July 23, 2024
Bluestein Ventures raises $45M for third food tech fund

Food tech investment may have declined along with overall venture capital, but Bluestein Ventures is not letting that slow it down. The Chicago-based early-stage venture capital firm closed on $45 million in capital commitments for its Fund III.

Andrew Bluestein, co-managing partner of Bluestein Ventures, founded the firm in 2014 and brought on Ashley Hartman, also co-managing partner, eight years ago. They join other venture capital firms, like Kost Capital, Supply Change Capital and Joyful Ventures, that have recently raised new funds to invest in food tech.

Bluestein Ventures invests at pre-seed to Series A and has amassed a portfolio of more than 50 companies, targeting consumer-facing technology across the food supply chain like health and wellness, proprietary food tech, commerce and digital technology.

Previous investments include Factor75, a prepared meal delivery service acquired by HelloFresh in 2020; Foxtrot, a group of tech-enabled corner stores; FourKites, which developed freight visibility software; and Meati, a mycelium-based alternative protein. It was also an early investor in New Culture, which is creating animal-free cheese products.

The first two funds were anchored by the Bluestein Family, which includes Ilene Gordon, former chairman and CEO of ingredient company Ingredion, and Bram Bluestein, a firm advisor.

In addition to the family office, the third fund is the first to include a group of external investors. The group includes strategics, additional family offices, executives and entrepreneurs from the food sector. In connection with the new fund, Bluestein and Hartman are joined by Lindsay Levin, who was previously chief marketing officer at RXBAR, as venture partner.

“When we started Bluestein Ventures, people would ask us why we were investing in food,” Bluestein told TechCrunch. “Now that we’ve seen a lot of the trends around consumers changing their consumption habits or the focus more on health and wellness, it’s a much easier conversation to have.”

The firm intends to deploy Fund III into between 20 and 25 companies. It has already invested in a few companies, including BiomeSense, an end-to-end platform to scale gut microbiome research and testing; WECO Hospitality, a chef-quality prepared-meal delivery service; and Attane Health, a marketplace for food prescriptions for those with chronic conditions.

Food technology, similar to healthcare technology, can take some R&D time to be fully developed. Bluestein Ventures believes the sector is at some major inflection points that will accelerate innovation in the next few years, especially as more consumers prioritize their health and wellness, Hartman told TechCrunch.

Add in technologies that are advancing, like artificial intelligence, machine learning and synthetic biology fermentation. On the regulatory side, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is approving new ingredients and devices and helping to reframe health.

“We take a process approach to our investing across the supply chain, and we’re investing in the earliest stages of a company’s lifecycle,” Hartman told TechCrunch. “For Fund III, we’re continuing to build out a portfolio with an emphasis on how we transform the food system. Our broad themes this time are nutrition, sustainability and digitization. We look for what is happening at the early stages of innovation within those spaces.”

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