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March 2018

Food Packaging

We like healthy food but dislike food packaging because we see it wasted and it harms our health and the environment. We use most single-use packaging for minutes but it may take decades to break down.

Regardless, food packaging is useful, convenient, and is here to stay. Governments are trying to make it less bad. For example the EU wants 100% recyclable packaging by 2030. The city of San Francisco is wants zero waste by 2020.

The typical approach is to make it more recyclable, reusable, or compostable. The reality is a little complicated though:

  • Bio based plastics such as polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxy alkonates (PHA’s) are compostable but not recyclable, have low heat resistance, and are more expensive.

  • Petroleum derived safe plastics such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are recyclable but not compostable.

  • Multilayer packaging that protects freshness and extends shelf life is hard to separate and break down.

  • There are potentially harmful chemicals still used in food contact applications including polystyrene, bisphenols (BPA, BPS, BPF), phthalates, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polyflourinated (PFAS) coatings.

Brands and retailers are working on this too. In the first two months of 2018 we have already seen:

  • Dunkin’ Donuts announcing plans to eliminate polystyrene coffee cups (finally!)

  • Trader Joes announcing plans to eliminate BPA/BPS

  • Coca Cola announcing plans to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030

  • Evian vows to use 100 percent recycled plastic in bottles by 2025.

The Center for Environment Health recently released a new database of safer alternative products for food service that includes results from third party testing labs to help everyone find safer options.

Examples of startups we have seen in this space include Ecologic Brands (paper bottles), Grow Plastics (foamed PLA alternative to Styrofoam), Full Cycle Bioplastics(PHA’s resin from food waste), Mango Materials (PHA’s resin from waste methane), Melodea (nanocrystalline cellulose), TIPA (compostable flexible packaging), Pulp Works (molded pulp), Repurpose (sustainable packaging for consumer markets), Avani Eco (starch based plastic bags), Stasher (silicone based reusable alternative to Ziploc bags), NeuWorld (compostable films), and Be Green Packaging (molded pulp).

Spring Showers

When you see water sliding off a rain jacket or a tent you probably know it has been treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finishing chemistry. Most DWR solutions rely on fluorocarbon chemicals. Fluorocarbons are potentially harmful and persist in the environment so many brands are committed to getting rid of them. This older article by Patagonia gives a good summary of the DWR problem. You can also read more in this report from Greenpeace.

Well, if you need a rain jacket this spring, we encourage you to look at Marmot’s Eclipse, Phoenix, and Celeste rain jackets. These jackets are the first to use Green Theme Technologies’ solution for DWR.

Green Theme Technologies is an early stage company that developed a new chemistry to provide durable water repellency without using fluorocarbons, and without using water in the application process, addressing two major safer chemistry challenges of DWR’s. The technology works on synthetic fibers and wool and repels water better and is more durable through wash cycles than the existing fluorocarbon chemistry.


LumiGrow, an Emeryville, Ca.-based smart horticultural lighting company, has raised $5.1 million in bridge financing led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund.

Lumi, an L.A.-based startup that supplies well-designed packaging for e-commerce businesses, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Spark Capital, with participation from Forerunner Ventures and earlier backers Homebrew, Lowercase Ventures, and Ludlow Ventures.

Bolt Threads, an Emeryville, Ca.-based company producing spider silk on a large scale, secured a $123 million in Series D funding led by the Scotland-based investment firm Baillie Gifford.

Grove Collaborative, a San Francisco-based e-commerce company that sells natural home and personal care products, has raised $35 million in Series C funding led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from earlier investors.

Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based, “clean meat” startup, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Tyson Foods. The company previously raised $22 million from investors, including DFJ, Cargill and Bill Gates.

SuperMeat, an Israeli-based biotech and food-tech startup that is developing lab-made chicken meat, has raised $3 million in seed funding from New Crop Capital and Stray Dog Capital, in addition to strategic investment from PHW, one of Europe’s largest poultry producers.

Prose, a New York-based natural and custom-made hair care products line, has raised a $5.2 million Series A funding round led by Forerunner Ventures with participation from Correlation Ventures.

Harmless Harvest, a San Francisco-based company marketing refrigerated coconut water and probiotic drinks, has raised $30 million in growth capital led by Danone Manifesto Ventures, the venture arm of French multinational food and beverage corporation Danone.

Mooala Brands, a Dallas-based, organic plant-based beverage maker, raised $5 million in new capital after a funding round led by M3 Ventures and Sweat Equities.

Ripple Foods, an Emeryville, Ca.-based maker of a milk-like drink from peas, raised $65 million led by Euclidean Capital with other participants including Goldman Sachs, Khosla Ventures, Fall Line Capital and S2G Ventures.

Safe Catch, a Sausalito, Ca.-based company making a trackable, mercury-safe brand of canned fish, has raised $5 million from Echo Capital and Essential Investments as well as several angel investors.


The Otto Group has purchased Sympatex, a German producer of breathable, windproof and waterproof materials manufactured using climate-neutral and recyclable membranes without fluorocarbons.

Procter & Gamble acquired New Zealand-based natural skin care brand Snowberry. Details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Firmenich has entered into an agreement to acquire Natural Flavors, Inc., Newark, N.J., a manufacturer of flavors that are U.S.D.A. certified as organic. Terms of the acquisition were not announced.

General Mills acquired Blue Buffalo, a pet food company making natural foods and treats for dogs and cats, in a deal valuing Blue Buffalo at approximately $8.0 billion.

Safer Made News

We led Mimikai’s seed investment round, that had an initial close at the end of January. The company is developing an effective and safe insect repellent, alternative to DEET products. Mimikai’s brand focuses on women and is positioned as a product people like. The ticks are getting nervous.

We will be in Los Angeles for the Natural Products ExpoWest trade show from March 6th through the 9th. Ecologic Brands and Mimikai will also be at the tradeshow. Give us a shout if you’ll be in Anaheim.

Also Noted

China is no longer taking the world’s trash. What now?

No one wants old clothes anymore.

Lab grown meat is coming, and it means business.

Charcoal, mushroom, and the other natural ingredients behind the next generation of beauty products.

EU has a new strategy to promote safer chemicals.

Nickolas Kristof’s body burden -- a recent interactive NYT feature shows where harmful chemicals are hiding in everyday products. Even informed and careful NYT columnists are exposed.

EPA dissolves program that studies effects of chemical exposure on children.


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