PepsiCo treated itself to some Halloween plunder by announcing it will purchase Health Warrior, a trendy maker of better-for-you nutrition bars and protein powders crafted out of crunchy ingredients including chia seeds and pumpkin seeds.
The move—for an undisclosed financial sum—is one of PepsiCo’s deepest dives yet into more-healthful snacking. As a maker of plant-based snacks based on natural ingredients, Health Warrior brings a market of health-oriented millennials and Gen Z-ers who may be wary of traditional salty snacks offered by PepsiCo’s giant Frito-Lay operation.
The Health Warrior move also is the biggest so far in PepsiCo’s new strategy for associating with and then incubating and accelerating the growth of startups.
Interestingly, Health Warrior is a recent graduate of another incubator program, Terra Food + Ag Tech, formed by Rabobank, of which the primary CPG sponsor is PepsiCo rival Nestle. Nestle executives weren’t immediately available for comment on how PepsiCo plucked Health Warrior after the startup benefited from intense interest and advice by Nestle.
“We’re thrilled to welcome the innovative Health Warrior brand to the PepsiCo family,” Al Carey, CEO of PepsiCo North America, said in a press release. “We continue to position ourselves at the forefront of changing consumer preferences and trends. This acquisition helps us increase our presence in the nutrition bar category, which is an attractive growth space.”
Health Warrior was founded in 2011 by three college friends who wanted to make “nutrient-dense” foods accessible to more Americans. Its products are low in sugar, gluten-free and non-GMO.
“We’re fired up to join PepsiCo and continue to put nutritious options within reach of significantly more people,” said co-founder Shane Emmett in the press release. “PepsiCo is the ideal partner” for accelerating Health Warrior’s growth. Emmett will continue to lead the business from its headquarters in Richmond, Va.
Health Warrior is PepsiCo’s first investment that will dock into The PepsiCo Hive, a newly created incubator that is focused on growing emerging, smaller brands internally. PepsiCo also has accelerator programs for independent brands in the US and Europe, and a relationship with The Hatchery, a Chicago-based not-for-profit food and beverage company incubator program.
“This will enable us to continue building the Health Warrior brand at a deliberate and sustainable pace and to leverage its entrepreneurial expertise and talent to benefit our broader portfolio,” said Seth Kaufman, president of PepsiCo North America Nutrition.