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Food, Technology
When contemplating a skincare conundrum — Does collagen powder do anything? How much exfoliating is too much exfoliating? Is coffee bad for your skin? — I know exactly where to turn for clarity: science, of course. But in the case of that last question, science is sadly no help at all. There’s evidence that a morning cuppa can cause acne… but there’s also evidence it can soothe rosacea. It may constrict blood vessels and thus, impede the flow of nutrients to the skin… but it’s also packed with potent antioxidants. Confused? Yeah, experts are, too.

“There’s wide variation in terms of how people are affected by caffeine,” Dr. Aanand Geria, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with Geria Dermatology, tells The Zoe Report. Besides the aforementioned downsides, coffee drinking has been linked to an increase in cortisol production — and cortisol, “the stress hormone,” is associated with a host of skin issues, from premature aging to dehydration. On the other hand: “A study last year showed that women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a 23 percent lower chance of developing rosacea,” Dr. Geria says. (I mean… impressive, sure, but that’s a jitter-inducing amount of java.) “This benefit can be attributed to not only the caffeine, but also the high amount of polyphenols in coffee, which function as antioxidants,” the dermatologist explains. Antioxidants, as a refresher, help defend against premature aging and environmental aggressors. Most likely, these negatives and positives cancel each other out, and coffee has a net zero impact on skin health. “When caffeine is consumed in moderation there really should be no adverse effect to the skin,” Dr. Geria confirms. That being said, every body is different, and some may be more susceptible to the not-so-great side effects of a large soy latte than others.



Starting to suspect your cold brew’s been messing with your complexion? Ahead, five coffee alternatives that only have upsides.

Matcha Tea

“We’re definitely a very coffee-centric society, and people are right to start questioning the overall benefits and risks,” Sarah Koszyk, M.A., R.D.N., a registered dietitian and founder of MIJA Naturals, tells TZR. “Drinking too much coffee can result in increased anxiety and decreased sleep quality” — both of which impact your skin, by the way. Her suggestion? Say good morning to matcha.

“There is a rare class of amino acids in matcha, L-theanine, that works with the caffeine to release a ‘calm focus’ that aficionados describe as a high, that unwinds stress, enhances focus, and promotes creativity,” she says. Which is precisely why ceremonial-grade, organic matcha is the base of her daily supplement, the Superstar. “Beyond this, so many of our ingredients such as goldenberries, camu camu, lucuma, cacao, avocado, turmeric, hemp seeds, chlorella, and nutritional yeast also provide comprehensive, anti-aging, health-optimizing benefits — from fortifying the immune system to optimizing skin health for glowing beauty from within,” Koszyk says. Simply mix a tablespoon or two with hot water (it’s very tasty) and enjoy.

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Food

Since its launch, ZitSticka has worked to dismantle stigma against acne and normalize the conversation surrounding it. And now, the cult pimple patch label is making the case for the acceptance of pimples with its new campaign, We Got You.

Shot by Ashley Armitage, the commercial shows women doing everyday things — eating a late night snack or drinking a glass of wine — that have been apparently known to cause breakouts. Highlighting the shame women feel around it, the campaign urges viewers to do what they want anyway and basically, not give a fuck.

“We wanted to develop scenes that felt familiar; little vignettes of everyday life that we can all laugh at because we’ve been there before,” ZitSticka Creative Director Ben Tan says of the 90-second campaign video. “We also wanted to avoid telling our audience how to live a perfect life to achieve better skin, because it’s a bit more complex than that. Who are we to chastise others for indulging in ice cream after a long day?”

 

 

Created in collaboration with make-up artist Shideh Kafei, Armitage made it a point to not try to conceal the blemishes on the models — something that was integral to the photographer in order to keep the message authentic.

 

“It would be too easy to make a shiny campaign video and cast models with flawless skin,” said Melissa Kenny, Director of Communications at Zitsticka. “As newcomers to the skincare space we want to explore breakouts in relevant and meaningful ways, while infusing our tone-of-voice and humor. A key part of the ZitSticka ethos is bringing transparency to the acne space—a space typically glossed over, sidestepped or approached in a clinical light.”

