Dairy, Cheese, Eggs / Industry News / Business Strategies

General Mills, CAVU Invest in Cottage Cheese Startup

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Mar 09, 2016

The venture capital arm of General Mills is investing in another food startup, it was announced on March 8 on Fortune's website. The firm participated in a funding round for Good Culture, an organic cottage cheese and related products manufacturer, which said it closed a $2.1 million financing round with lead investments coming from CAVU venture partners and 301 Inc., the business development and venturing unit within General Mills that takes investment stakes in small regional food startups that are looking for capital to grow.

Irvine, Calif.-based Good Culture sells organic cottage cheese that's high in protein and low in sugar and has already found some key retail success, stocking its savory and sweet cottage cheeses on retail shelves at Whole Foods Market and Sprouts Farmers Market. Founders Jesse Merrill and Anders Eisner say their brand’s cottage cheese includes non-genetically modified (GMO) ingredients and comes from grass-fed milk from cows that live on sustainable family farms. Like many food startups, it also vows to give back to the community, stating that 1 percent of its sales goes toward nonprofits dedicated to protecting the environment.

"We are thrilled to partner with Good Culture," said John Haugen, vice president and general manager of 301 Inc., in a statement. Haugen said General Mills’ resources can help the startup grow in a category gaining more attention from grocery shoppers: nutrient-dense, high-protein snacks. 301, which takes its name from the address of the original Pillsbury A Mill in Minneapolis, is seeking businesses that have demonstrated early success in the marketplace, have "a remarkable product offering" and a strong, expandable brand.

Fortune reports that 301 invests in startups competing in new categories, taking stakes in smaller brands that could eventually result in a full acquisition, though that's not a requirement. It's a way for the cereal maker, with $17.6 billion in annual sales, to keep a pulse on the fast changes in the world of food and beverage as millennials and other consumers gravitate toward new brands with feel-good messages.

Other investments 301 Inc. has made include stakes in California plant-based food maker Beyond Meat, which makes burgers and “chicken” strips from soy and pea protein, and Texas kale chips brand Rhythm Superfoods.