Griffith Foods and Kellogg led a $5 million Series B investment in organic food startup Kuli Kuli to bring the nutritional power of Moringa to every household
Over 60% of Americans say that incorporating more vegetables/greens into their diet is their #1 priority but many find it difficult to get their greens at meals other than dinner. Enter Kuli Kuli, a mission-driven food startup that aims to bring the nutritional power of Moringa to every household. Moringa is a tree with leaves more nutritious than kale that provide powerful anti-inflammatory benefits rivaling those of turmeric. It is grown abundantly in the tropics, and is known in ancient cultures as the “Tree of Life.” Kuli Kuli is the first company to sell Moringa food in the US.
Kuli Kuli’s delicious Moringa Energy Bars, Pure Organic Moringa Powder, Organic Moringa Green Smoothie Mixes, and Moringa Green Energy shots make it easy for Americans to get their greens on the go while helping to plant moringa trees and support women and family farmers in the developing world.
Today, Kuli Kuli announced it has closed a $5M Series B strategic investment financing to grow Moringa into a new superfood category. The new round was led Griffith Foods, the global product development company, alongside eighteen94 capital, the Kellogg Company’s venture capital fund. Other institutional investors included InvestEco, S2G Ventures, Authentic Ventures, VilCap Investments and Rocana Venture Partners. Kuli Kuli also receives investment from women-focused groups including Portfolia, Astia Angels, Next Wave Impact and individuals from Golden Seeds. The investment will also help Kuli Kuli launch its new moringa ingredient business while continuing to scale their moringa powder, bars, and shots business. According to publicly available funding data, Kuli Kuli has raised a total of $10.4M in funding over three rounds.
Founded in 2011 by Lisa Curtis (CEO), alongside co-founders Anne Tsuei, Jordan Moncharmont, and Valerie Popelka, Kuli Kuli is a Californian startup selling a West African crop known as moringa as both a powder supplement and a health food bar. Kuli Kuli is the leading moringa superfood brand in America. The company provides the highest quality and most nutritious Moringa available – rich in iron, calcium, vitamins, and antioxidants. Kuli Kuli’s Moringa provides a complete protein with all 9 essential amino acids. By hand-harvesting only fresh, young leaves, Kuli Kuli ensures that their organic Moringa powder is more nutrient dense and less bitter.
Kuli Kuli’s founder Lisa Curtis got her first taste of moringa as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Niger. As a vegetarian, she was eating mostly rice and millet — a diet that left her feeling sluggish. When she mentioned her fatigue to women at the community health center, they suggested she try moringa. She bought moringa leaves from a neighbor’s tree and mixed them with a popular peanut snack called kuli-kuli. She soon felt better and began to work with villagers to encourage them to use moringa. Lisa founded Kuli Kuli to help women in West Africa use more moringa locally and earn a sustainable livelihood by selling a portion of each harvest to the US.
Similar in taste to matcha, moringa is a versatile ingredient that adds a complete protein, an array of vitamins and health benefits in commercial applications from savory to sweet, producing delicious, nutritious and highly functional foods. Griffith Foods plans to include moringa in its range of ingredient offerings for the company’s foodservice customers, processors, retailers and distributors across 30 countries. Similar to the rise of matcha and turmeric, Kuli Kuli believes that moringa will soon be found in many products from beverages to desserts.
Over the past five years, Kuli Kuli has pioneered moringa in the US, building a sustainable supply chain of small moringa farmers while selling tasty moringa products in 7,000 stores. Now the company is excited to begin selling moringa as an ingredient to other food companies. Kuli Kuli and Griffith Foods will be showcasing moringa food and beverage products at Kuli Kuli’s Natural Products Expo West Booth located at 5173, Hall E (the basement) March 7-9th in Anaheim, CA.
“After eighteen94 capital led Kuli Kuli’s Series A financing in 2017, Kuli Kuli’s retail business tripled. We’re thrilled to continue to partner with Kellogg to grow our retail business while partnering with Griffith Foods to expand into the foodservice and ingredient space,” said Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli’s Founder & CEO.
“Griffith Foods’ purpose, that ‘we blend care and creativity to nourish the world,’ calls us to find innovative solutions to changing needs. We also know that Griffith Foods cannot do this alone,” said Brian Griffith, executive chairman of Griffith Foods. “Our strategic partnership with Kuli Kuli will help both companies elevate moringa as an exciting new ingredient, and we look forward to bringing this sustainable and healthy offering to the food sector.”
“Kuli Kuli was eighteen94’s first investment and has served as a model for how large food companies can partner with startups to the benefit of both. We’re thrilled to grow and strengthen our partnership with Kuli Kuli,” said Simon Burton, Managing Director of eighteen94 Capital.
Moringa is now the fastest growing green supplement in the category, outselling matcha and catching up to spirulina and wheatgrass. Nielsen data shows that moringa has achieved a 3% penetration in US households with Kuli Kuli dominating more than half of the US retail moringa market. Kuli Kuli expects moringa to soon catch up to the popularity of turmeric, which is now an $11 billion dollar market in the US. According to the NEXT Trend database moringa grew at 460% between 2014-2017, giving credence to Kuli Kuli’s claim.
Like turmeric, moringa is a staple of Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient holistic healing system. Consumer awareness of moringa’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties has grown exponentially since Kuli Kuli launched onto the market five years ago. A Rutgers University study has found that moringa may contain more potent anti-inflammatory properties than turmeric.
Below is a video overview of Kuli Kuli – From Peace Corps to B-Corporation.