For more information visit zitsticka.com.

Photo courtesy of ZitSticka

 

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Food
An investment banker fueled by late-night ice cream binges, David Greenfeld set out to create his own plant-based ice cream after noticing a lack of real ingredient-driven options in the vegan section of the frozen aisle. With David Cohen in August 2016, he launched Dream Pops, a plant-based, dairy-free, superfood popsicle in flavors like vanilla matcha, mango rosemary and chocolate with lion’s mane mushrooms. Dream Pops are now in more than 400 stores, including Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Fairway Market and D’agostino. The company also partners with brands, such as Don Julio, Soho House and Starbucks, to offer limited edition flavors given out at events or pop-ups.
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Food

Extra, a New York-based emerging startup, is elevating the guest experience at hospitality spaces by attracting travelers with an array of brands that go beyond the traditional “pay as you consume” minibar. 

 

With an overall goal to shift the guest’s relationship with in-room product offerings, Extra marries product discovery and upscale hospitality through a distribution model that rewards guests for reviewing complimentary amenities and provides useful consumer data at low cost to properties and product makers. 

Launching in the United States, Extra partners with premium hospitality spaces, such as boutique hotels, luxury rental properties, co-living, aparthotels, wellness spaces and short-term vacation-rental properties to place curated selections of amenities in guestrooms. The company’s displays are designed to entice with products that appeal to a generation of travelers hungry for new experiences, such as Dirty Lemon, Ettitude, Vital Proteins, Native and more. 

 

Built on the growing need for data and a direct relationship with customers, Extra uses welcome cards that encourage guests to contribute product reviews and earn rewards on the Extra platform via smartphone QR scan or SMS messaging. Rewards range from discounts on products to discounts on future stays and experiences. Extra then provides this guest feedback to properties in order to improve future guest stays and help them make smarter purchasing decisions. The more products guests use and the more reviews they provide, the more rewards they receive, and the more data flows to properties and brands to personalize stays and drive operational efficiency.

“Our mission across the board is to help partners, hospitality and brand alike, to provide an elevated experience. That’s why it’s so important to us that we help them to really get to know their audience. Our review and reward platform is the perfect way to do that,” Extra founder/CEO Gen Liston said in a statement. “We’re putting highly desirable, disruptive products right in the hands of consumers, and delivering them in a way that helps hotels elevate their guest experiences and provides valuable feedback to product makers.” 

Extra’s twist on product placement has found broad interest in boutique hotel and short-term rental spheres around the world. Since launching its platform in Liston’s native Australia in 2018, the company has signed tens of thousands of lifestyle properties to feature Extra displays in guestrooms and has distributed more than 1 million products.

“We see a lot of opportunity to grow our partner base and heighten guest experiences across the U.S. by connecting with independent boutique hotels, midsize hotel collections and upscale Airbnb-style rentals to feature the most exciting products for their guests,” said Liston, who notes that each “powered by extra” offering typically features $70 worth of consumer products for guests to sample.

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Food
Believe it or not, we have President Ronald Reagan to thank for National Ice Cream Day. Back in 1984, which shall henceforth be known as the Stranger Things Era, Reagan declared July 15 to be National Ice Cream Day, probably at the behest of dairy farm lobbyists. It wasn’t necessarily meant to be an annual occasion, but that was before marketers discovered the advantages of a good made-up holiday. On July 21 (the holiday is now on the third Sunday of the month), we can reap the benefits with discounts, extras, and so many excuses to indulge in an extra scoop.

Besides getting more sweet treats for our dollar on National Ice Cream Day, we love how searching on the hashtag reveals the great variety of local restaurants and regional chains we’ve never heard of before. It’s enough to inspire a future road trip.
 
 
Here are some of the best deals we discovered at ice cream stands big and small:
 
Baskin-Robbins: You can get two pre-packed pints for just $7.99 through DoorDash, but if your purchase is $10 or more on July 21, you can use the code FREE SCOOP for a, um, free scoop. The code STRANGERTHINGS will also get you free delivery.
 
Carvel: Buy one soft-serve cup or cone and get one free.

