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State of play: These food and beverage brands satiate key trends

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

With food and beverage retailers showing solid growth through March and U.S. food giants largely beating earnings expectations, there may be no better time to invest in startups.

Why it matters: Consumer staple companies are considered by investors to be defensive plays during uncertain times.

What's happening: Axios rounded up a mix of growing food and beverage brands that spoke with us about their latest initiatives.

Fresh Victor: The San Francisco-based maker of cold-pressed juice cocktail mixers is providing an alternative to shelf-stable products largely made with corn syrup and preservatives.

  • It's expanding into the Northeast with a new distribution and manufacturing partner in Long Island and is in talks with retailers such as Sprouts, founder Ken MacKenzie tells Axios.
  • The mixers, which come in flavors such as cucumber and lime or cactus pear and pomegranate, can be mixed with any alcohol, consumed on their own, or added to sparkling water.

Fly by Jing: The Los Angeles-based maker of condiments inspired by Sichuan cuisine is capitalizing on the growing demand for sauces.

  • The company, founded by Jing Gao in 2018, recently raised a $12 million Series B round.
  • Fly by Jing is now generating revenue in the eight-figure range, Gao says.
  • A chef, Gao attended the natural food show Expo West in 2018 and saw no Asian food brands, which inspired her to start her own business.

Dewey's: The full-service bakery, founded in North Carolina in 1930, plans to expand its business for another two to three years before weighing an exit, CEO Michael Senackerib tells Axios.

  • European PE firm Eurazeo invested $25 million in Dewey's, the maker of Moravian-style thin cookies, in 2020 to take the brand national.
  • The Dewey's cookie brand was launched in 2017, and the products are now sold in Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway and Publix, among others,
  • It is most famous for its Meyer lemon cookies and recently launched key lime, with more flavors on the way later this year, Senackerib says.

Sweet Nothings: The San Francisco-based maker of plant-based smoothies was born when co-founder Beth Porter wanted to provide her kids with healthy yet delicious snacks.

  • Today the company's products, which include squeezable smoothie tubes and nut butter bites, are sold in 3,500 stores, CEO Jake Kneller tells Axios.
  • Sweet Nothings does not need outside capital right now, but the early-stage company will raise institutional capital once it consistently generates seven-figure revenue and a 40% gross margin, he says.

BelliWelli: The Los Angeles-based maker of gluten-free, probiotic, low-FODMAP and vegan snack bars stems from founder Katie Wilson's idea to provide gut-friendly foods to consumers with digestive disorders.

  • Today BelliWelli has evolved into a line of bars (the newest flavor is strawberry shortcake) that is available for sale in about 2,000 stores, including grocery chains Sprouts and H.E.B., Wilson says.
  • The company's capital needs are satisfied for now after raising a $15.4 million Series A round earlier this year to go after the functional food market, she adds.
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