Natural Foods Merchandiser

Venture Fund To Focus on Naturals Industry

A $15 million venture capital fund launched Nov. 15 to invest in companies in natural and organic food and beverage, alternative personal care and wellness, and other sustainable businesses.

Greenmont Capital Partners, based in Denver, will focus on early-stage investments. Its general partners include former Horizon Organic executives Barney Feinblum, Mark Retzloff and Paul Repetto and the co-founders of Fresh & Wild Ltd. in the United Kingdom, S.M. "Hass" Hassan and Bryan Meehan.

Greenmont will seek to invest in companies in North America and the United Kingdom with more than $2 million in annual revenues, said David Link, the fund's managing general partner. While not a seed-stage investor, Greenmont intends to take a position earlier than most other private equity firms in the sector.

"We've all been at that stage," Retzloff said. "We think we can help guide people through that."

Retzloff, who is currently president of Aurora Organic Dairy of Platteville, Colo., said he and "old friends" in the industry often get asked to help young companies with financing or advice. "I just didn't have the time, nor the expertise in certain categories, to look at some of the opportunities that were being placed in front of me," he said.

"The idea is to take something that's been successful in the past, and institutionalize it," Link said. Although the founding round is complete, more capital is being sought, and business plans are coming in for evaluation.

Quest International Management, the lead investor in Greenmont Capital Partners, has invested in Alfalfa's Markets and other naturals companies. "They have a lot of respect for Mark and Barney," Link said.

Besides food and beverage, target industries include weight management, fitness, renewable energy, green building, resource-efficient production and energy-efficient appliances.

Other advisers to Greenmont Capital include Stan Amy, founder of Nature's Fresh Northwest; Heather Howitt, founder of Oregon Chai; John Shields, chairman of the board of Wild Oats; Richard Youngman, formerly of Stow Mills and United Natural Foods Inc.; Caryn Ellison, former CEO of Zand Herbal; and Anthony Zolezzi, CEO of Natural Pet Nutrition.

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