Now there's an accelerator for niche foods, like cricket protein bars.

Exo, the maker of the bars, is one of four startups in the brand new AccelFoods accelerator.

It's tailored specifically for small packaged food startups.

Accel offers an initial investment of $50,000 to its companies, but the accelerator does much more than investments.

2014-03-12

Co.Exist

A Startup Accelerator For The Next Big Food Product (They've Already Done Crickets)

Cricket protein bar startup Exo is one of four startups in the brand new AccelFoods accelerator, tailored specifically for small packaged food startups.

If you're looking for a startup accelerator program to help take your relatively new company to another level, there are options. For software companies, there are too many to count. City-focused ventures have Tumml. Hardware startups have Bolt. But what to do if you've recently launched a relatively high-profile company that makes food items from crickets? Now there's an accelerator for that too.

Cricket protein bar startup Exo is one of four startups in the brand new AccelFoods accelerator, tailored specifically for small packaged food startups. Started by a former investment banker and corporate attorney who both found their way into the food industry, the New York-based program has taken on four companies for its first class: Exo, an Indian lentil and soup kit company called Jaali Bean, a nut butter spread called KOLAT, and a canned coffee mixer called WHYNATTE.

"We felt there was a void in the market that existed in other industries like tech and life sciences, with early-stage companies lacking the structure and support and other resources to scale more efficiently," explains Jordan Gaspar, co-founder at Accel.

Gaspar and her co-founder Lauren Jupiter have seen more investors suddenly interested in the food sector, including those that traditionally invest in tech firms. Beyond Meat and healthy candy company Unreal Candy are prominent examples. And according to one estimate, 1,084 private equity firms today consider investments in the food industry. In the event of a recession, after all, people still want to eat.

Accel offers an initial investment of up to $50,000 to its companies, but the accelerator does much more than investments. During the six-month program, companies have access to educational seminars (these are in person, but companies don't need to relocate to New York), a vast network of mentors and corporate partners, and plenty of help from the Accel operations team, which can help the startups figure out how to scale--and specifically, the challenge of ensuring that there's always enough cash around to produce inventory.

"We act as partners with them, as an extension of their team," explains Jupiter. Accel has a strong relationship with FreshDirect, and ultimately several of the companies will work with the grocery delivery service, says Gaspar.

The next class begins in late July.

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