Boulder Brands fund takes stake in raw juice processor

by Keith Nunes
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BOULDER, COLO. — Boulder Brands Investment Group L.L.C., the venture capital arm of the gluten-free, natural foods manufacturer, has taken a minority stake in Suja, a maker of cold-pressed juices. Based in San Diego, Suja’s products are sold in such natural food retail outlets as Whole Foods and Sprouts.

“It’s one of the hottest brands within Whole Foods, and it’s basically as close to raw as you can get, but it’s high-pressure pasteurized rather than being heated, so it keeps the nutrients,” said Carole Buyers, senior vice-president of investor relations and business development for Boulder Brands, and a manager in the investment group. “So this is our first step in making a nice investment in a brand and a trend that we like.”

Boulder’s investment in Suja came to light during a conference call with financial analysts to discuss the company’s third quarter earnings. Ms. Buyers said the investment group looked at between 20 to 40 ideas before settling on Suja. Boulder has made two investments during the year for a total of $8.8 million.

The Boulder Brands Investment Group was established earlier this year. It is a partnership between the company and Presence Marketing, South Barrington, Ill. When the group was announced in March, Steve Hughes, chairman and chief executive officer of Boulder Brands, said the group would create a “friendly equity” model that would not only provide equity capital, but tap into the resources of Boulder Brands’ infrastructure to help accelerate growth and find efficiencies for the group’s partner companies.

Cold-pressed juice processors have proven to be a popular investment for food and beverage companies during the past few years. The Starbucks Coffee Co., Seattle, acquired Evolution Fresh in 2011 and is rapidly expanding the brand through Evolution Fresh retail stories as well as Starbuck’s own network of stores. Starbucks also has extended the Evolution Fresh line into snacks with the introduction of Evolution Harvest brand.

In 2012, the Hain Celestial Group, Lake Success, N.Y., acquired BluePrint, a maker of raw, organic cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices.
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