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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, Ariana Grande’s beauty brand gets new investment, while Campbell Soup and Qurate Retail are divesting well-known brands. On the software front, there’s new investment for CPG competitive intelligence and automated savings.
Here are the latest deals:
Ariana Grande’s r.e.m. beauty announces new investment
r.e.m. beauty, the viral brand founded by singer Ariana Grande, raised new funds through a strategic investment deal.
The financing was led by Sandbridge Capital, with participation from Strand Equity, HYBE America, Live Nation Entertainment and Universal Music Group.
Founded in 2021, r.e.m. beauty recently appointed Michelle Shigemasa as CEO. The deal comes after Grande took the brand independent following the bankruptcy of previous licensee Forma Brands.
"r.e.m. beauty has earned the trust of the beauty community and consumers alike by creating an impressive best-in-class line of products inspired by Ariana's compelling mission driven brand vision," said Ken Suslow, Sandbridge Capital founder and managing partner, in a statement. "We are thrilled to come together with Ariana and her stellar r.e.m. team in support of the brand's strong growth trajectory through our global industry network and brand building expertise."
Checkmate raises $15M from a slate of celebrity investors
Checkmate, a mobile app providing automated savings for ecommerce, raised $15 million in a Series A round.
The financing was led by GV (Google Ventures), with new support from Mantis VC (The Chainsmokers), Common Metal, BDuck Capital, Black Angels Group and continued support from Wischoff Ventures, Fuel Capital, Blackbird Ventures, F7 Ventures, Night Capital & Scribble Ventures.
Angels supporting the round include Paris Hilton, Carter Reum of M13 Ventures, DST Global Partner Saurabh Gupta, Tim Kendall of Meta and Pinterest, Grindr and Yahoo vet Jeff Bonforte James & Geraldine Chin Moody of Sendle, Alex & Anthony Zaccaria of LinkTree, Trevor Neff of Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, and Arthur Levy & Michael Tannenbaum of Brex.
Checkmate said its app can find savings at over 40,000 stores. It does this by finding codes online, extracting codes from email and partnering with brands to create new codes.
Going forward, Checkmate wants to personalize the end-to-end shopping experience through new tools including package tracking and centralizing order updates.
Laced raises $12M for sneaker marketplace
Laced, a U.K.-based ecommerce platform for sneakers, raised $12 million in new funding, according to Footwear News.
Talis Capital led the Series A round, with participation from H&M Group Ventures, which is the investment arm of H&M Group. Participants also included BY Venture Partners and Truesight Ventures, as well as angel investors.
Founded in 2018 by Chris Gibbons, Laced provides a marketplace for buying and selling sought-after sneakers and luxury goods.
“We are thrilled to back Chris and the dedicated team behind Laced as they embark on the next stage of their journey,” said Nanna Andersen, head of new growth & ventures at H&M Group, in a statement. “In building an impressive online marketplace, they are not only providing consumers with a specially curated selection of in-demand sneakers, but also an important platform to extend the lifecycle of products. This investment is exactly the type of company and entrepreneur that we are delighted to support.”
Asos raises £75 million in equity
Fast fashion retailer Asos raised £75 million (or $93 million) as it pursues a turnaround effort, Bloomberg reported. The raise included participation from Danish fashion outfit Bestseller and US-based Camelot Capital Partners.
The move comes after Asos revealed losses of £290m for the six months ended in February. The new funds will help the company change its approach to buying and merchandising.
Prime Roots raises $30M for plant-based deli meats
Prime Roots, a maker of plant-based deli-style meats made from koji mycelium, raised $30 million in a Series B funding round.
The financing was led by True Ventures, Pangaea Ventures, Prosus Ventures, Top Tier Capital, Diamond Edge Ventures, SOSV/IndieBio, Solasta Ventures, Monde Nissin, Alumni Ventures, Gaingels, Meach Cove Capital, The House Fund, and Hyphen Capital.
Founded in 2017, Prime Roots applies fermentation and food science techniques to create a product that has the “identical microscopic texture of meat,” and adds an umami flavor from plants. The company will use the funding to scale to more deli counters and restaurants.
"People are asking for sustainable meat options that taste good, make them feel good and do good with less planet impact. Prime Roots delivers on all three: taste, nutrition, and sustainability," said Kimberlie Le, founder and CEO of Prime Roots, in a statement. "This new funding is a testament to the market opportunity for the next generation of plant-based meats that meet consumer expectations while forging into old world categories like deli with disruptive innovation."
Datasembly closes on $16M in Series B funding
Datasembly, a software company that provides competitive intelligence tools for CPG brands and retailers, secured $16 million in a Series B funding round.
The financing was led by Noro-Moseley Partners, with participation from Grotech Ventures, Topmark Partners and Staley Capital.
Datasembly provides real-time product pricing, promotions and assortment data for brands and retailers. The company recently launched a product matching service that aims to help brands and retailers keep product matches up to date.
“Even through more complicated economic times, Datasembly has continued to grow and scale, underscoring the demand for our data and tools,” said cofounder and CEO Ben Reich, in a statement. “While the broader funding environment has cooled, Datasembly has still been attractive to new investors because of the value and differentiated offerings we bring to the marketplace that are unavailable elsewhere.”
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
Flagstone Foods acquires Emerald Nuts from Campbell Soup
Flagstone Foods, a manufacturer of private label snack nuts and trail mixes, announced that it acquired snack nut brand Emerald Nuts from the Campbell Soup Company.
Emerald Nuts makes grab-and-go packs of 100-calorie nuts and assorted glazed nut products.
It is set to join Flagstone, which has plants in Robersonville, North Carolina; El Paso, Texas; and Dothan, Alabama. Flagstone was acquired by Atlas Holdings in 2019, hired CEO Harry Overly late last year as it moved toward expansion.
QVC parent sells mom-focused ecommerce platform Zulily
Qurate Retail Group has reached a deal to sell ecommerce platform Zulily to Regent, a Los Angeles-based investment firm with expertise in retail and apparel.
Zulily focuses on moms, with products including toys, clothes, shoes, home décor, baby, maternity, beauty and more. Qurate Retail is divesting the company as part of a wider strategy aimed at optimizing its brand portfolio.
Now, Zulily will join an investment group that has also backed Club Monaco, DIM Paris, La Senza, Escada and DiamondBack.
“We are confident Regent is the right partner for Zulily to continue serving its customers, while benefiting from Regent’s depth of operational and strategic expertise in the retail and apparel sectors,” said David Rawlinson, president and CEO of Qurate Retail, in a statement. “We are in the midst of a turnaround at Qurate Retail. This divestiture will allow our management team to better focus on our core video commerce assets, QVC and HSN, and the Cornerstone Brands, while preserving liquidity to further strengthen our balance sheet.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
From You Flowers merges with FTD
M&A news from the flower world: Ecommerce platform From You Flowers and florist network FTD are merging with the goal of creating a new global platform in floral and gifting.
With the deal, From You Flowers CEO Michael Chapin will become CEO of the combined companies.
"We are bringing together two businesses with a shared vision to deliver exceptional service to our florist members and consumers," said Chapin. "The merger will enable From You Flowers' best-in-class ecommerce operation to accelerate the growth of FTD's already impressive floral distribution network," said Chapin.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Trending in Retail Channels
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.