Market investment

Foodstirs investor Cambridge Companies SPG invests in social media influencer platform Indi

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Siblings Filipp Chebotarev and Polina Chebotareva founded Cambridge Companies SPG. Pic: Cambridge Companies SPG
Siblings Filipp Chebotarev and Polina Chebotareva founded Cambridge Companies SPG. Pic: Cambridge Companies SPG

Related tags Sarah michelle gellar

Consumers can expect see a rise in social media influencers on Instagram engaging with emerging snack and beverage brands, thanks to Cambridge Companies SPG’s latest investment in Indi.

According to Filipp Chebotarev - who, together with his sister Polina Chebotareva, founded Cambridge Companies SPG in 2010 - the investment in the social media influencer platform was a "strategic"​ move to enable its brands to leverage social media.

Chebotareva told BakeryandSnacks that Indi, founded by Neel Grover, collaborates with CPG companies and micro influencers who have 8,000 to 20,000 followers on social media, and lets them share products on its platform.

Leveraging brands with micro influencers

“By following the strategy, a brand is able to create a halo… but what these companies don’t have is the ability to understand which of their 20 posts are effective - such as who sees them, who responds to the message and who eventually buys the products. Indi is able to track all that data using its algorithm,”​ Chebotarev said.

“Indi is essentially a revenue affiliate model. If the influencers, such as an athlete, post via Indi, not only are they able to monetize that, but they can negotiate a percentage of sales through the company."

"The company pays less than they normally do [to boost ads directly on social media, but] more importantly, they get the analytics and data.”

Indi has in the past been utilized by household names such as Starbucks and Macy’s. With the investment from Cambridge Companies SPG, it will be now able to expand its platform focus to include high growth CPG brands, said Chebotarev.

Snacks are ‘very high priority’

Cambridge Companies SPG only started looking at the food and beverage space in 2015, a few years after its initial investment targets - distress real estate - slowed down.

The company is the largest outside shareholder of consumer packaged goods companies Once Upon a Farm and Foodstirs, founded by US actors Jennifer Garner and Sarah Michelle Gellar, respectively.

“In the grocery store, people are buying less cereal... but are buying more gluten-free and low-sugar products due to consumer education,”​ said Chebotarev. “When we met [the Foodstirs team], we were just blown away by their experience and strategy. We know the baking category is close to $5bn in [value in] the US, while organic products for the most part are regional and fragmented, but rising in double digits.”

Chebotarev said snacks are “very high priority”​ as future investments as the category is growing over 45% per annum in retail value.

“It’s also high velocity – whether it’s a bar or a bite, it can lead to faster growth,”​ he said.

However, the competitiveness in snacking due to the sheer number of brands in the market is making Cambridge Companies SPG very selective about their investments.

“The [company has] to be unique. It can’t be another ‘me too’ product, like potato chips or seaweed snacks,”​ Chebotarev said.

"It has to have at least a $5m to $10m run rate for us to invest and has to be at the top level in key markets for us to be interested.

“The magic is when the authentic, genuine, quirky, consumer-facing side of the brand - which resonates with new generation shoppers - is supported by a sophisticated organizational structure on the back end, making sure production is on time, able to scale production to meet demand and have a high-level structural strategy [in place] to innovate, grow and expand,”​ he added.

Chebotarev said Cambridge Companies SPG is interested in investing in plant-based, probiotic, high-protein and low-sugar products that deliver functional benefits.

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