Stripes Group invests $50m in California almond milk producer

New York growth equity firm Stripes Group invests $50m in California fruit farmer Sun Pacific’s fast-growing almond milk and natural drinks line Califia Farms.

New York growth equity firm Stripes Group has made a $50 million investment into Califia Farms, an almond milk drink producer majority-owned by California fruit farming co-operative Sun Pacific.

Stripes Group will take an undisclosed stake in the company that produces almond milks, ready-to-drink iced coffees and California fruit juices. The deal is the first outside investment in Califia Farms, which was founded in 2010 by Sun Pacific and drinks entrepreneur and chief executive Greg Steltenpohl. Sun Pacific, which produces some 35 million cartons of fruit a year, remains the majority shareholder.

The capital injection will be used primarily to invest in expanding production and distribution, research and development, new hires, and sales and marketing – particularly in digital brand building. A food and consumer goods private equity investor, Stripes Group investments include listed online takeaway food ordering service GrubHub, which went public on the New York Stock Exchange last year with a valuation of nearly $2 billion.

“Stripes Group is perfectly aligned with our culture of rapid innovation and sustainability, and they are deeply supportive of our commitment to provide delicious, mindful nourishment that enables people to live healthier lives with plant-based products. Plus, we love Stripes Group’s excellent track-record of supporting entrepreneurs in their efforts to build unique brands,” Steltenpohl said in a press release. Steltenpohl co-founded the Odwalla juice brand in the 1980s before selling the business to Coca-Cola in 2001 for $181m.

Since launching its first products in 2013, Califia Farms has grown rapidly as it has tapped into rising consumer demand for natural plant-based drinks and dairy-free alternatives. Based on data from market research firm SPINS, sales of Califia Farms almond milk line are growing at 177 percent year-on-year, outstripping industry estimates of growth of around 40 percent in the segment overall. According to SPINS, Califia Farms is also producing the fastest growing brand in the ready-to-drink coffee category.