as the harder stuff; and natural preservatives that can work better than artificial ones.
"Kingdom's goal is to replace the artificial chemicals and preservatives that ensure food keeps its flavor and freshness at the cost of human health and wellbeing."
Kingdom Supercultures is co-founded by serial entrepreneurs, Kendall Dabaghi and Ravi Sheth, who were both studying health at Columbia University prior to the endeavor. In the past, the two have also launched and sold an internet security company, and a media company (with Ashton Kutcher), and created an educational platform for 3-D printing. This current endeavor began with a stint in the startup accelerator program Y-Combinator, where the company raised its initial $3.5 million from Sequoia, Y-Combinator, Lakehouse Ventures, and Brand Foundry Ventures. "The last few years have seen tremendous growth in demand for consumer goods that are healthier and more sustainable," said Dabaghi, CEO of Kingdom Supercultures, in a statement.
TED: Your Gut Microbiome - The Most Important Organ You've Never Heard Of, December 12, 2019.
Kingdom's goal is to replace the artificial chemicals and preservatives that ensure food keeps its flavor and freshness at the cost of human health and wellbeing. Because of this, some of the biggest entrepreneurial names in healthy and plant-based foods have signed on as investors, such as founders of businesses like Daring Foods (the company formerly known as Nuggs), Good Culture, Hungryroot, RXBAR, Waterloo and more. With the new funding, Kingdom Supercultures intends to expand its specialty ingredients to sell to consumer goods manufacturers.
"'We are pioneering an entirely new field of science and class of ingredients by working with biology at the ecosystem and microbiome level,' Sheth, the company's chief science officer, said in a statement."
In terms of location, being New York-based is ideal since some of the largest legacy companies being challenged by Kingdom are also there, such as International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF), an additive company with a market cap of $35 billion.
Kingdom pitches its technology as an alternative to artificial chemicals and claims to have the ability to tune the sensory and functional properties of their products using natural ingredients. Just like IFF would build out artificial isolates to determine and modify food properties -- Kingdom uses natural, microbial strains.
"We are pioneering an entirely new field of science and class of ingredients by working with biology at the ecosystem and microbiome level," Sheth, the company's chief science officer, said in a statement. "Our Superculture platform allows us to assemble natural microbial cultures into new combinations, delivering healthy and sustainable breakthrough ingredients to our customers -- all without genetic modification."
The new investment was led by Shine Capital, a new(ish) investment firm launched by former Spark Capital partner Mo Koyfman. Other investors include Valor, Tao, Lux, SALT, Reference, Digitalis and the aforementioned founders of other successful food startups.
"We were drawn to Kingdom's visionary founders and their use of natural biology coupled with machine learning to help catalyze our move towards natural food, beverage, and beauty products," said Mo Koyfman, founder and general partner at Shine Capital. "Particularly as the plant-based market continues to expand… we are thrilled to support the company's vision from the ground floor."