General Mills invests $12 million in probiotic juice brand

Partnership with GoodBelly could help the CPG regain momentum in the yogurt market

General Mills' venture
capital arm, 301, has invested in U.S. probiotic juice brand GoodBelly.

Owned by NextFoods, GoodBelly secured $12 million in funding from General Mills, which will be used to expand its national sales team and drive product innovation, according to a press release announcing the investment. Additional investment came from existing investors including Emil Capital Partners.

“This investment is a testament to GoodBelly’s leadership in the category and the continued growth of probiotic food and beverages. With this partnership, we look forward to driving new product innovation as well as expanding our team to reach new consumers,” said NextFoods CEO Alan Murray.

NextFoods has been working with General Mills since 2016 and recently launched GoodBelly Crunchy Probiotic Bars. The companies didn't specify which categories they would focus on moving forward, but General Mills is trying to regain its footing in the yogurt market. In the most recent quarter, U.S. sales for General Mills' yogurt business dropped 8%.

Missing the Greek yogurt craze, General Mills has been looking for the next trend that will help drive sales in the category. Last year the company launched a French-style yogurt called Oui and earlier this month it introduced YQ by Yoplait--a "smarter, not sweeter" yogurt it said contained "40% less sugar than the leading Greek low-fat yogurt."

General Mills' investment in GoodBelly also comes as the popularity of products focused on gut health are on the rise. The global market for probiotic ingredients is predicted to exceed $64 billion by 2023, according to Global Market Insights. It also falls in line with General Mills' shift to healthier products. In recent years it has bought food brands with fewer artificial ingredients as it deals with dwindling demand for its cereals and yogurt. It bought Annie’s organic snacks and Epic meat bars made from bison, wild boar or lamb. The Minneapolis-based company also makes Pillsbury dough, Yoplait yogurt, Lucky Charms cereal and in February it moved into the pet food space with its purchase of Blue Buffalo for US$8 billion.

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