BioPacificVentures (BPV), the $100 million Australasian food, health and agbio venture capital fund, is leading a $4 million investment round in the Auckland-based functional food manufacturer Vital Food Processors Ltd with Seeka Kiwifruit Industries Ltd as co-investor.
The major investment enables Vital to conduct clinical trials with its products for digestive disorders and to expand its international marketing.
Vital Food’s range of products is based on kiwifruit extracts. They are designed to relieve the symptoms of common digestive complaints such as constipation and heartburn.
The key ingredient Zyactinase® is manufactured using patented technology to extract and stabilise a protease enzyme complex from kiwifruit. The development builds on the long history of the effectiveness of kiwifruit in traditional Chinese medicine.
The company’s achievements have been recognised by an international expert in marketing functional foods, Julian Mellentin, director of The Centre for Food & Health Studies in London.
Mr Mellentin comments: “During the last decade of providing strategic and market advice to the nutrition industry worldwide, I have always given priority to the quality of the commercialisation plan. Vital Foods has a very good plan which stands up to scrutiny, with a well developed technology and with a clear path to market.”
In announcing the investment at this week’s NZBio Conference, BioPacificVentures executive director Howard Moore said Vital Foods’ products have already demonstrated significant market acceptance.
“The company’s award-winning Kiwi Crush® product is now widely used in New Zealand hospitals to relieve the symptoms of constipation. Clinical research will confirm that Vital’s products relieve the symptoms of digestive disorders and therefore realise their worldwide potential.
“BPV is thrilled to be able to make an investment in a New Zealand company that epitomises our investment focus on the functional food and food ingredient sector,” said Mr Moore.
“Also, in this case, the product is manufactured from an iconic New Zealand raw material – kiwifruit. The investment case is further enhanced for us by our partnership with Seeka, a major player in the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.”
Mr Moore’s enthusiasm is shared by Seeka managing director, Tony de Farias, who sees the funding injection as a ‘turning point’ for Vital Foods.
“This deal significantly increases the value of the company and our investment. So, we’re pleased to now join with BPV in making a further investment in a company which adds value not only to Seeka’s core product – kiwifruit – but also to the investment of Seeka shareholders.”
Concurring with cornerstone investor Seeka, Vital Foods founders Bruce Donaldson and Mike Hollier believe BPV “adds real value as an investor”.
“We recognised early in the investment process that BPV’s industry-experienced executives would be very supportive in the global development of a growing business like Vital Foods,” says Mr Donaldson.
“BioPacificVentures will contribute to our growth in many ways - not just through capital but also its connections with global marketplaces in the food, beverage, biotech and health sectors. This is an exciting and positive development for Vital Foods and our shareholders.”
Mr Donaldson says he is also pleased to announce the appointment of Trevor Wilkinson as chief executive officer of Vital Foods. Mr Wilkinson joins the company after 10 years in senior management roles in New Zealand, USA and Europe with the Netherlands-based multinational specialised nutrition company, Royal Numico.
“Trevor’s experience in bridging the gap between clinical development and marketing is a real asset to Vital Foods.”
Founders Bruce Donaldson and Mike Hollier take up the positions of chief technology officer and chief finance officer.
Howard Moore (representing BioPacificVentures) and Seeka managing director, Tony de Farias join the Vital Foods board and an independent chairman will be appointed shortly.
Vital Food Processors Ltd
Vital Foods manufactures functional foods and dietary supplements which are extracts from natural raw materials such as New Zealand produced kiwifruit.
BioPacificVentures is a $100 million life science fund focused on unlocking value from New Zealand and Australia’s food and agriculture heritage. It invests in innovative life science businesses in Australasia with a focus on prevention, nutrition and agbiotech. It is a joint venture between New Zealand’s most active venture capital and private equity investor, Direct Capital, inventages venture capital, one of the biggest global life science venture capital firm with more than Euro 1 billion assets under management (www.inventages.com) and Crown Research Institute AgResearch. Nestlé and Wrightson are the cornerstone strategic investors in BioPacificVentures.
Seeka Kiwifruit Industries Ltd
Seeka is New Zealand’s largest kiwifruit supply company. Seeka is listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. www.seeka.co.nz