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Welcome to Dealboard. In this weekly feature, The Current is providing a look at the mergers, acquisitions and venture capital deals making waves in ecommerce, CPG and retail.
This week, a hydration brand raised its second $30+ million round in a year, and there’s new funding for seaweed materials and subscription tech. Plus, Gorilla Glue sells a home goods maker, and Moët Hennessy adds luxury rosé.
Lemon Perfect, the Altanta-based hydration brand, raised $36.8 million in a new funding round. Goat Rodeo Capital Management led the round, Forbes reported. Goat Rodeo Managing Partner Carlton Fowler and Arby’s CMO Rita Patel will join the company’s board. The new funding comes less than a year after the lemon water maker raised $31 million in a Series A round that was backed by Beyonce. Alongside the funding news, the company also laced up a new endorsement deal with NBA star Dejounte Murray.
Loliware, a materials tech company that makes products using seaweed, raised $6 million in a pre-Series A round. The financing includes investment from L Catterton, CityRock Venture Partners, Alumni Ventures Group, Geekdom Fund, Ehukai Investments, 5 Pillars Capital, Kilara Capital founder Ben Krasnostein, Clay Rockefeller, Kiss the Ground cofounder Ryland Engelhart, Nutiva founder John Roulac and Blue Bottle Coffee founder Bryan Meehan,
Smartrr, which provides subscription technology for Shopify brands, raised $10 million in a Series A funding round. The financing was led by Canvas Ventures, with participation from Expa and Nyca. The company’s software allows Shopify brands to offer customizable subscriptions, bundles, loyalty programs and rewards. “While Smartrr got its start in subscription management, we really see them as a leader in an emerging ‘post-purchase operating system’ for growing digital brands,” said Canvas’ Harrison Lieberfarb.
Highbeam, which provides financial insights for ecommerce brands, raised $10 million in debt from TriplePoint, TechCrunch reported. Founded by Microsoft and Shopify alums, the company will use the funding to expand its digital products, which include banking and cashflow insights.
Caliray, a beauty brand from Urban Decay founder Wende Zomnir, raised funding from early stage beauty and wellness-focused VC firm True Beauty Ventures, WWD reported. The funding will help the company expand an existing partnership with Sephora.
Moët Hennessy acquired Château Minuty, a luxury rosé producer based at an estate in the Saint-Tropez peninsula in France. With the deal, previous owners The Matton family will continue to run the estate, and operate the company. Under Moët Hennessy, the company will be able to meet export demand for the wine internationally. Terms were not disclosed.
Sapadilla, which makes environmentally conscious and naturally scented home products, was acquired from Gorilla Glue by Cincy Brands, a technology company founded by former Procter & Gamble executives that acquires “better-for-you” brands. Vancouver-based Sapadilla makes a line of hand soaps, dish soaps and cleaners that use essential oil blends and biodegradable ingredients. The brand sells through its direct-to-consumer website and Amazon. Terms were not disclosed.Away, the DTC luggage brand, is exploring a potential sale of the company, according to reporting from Bloomberg. Valued at $1.45 billion, Away was among a generation of digitally native brands that combined product acumen, millennial-friendly design appeal and marketing prowess to achieve fast growth over the last decade. After demand cratered during the pandemic, the brand rebounded as travel returned and explored an IPO in 2021. Now, it is working to solicit potential buyers, as well as other strategic options.
Trending in Brand News
Campbell Soup Company CEO Mark Clouse offered thoughts on messaging amid inflationary shifts in consumer behavior.
After months of elevated inflation and interest rate hikes that have the potential to cool demand, consumers are showing more signs of shifting behavior.
It’s showing up in retail sales data, but there’s also evidence in the observations of the brands responsible for grocery store staples.
The latest example came this week from Campbell Soup Company. CEO Mark Clouse told analysts that the consumer continues to be “resilient” despite continued price increases on food, but found that “consumers are beginning to feel that pressure” as time goes on.
This shows up in the categories they are buying. Overall, Clouse said Campbell sees a shift toward shelf-stable items, and away from more expensive prepared foods.
There is also change in when they make purchases. People are buying more at the beginning of the month. That’s because they are stretching paychecks as long as possible.
These shifts change how the company is communicating with consumers.
Clouse said the changes in behavior are an opportunity to “focus on value within our messaging without necessarily having to chase pricing all the way down.”
“No question that it's important that we protect affordability and that we make that relevant in the categories that we're in," Clouse said. "But I also think there's a lot of ways to frame value in different ways, right?”
A meal cooked with condensed soup may be cheaper than picking up a frozen item or ordering out. Consumers just need a reminder. Even within Campbell’s own portfolio, the company can elevate brands that have more value now, even if they may not always get the limelight.
The open question is whether the shift in behavior will begin to show up in the results of the companies that have raised prices. Campbell’s overall net sales grew 5% for the quarter ended April 30, while gross profit margins held steady around 30%. But the category-level results were more uneven. U.S. soup sales declined 11%, though the company said that was owed to comparisons with the quarter when supply chains reopened a year ago and expressed confidence that the category is seeing a longer-term resurgence as more people cook at home following the pandemic. Snacks, which includes Goldfish and Pepperidge Farm, were up 12% And while net sales increased overall, the amount of products people are buying is declining. Volumes were down 7%.
These are trends happening across the grocery store. Campbell is continuing to compete. It is leading with iconic brands, and a host of different ways to consume them. It is following that up with innovation that makes the products stand out. Then, it is driving home messaging that shows consumers how to fit the products into their lives, and even their tightening spending plans.
Campbell Soup is more than 150 years old, and has seen plenty of difficult economic environments. It is also a different business today, and will continue to evolve. At the end of the day, continued execution is what’s required.
“If it's good food, people are going to buy it, especially if it's a great value,” Clouse said.