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A recipe for success, bakery and EIS

The Venture Captial Firm VALA has seen remarkable success with one company in their EIS portfolio, The Artful Baker. The Artful Baker has just secured funding from Batch Ventures, a partnership between Mission Ventures and Warburtons.

The story of how this small business tapped into an investment food chain, that led it all the way to a British baking giant, is emblematic of a venture capital model that has got it right.

It’s a venture capital model that embraces experience, financial support and entrepreneurialism…and here’s how it works.

The grocery industry is an interesting one for start-up investors. The best new food and beverage brands can scale up quickly and become attractive acquisition targets for private equity funds or acquisitive grocery corporations.

But on the path to success, challenger brands will always need to overcome numerous obstacles, ranging from securing space on supermarket shelves to ramping up manufacturing volumes without compromising on product quality.

Vala is well positioned to help in this process, with Paddy Willis sitting on their investment committee. Willis co-founded Plum Baby, a premium baby food brand that was sold to private equity just five years after launch, in a deal that valued the business at £10m.

Willis is also one of the co-founders of Mission Ventures, alongside John Stapleton (co-founder of The New Covent Garden Soup Co and Little Dish) and Nigel Parrott (co-founder of Ape Snacks).

Mission Ventures helps challenger brands to grow, by allowing them to harness the entrepreneurial experience of the Mission team, as well as the heft of major food corporations. At the same time, Mission Ventures offers big companies a way of protecting their market position through effective corporate venturing.

Last year’s launch of Batch Ventures, a partnership between Mission and Warburtons, shows how the model works.

Batch Ventures uses capital provided by Warburtons to invest in a portfolio of innovative bakery brands. Mission Ventures acts as an adviser to the fund, helping Warburtons select the most promising companies. The Mission team then works hand-in-hand with the investee companies, helping them to develop and mature.

In short, everybody wins. The start-ups gain the brand-building expertise of the Mission team, as well as funding and strategic support from Warburtons. Warburtons can invest in its future by backing disruptive brands, outsourcing to the Mission team the difficult and time-consuming process of nurturing the companies through their early years.

From Vala’s point of view, this model clearly reduces the risk of investment, when compared to backing a new brand that is going it alone.

That’s why Vala were certainly delighted when The Artful Baker, one of their portfolio companies, became the first business to secure funding from Batch Ventures. The Artful Baker’s chief executive Paul Rostand is working with the Mission Ventures team to create a ‘mission map’ for the coming years, which will include plans to build the brand’s supermarket presence and increase exports. In short having the backing of Batch Ventures gives The Artful Baker the best possible chance of future success, and provide a return on investment. 

A representative form Vala said, “We continue to explore other investment opportunities with Mission Ventures. One other business brought to us by Paddy is currently going through our due diligence process. If successful, the company could receive funding from the Vala EIS Portfolio in April.”

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