Private-equity firm raises millions to invest in health and wellness – Yahoo Money

Investors are putting millions of dollars into opportunities focused around healthy foods and a transparent supply chain as consumers demand more plant-based and organic foods.

Gabrielle Ellie Rubenstein, CEO and co-founder of Manna Tree Partners, tells Yahoo Finance her healthy-living investment firm has raised $141.5 million for its fund focused on investments she said are in support of the health of the supply chain.

We have to be able to verify the entire supply chain from farm to fork before we would invest in a company. So the transparent supply chain of the food you are eating is what we invest in, Rubenstein said.

The private-equity firm currently invests in four companies, ranging from those that create ingredients for plant-based foods to those that produce organic beef.

Trends are equally rising, both an increase in plant-based and an increase in natural or organic food,such as pasture-raised eggs or pasture-raised beef, said Rubenstein.

The funds portfolio includes Vital Foods, the largest national brand of pasture-raised eggs that supports small farmers, and Verde Farms, a producer of grass-fed, organic beef.

Rubenstein noted sales for eggs and meat are up during the COVID-19 pandemic as shelter-in-place measures keep families at home.

Our beef company has played a vital role in whether its steak nights or family dinners that might have usually been outside of the home on weekends. It is healthier for you, Rubenstein said.

Manna Trees portfolio also includes investments in MycoTechnology, a manufacturer of mushroom protein, and Nutriati, the largest domestic processor of chick peas, an ingredient often used for plant-based meats and other foods.

The ingredient space is a very active one in plant-based, said Rubenstein.

The stock performance of companies like Beyond Meat (^BYND) and recent partnerships between plant- based foods and major fast-food restaurants has put a spotlight on consumer demand for healthier foods.

The reason we like the ingredients is it allows us to partner with big food companies, said Rubenstein. The ingredients allow you to make food healthier for the average person that might not be able to pay a little bit more for it at a grocery store, she added.

The coronavirus pandemic has created opportunities for some plant-based companies and has also put a greater focus on food supply chains around the world as consumers have been stocking up on food.

Rubenstein says the companies she works with have not been as impacted by COVID-19 because they are smaller and more nimble, relying on co-packers, so workspaces are not as crowded. She stressed that her fund is not focused on companies pivoting It only considers those with manufacturing in place that are cash-flow positive.

Rubenstein said Manna Tree is proud not only of the companies its fund invests in, but also the 131 investors it has tapped across 18 countries, noting that 30% of its investor base is women.

I'm not sure of another fund of our size that would have 30% of their investors be women. It's usually 3%, if you're lucky, said Rubenstein.

Women are great communicators of saying why this is needed, she said. What was unique is in the institutional investors, all institutions or banks we worked with were led by women bankers. So I do see that women supporting women is very alive and well.

Ines covers the U.S. stock market from the floor of the New York Exchange. Follow her on Twitter at@inesreports.

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Private-equity firm raises millions to invest in health and wellness - Yahoo Money

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