Cold Stone Creamery: Sign up for the My Cold Stone Club Rewards card by Saturday to get a buy-one-get-one free coupon for Sunday. You can also get a $10 ecard if you buy $30 in gift cards online.
 
Chaney’s Dairy Barn: This farm and ice cream shop in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is holding a sweepstakes for the grand prize of 52 free scoop coupons (plus a T-shirt!). If you live anywhere near there, just visit this Facebook post, tag a friend in the comments, and share the post.
 
Chuck & Don’s: Make a donation at any of this pet supply chain’s stores and get a free ice cream sundae for your hot dog.
 
Dream Pops: Vegans and lactose-intolerant folks can get in on the fun too. Use the code #ICECREAMDAY on July 21 for 25% off these plant-based desserts.

Dylan’s Candy Bar: Say the secret password, “National Ice Cream Day,” at the register for a free scoop from 2-4 p.m.

Godiva: Visit a boutique or cafe for buy-one-get-one 50% off on parfaits and soft-serve ice cream.
 
Graeter’s: The 149-year-old midwestern chain is selling single-dip sugar cones for just $1.49.
 
Halo Top: Bumble is partnering with the low-calorie creamery for some convoluted deal involving swiping to “match” with the coupon. It’s for a free box of Halo Top Pops, so that’s probably worth the effort.
 
Ice Cream Delight: This Wilmington, Delaware, ice cream shop turns National Ice Cream Day into a real celebration, so we’re sure their offer of free sprinkles is just the beginning.
 
Insomnia Cookies: Get a free scoop of ice cream with any in-store purchase all day long.
 
Johnny Rockets: Get a free milkshake with the purchase of any entree on Sunday.
 
Nutella Café: Be one of the first 50 customers to visit the Chicago or New York location, and you’ll get a frozen Nutella pop. Everyone after that still gets a free scoop of gelato.
 
Petsmart and PetsHotel: Get a free doggie ice cream topped with biscuit treats on July 20 and July 21, while supplies last.
 
Potbelly: Say the magic words, “National Ice Cream Day,” for a free large hand-dipped milkshake with the purchase of an entree.
 
Uniqlo: Stop by one of these Japanese clothing chains and get a free My/Mo Mochi Ice Creamon Sunday.



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Food

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a newsletter published every Saturday that dives into the week’s most noteworthy venture deals, fundraises, M&A transactions and trends. Let’s take a quick moment to catch up. Last week, I wrote about an alternative to venture capital called revenue-based financing and before that, I jotted down some notes on one of VCs’ favorite spaces: cannabis techRemember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets.

This week, I want to share some thoughts — questions, rather — on beverages. Just as my inbox has been full of cannabis-related pitches, it’s also been packed with descriptions of new…drinks. Perhaps the most noted so far is Liquid Death, canned water for the punk rock crowd, because why not? Liquid Death has attracted nearly $2 million in funding from angel investors like Away co-founder Jen Rubio and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Before I tell you about a few other up-and-coming beverage makers, I must beg the question: Does the beverage industry need disrupting?

Founders say yes. Why? For one, because millennials, according to various studies, are consuming less alcohol than previous generations and are therefore seeking non-alcoholic beverage alternatives. Enter Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirits company, for example. Or Haus, launching this summer, an all-natural apéritif distilled from grapes that has a lower alcohol content than most hard liquors. Haus, like any good consumer startup in 2019, is shipped directly to your door.

Bev, a canned wine business that recently raised $7 million in seed funding from Founders Fund, thinks marketing in the alcohol industry is the problem. Founder Alix Peabody designed a line of female-focused canned rosé. If you’re wondering why alcohol needs to be gendered in such a way, you’re not alone. Peabody explained most alcohol brands cater to men, and that’s a problem.

“The joke I like to make is there’s a go-to type of alcohol for every type of bro and we just don’t have that for women,” Peabody told TechCrunch  earlier this year.

