Mondelēz quietly winds down brands it created in its SnackFutures VC arm

Dive Brief:

  • Mondelēz International has quietly wound down Dirt Kitchen and CaPao, a pair of brands created by the snacking giant’s SnackFutures arm, a company spokesperson said in an email to Food Dive. Mondelēz started phasing out the brands at the end of 2022.
  • SnackFutures created five of its own brands, but Dirt Kitchen and CaPao were the only ones that were commercialized or sold at retail in the U.S. Dirt Kitchen made dried fruit and vegetable snacks, while CaPao combined upcycled cacao fruit with oats and puffed quinoa into portable snack squares. A third brand NoCOe, a sustainable aperitif cracker, was only sold in France.
  • The decision to cease production of these snacks comes as SnackFutures has shifted its focus to investing in startup companies that Mondelēz could potentially acquire.

Dive Insight:

Mondelēz’s SnackFutures was founded at the end of 2018 to help the company strengthen its already dominant position in snacking by investing in promising young brands and technologies. A key part of the business also was launching its own brands that it could one-day debut more widely in the marketplace.

Desiree Battaglia, a Mondelēz spokesperson, said the so-called “invent” part of SnackFutures had two goals: understanding what it’s like to be a startup, and getting closer to the consumer. “The brands themselves [that we created], while interesting, just didn’t, in the end, have as much value as investing in those that were more established, hence the shift to” corporate venture capital, Battaglia said.

Last month, Richie Gray, a Mondelēz vice president who was appointed to head SnackFutures in April, said the unit is planning to accelerate investments in snacking start-ups as the CPG giant looks to them to contribute a bigger portion of Oreo and Ritz manufacturer’s future growth. Despite being around for nearly five years, the Mondelēz entity has made only seven investments.

In the past, SnackFutures has invested in companies such as Torr FoodTech, which developed a way to use mechanical pressure and ultrasonic energy to replace sugar and other binders in snacks like those made by Dirt Kitchen.

It also has invested in Celleste Bio, a maker of lab-grown cocoa; premium chocolate and snack creator Hu and Eastern Standard Provisions, a seller of direct-to-consumer hand-twisted soft pretzels with all-natural ingredients. Mondelez purchased Hu in 2021, the only company SnackFutures investment that its parent has acquired.

Many of the learnings derived from the pilot projects informed what is now the SnackFutures’ CoLab, a Mondelēz startup engagement program for early-stage snack brands, according to the company. This week marks the “graduation” of the third class of brands that went through the three-month program.


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