Jamjar investments, the Strategic Investment fund founded in 2013 by Innocent Drinks founders Richard Reed, Jon Wright and Adam Balon, alongside Piper, a private equity firm that has also backed jeweller Monica Vinander and swimwear brand Orlebar Brown has helped low-calorie popcorn brand Propercorn raise a £7m venture funding round.
Propercorn was founded by 2 friends, Cassandra Stavrou and Ryan Kohn, in 2011, and with the emphasis on creating “delicious, guilt free” popcorn “Done Properly” has sold its wares into 15,000 stockists, including Waitrose and Selfridges. The popcorn comes in a range of exotic flavours, from fiery Worcester sauce to the newest flavour, smooth peanut and almond.
The firm, based in Islington, North London, employs 40 staff, and reported sales of £10m in 2015. The funding (the first the company has taken) will be used to expand into new markets and market its latest product “Crunch Corn”, the company’s first attempt to expand beyond traditional popcorn.
Propercorn is made entirely on “British Soil”, with recipes developed by the creative team in London, and “popped and packed” in the Midlands.
The snacks are gluten free and are sold across 10 different countries including the UK, Germany and The Netherlands – with more than 3m bags sold each month.
Although Piper Private Equity led the round, Jamjar’s Adam Balon will join the Propercorn board as chairman.
“I was very fortunate in getting some incredibly useful advice from Richard Reed in the very early days of Propercorn, and we’ve stayed in touch with the Jamjar team ever since”, says Propercorn’s Stavrou; “They and Piper have consistently demonstrated they have the same passion and enthusiasm for Propercorn as we do, and are equally focused on making the number one global snack brand.”
Ambitious words indeed. Adam Balon commented; “in only a few short years, Stavrou and Kohn have crafted Propercorn into a wonderful business with a talented team, cohesive culture and a standout brand.”
“With this superb foundation they have created, Propercorn has so many opportunities for growth and I’m hugely excited to be part of this next chapter for growth.”
The company say that turnover is expected to increase to £15m this year.
Propercorn began life being sold from the Google Campus café in Shoreditch, East London, before launching in Tesco’s in 2013. Stavrou was recently named winner of the New Generation Award at the Veuve Clicquot Business Women Awards, and together, both co-founders, Stavrou and Kahn, were named as Young Entrepreneurs of the Year at the 2015 Startups awards.
Piper Private Equity invest in consumer brands with a turnover of £5m to £25m, and have been in operation for more than 25 years. The firm say they use an extensive network of contacts resources to source deals, and say that they “have the emotional intelligence to spot the brands that – with the right guidance – are destined for greatness.
Besides Propercorn, Piper have made investments into food brands Turtle Bay, a fast growing chain of Caribbean restaurants and Hickory’s Steakhouse, pet food brand Forthglade, cocktail bar Be At One and clothing brand Weird Fish.
Jamjar’s recent investments include Sleepio, an app that helps people get a good night’s sleep, What3Words, and Babylon Health in 2016, Deliveroo in 2015, and subscription food boxes Graze in 2014.
The founders of Innocent Smoothies who went on to start Jamjar sold Innocent for roughly £90m to Coca Cola at a valuation in the region of £500m, when the firm had worldwide sales of half a billion pounds.
In a recent article, Richard Reed described life after a “Sexit”, commenting that “Charity, putting back, social activism – whatever its monicker” was “in my opinion, the greatest life enrichment for every pound and hour invested.”
Having toured Africa with Bill Clinton, been to the Congo with Warren Buffett’s son and “spent time in 10 African prisons (the two hours with 150 death-row inmates in a maximum security jail in Uganda was the most educational and inspirational shot of humanity I’ve ever experienced)”, it seems obvious to the “HT” that Reed’s next move should be to make a film of his life.
And there’s no prizes for guessing who would be providing the snacks.