Finally, the wellness movement is taking over, driving VCs toward some odd upstarts. From wellness chat and journaling apps to therapy substitutes to fitness companies, stick wellness in a pitch and investors will take a second look. More Labs, for example, is backed with $8 million in VC funding. The company is readying the launch of Liquid Focus, a biohacking-beverage that claims to “solve modern-day stressors without the negative side effects.” Finally, Elements, “an elevated functional wellness beverage formulated with clinical levels of adaptogens to give your body exactly what it needs in four categories (focus, vitality, calm, and rest) for specific cognitive functions” (damn, what copy), recently launched. It doesn’t appear to be funded yet, but let’s just give it a few months.

There’s more where that came from, but I’m done for now. On to other news.

IPO Corner

I almost skipped IPO corner this week because no big-name companies dropped or amended their S-1s or completed a highly anticipated IPO, as has been the case basically every week of 2019. But I decided I better give a quick update on Luckin Coffee’s  tough second week on the stock market. Luckin Coffee, if you aren’t familiar, is Starbucks’  Chinese rival. The company raised more than $550 millionafter pricing at $17 per share a little over a week ago. Immediately the stock skyrocketed 20 percent to a roughly $5 billion market cap; then came concerns of the company’s lofty valuation, major cash burn and uncertain path to profitability.  Luckin has dropped around 25 percent since closing its debut trading day. It closed Friday down 3 percent.

More changes at Y Combinator

Y Combinator, the popular accelerator program and investment firm announced this week that it has promoted longtime partner Geoff Ralston to president. This comes two months after former president Sam Altman stepped down to focus his efforts full-time on OpenAI. The promotion of Ralston is an unsurprising choice for YC, an organization that employs roughly 60 people, many of whom have been affiliated with it in one way or another for years.

M&A

Automattic acquires subscription payment company Prospress

Shopify quietly acquires Handshake, an e-commerce platform for B2B wholesale purchasing 

Streem buys Selerio in an effort to boost its AR conferencing tech

As Amex scoops up Resy, a look at its acquisition history 

Fundraising

The Los Angeles ecosystem is $76 million stronger this week as Fika Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital firm, announced its sophomore investment fund. Fika invests roughly half of its capital exclusively in startups headquartered in LA, with a particular fondness for B2B, enterprise and fintech companies. The firm was launched in 2017 by general partners Eva Ho and TX Zhuo, formerly of Susa Ventures and Karlin Ventures, respectively. The pair raised $41 million for the debut effort, opting to nearly double that number the second time around as a means to participate in more follow-on fundings.

Startup capital

DoorDash raises $600M at a $12.7B valuation
TransferWise completes $292M secondary round at a $3.5B valuation
Auth0 raises $103M, pushes its valuation over $1B
Canva gets $70M at a $2.5B valuation
Payment card startup Marqeta confirms $260M round at close to $2B valuation
Modsy scores $37M to virtually design your home
Sun Basket whips up $30M Series E
Zero raises $20M from NEA for a credit card that works like debit
Nigeria’s Gokada raises $5.3M for its motorcycle ride-hail biz

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another great week of interesting deep dives. This week, TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney  went deep on Getaround’s acquisition of Drivy for his latest installment of The Exit, a new series at TechCrunch where we chat with VCs who were in the right place at the right time and made the right call on an investment that paid off. Here are some of the other Extra Crunch pieces that stood out this week:

Equity

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase News editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I discuss how startups are avoiding IPOs and VC’s insatiable interest in food delivery startups.

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Food, Products

In the past five years, Elvie and Willow have transformed the breast pump market, raising a combined total of nearly $90 million and wooing moms with technological updates to make breastfeeding while working a less intimidating prospect.

But even a Silicon Valley breast pump can’t make breastfeeding work for everyone. For reasons ranging from health of the mother or baby to milk supply and blocked milk ducts to work schedules, many mothers find breastfeeding out of reach. Founders and investors are on to the next logical category: infant formula.

“We are not accepting the realities of feeding your child in today’s world,” says Laura Modi, co-founder of a new infant formula startup, Bobbie. “Fifteen to 20% of women physically cannot produce enough breast milk to exclusively breastfeed.”

Bobbie co-founders Laura Modi and Sarah Hardy.
Bobbie co-founders Laura Modi and Sarah Hardy.

