Impact investing turns to healthy pizza

Advantage Capital has used its $154m Rural Business Investment fund to back New Hampshire-based Rustic Crust, which the firm's CEO says continues to demonstrate an 'unwavering commitment to its community.'

Advantage Capital, a private investment firm headquartered in St Louis, has invested $8 million into Rustic Crust, a provider of natural, ready-made pizza crusts headquartered in New Hampshire.

Capital for the investment came from the firm’s Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners fund, a vehicle that is registered as a Rural Business Investment Company that closed on $154.5 million in 2014. The vehicle secured investments from nine investors participating in the Farm Credit network, according to a regulatory filing.

ACAP was joined in the investment by Whipstitch Capital, an investment banking firm based in Maine.

Founded in 1996, Rustic Crust describes itself as a “better-for-you” pizza company offering non-GMO natural and prepared pizza crusts, frozen pizzas and sauces. Headquartered in Pittsfield, New Hampshire where the company employs 150 people, Rustic Crust’s products also include American Flatbread, a frozen pizza that the company said is the third-fastest growing pizza brand in the Northeast region.

ACAP principal Kevin Freeman said the investment reflects the firm’s commitment to backing businesses dedicated to having a positive social impact in communities where they operate.

“Rustic Crust has demonstrated a resounding and unwavering commitment to its community, from its total rebuild after a devastating fire in 2014 to the operation of its second facility in town,” Freeman said. “The company’s employment has increased by nearly 40 percent in three years and expansion plans are set to drive positive economic impact for the area.”

Investments from the ACAP fund range between $2 million and $15 million and come in the form of both debt and equity investments in support of buyouts, acquisitions and recapitalizations of small businesses located in rural areas. Areas of specific focus include sustainable and organic agriculture, indoor and vertical farming and investments designed to reduce food waste.

Last June, Advantage Capital used ACAP capital to participate in a $12 million funding round for Fishpeople Seafood, a company offering sustainable and traceable seafood headquartered in Portland, Maine.

Advantage Capital’s other agriculture-related investments include Kansas-headquartered bakery Best Harvest Bakeries, California-based frozen poultry entree provider Hip Chick Farms and Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Company of Missouri.