Bobbie, launching this Sunday on Mothers’ Day, raised $2.4 million to debut an infant formula formulated to resemble the more stringently regulated formulas sold in Europe. Made without corn syrup or soy—ingredients in the most widely available U.S. brands—the formula will be sold through a subscription service at $23 a box, with most families using four boxes a month. It’s a concept Modi, former director of hospitality at Airbnb, developed when she found she couldn’t breastfeed and felt embarrassed buying formula at the drugstore.

Sign up: Click here to subscribe to the Broadsheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the world’s most powerful women.

While Modi and co-founder Sarah Hardy aren’t necessarily trying to eat into the smart breast pump market, they are taking a cue from its success, and cited that success when pitching to investors. “We learned a lot from their approach in this market,” Modi says. “I don’t think we’ve come across any parent whose story or feeding journey looks like anyone else’s.”

Instead, Bobbie is going after a separate category: mothers who can’t breastfeed and have so far either gone with mass-market products or tried to import better-quality formula from abroad. It’s a market that’s quickly catching the eye of investors, with competitor Nara Organics set to debut soon, and with both companies joining the 10-year-old Medolac, which makes donor milk-based products.

The product falls squarely into two popular investor categories of the moment: millennial parenthood and changing food supply, says Greg McAdoo, partner at Bobbie’s lead investor, Bolt Capital. “Consumers read labels now. Until millennials started having kids, it didn’t matter much in the world of food for babies and food for kids. Now that millennials are having kids, they’re applying the same sensibility to the food that they buy for their kids,” McAdoo says.

Indeed, startups have already dived into baby food, from Little Spoon to Jennifer Garner’s Once Upon a Farm. Formula is a more complicated product—one that comes with both stigma and regulation. “We are entering a space we know is stigmatized,” Modi says. “It’s really important for people to understand where we’re coming from. We’re not trying to get people at the hospital bed.”

Bobbie’s subscription service will only be available in the San Francisco Bay Area for now, but the founders hope to go national in the fall. The company will have “milkmen” who deliver the product to first-time subscribers. And the typical Silicon Valley model of content alongside a subscription makes sense for a product often surrounded by misinformation and lobbying groups, says Vanessa Larco, an investor with NEA who hasn’t invested in Bobbie but has spent time researching the formula space

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The early backer of Facebook, Airbnb, Lyft and Spotify wants to cash in on rosé all day.

Founders Fund, the San Francisco-based venture capital firm founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, announced Tuesday that it has led a $7 million investment round in Bev, a woman-run canned rosé startup based in Los Angeles. Other private investors include DJ duo The Chainsmokers and Facebook’s vice president of social good.

It’s the firm’s first investment in an alcohol company. But partner Lauren Gross says it’s really a bet on Alix Peabody, Bev’s 28-year-old founder and CEO. “We’re founder-driven,” Gross recently told Forbes. “While we’re often rooted in hard tech, we truly are a generalist firm. It’s really about investing in any founder that can build in any sector.” Gross says Peabody stands out for being particularly “bright and authentic.”

 

Peabody’s story started four years ago, after a stint at hedge fund Bridgewater and later a San Francisco tech recruiting company. Then, at 24 years old, she suddenly went into organ failure.

As her health stabilized, she decided to freeze her eggs. But since the lengthy process can cost tens of thousands of dollars and is rarely covered by health insurance, Peabody needed to make money quickly. She started hosting ticketed parties aimed at women looking for a safe space to unwind and made enough to cover her medical bills.

She realized she could be onto something: “There are so few products that are emotionally branded and speak to women in an authentic way. It’s an industry that is so male-dominated. Whether I wanted to or not, I decided I had to go into this space.”

When it came time to start making a product in 2017, Peabody found out about a long-forgotten $30,000 retirement account Bridgewater had set up for her. After discovering it, she cashed it out, taking a tax penalty and using the remaining $20,000 to fund her first production run.

Today, Bev sells just one kind of canned rosé, although Peabody plans to launch more drinks soon. Eventually, that could mean ones that are either low-alcohol or completely free of it. “I want to build a product for any type of woman who wants to have fun anytime she wants to,” she says.

While Bev is currently sold online and also has distribution throughout Southern California, Peabody will use much of the recent funding round to build out sales teams in Nashville, Austin and New York, as she further pushes Bev into retail.

But Founders Fund, she says, has signed on for far more than just a direct-to-consumer alcohol company. She envisions Bev eventually opening up permanent social spaces like The Wing, a female-only social club.

“What I’m really trying to build is a company that could fight with the likes of Budweiser,” Peabody says. “We’re trying to build the foundation that over time can be of that scale and can build out a voice for women in the space where there hasn’t been one.”

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Food

A Los Angeles cliche: everyone eats healthily. And while this stereotype might ring true, who cares! Healthy snacking is something to be proud of. It is no surprise that some of the most innovative and delicious new health food brands are born out of LA. Of course, in part, this is due to the wellness focus of the city. But California has always been a pioneering state so it makes sense that Angelenos are putting their enterprising brains to work on making healthy, clean food absolutely delicious, (and really pretty, too)! Here are some of the best and brightest in LA-based snack foods.

Dream Pops

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Aiming to be the Willy Wonka of plant-based indulgences, Dream Pops is the first superfood ice cream on the market to leverage proprietary technology, design, a three-star Michelin chef, and plant-based ingredients to rethink the notion of traditional ice cream. All Dream Pops are vegan, less than 100 calories per pop, less than seven grams of total sugar per pop, only use coconut blossom sugar, have zero artificial flavors, dyes, gum, or corn syrup, and are dairy, gluten, and soy free. (And they also taste really good.) Blending innovative design with endless imagination, Dream Pops harnesses unique proprietary technology capable of 3D printing any shape.

Pulp Pantry

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Pulp Pantry is creating nutritional abundance from what would otherwise be wasted ingredients, like organic juice pulp. The company is on a mission to build a better food system: one that’s healthy, sustainable and accessible to all. Juice pulp is their “hero” ingredient and contains all of the fiber of whole fresh fruits and vegetables, and is currently what goes into making the company’s signature, plant-based Granola Bites. Another added bonus: with each pound of pulp they upcycle, they save 38 gallons of water from going to waste.

MAGICdATES
MAGIcDATES_2.jpg

MAGIcDATES founder Diana Jarrar grew up eating dates—aka nature’s candy—and wanted to create a clean snack that utilized the nutrient-dense and sustainably-grown fruit in all its glory. Plant-based and gluten-free with no added sugar, these bites are perfect as a treat but also satiating throughout the day—and you’ll never get a sugar crash or surge because of the way date sugar is slowly absorbed into the body.

Split Nutrition

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Launched in 2018, Split is the first-of-its-kind, side-by-side PB&J pack made with the best plant-based, simple, non-GMO ingredients for pure energy. Combining the amazing flavors of nut butter (peanut or almond) and fresh jam, the complete on-the-go food provides a quick meal of balanced proteins and carbohydrates for pre- or post-workout, travel, work, or school. From LA-based award-winning chef (Stella Barra and M Street Kitchen) and cycling enthusiast Jeff Mahin, restaurateur Christopher Meers, and elite performance nutritionist Dr. Philip Goglia, Split is made with only four to six ingredients and empowers everyone to honor the craving for something sweet and rich while making the most of their food.

Bright Foods

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Bright Foods is a SoCal-based health food company that specializes in new-to-market, refrigerated whole food bars. They’re the first of their kind to combine fresh produce, nuts, and superfoods into a handheld snack bar that’s kept chilled—and can be eaten up to 24 hours out of the fridge. Certified organic, gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO, each is made with whole vegetables and fruits (except for peels and pith)—never from the leftover pulp from juice—maximizing the amount of fiber contained in each bite. Chia, coconut, and dried oranges hold the bars together (rendering the need for stabilizers, gelling agents or gums obsolete) and added superfoods provide an extra dose of nutrition. Lookout for their fourth and newest flavor, sweet potato blueberry orange with ashwagandha, to hit shelves this Spring.

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