‘No brainer’: Ecuadorian superfood snack producer set for trajectory ride with boost from Grupo Bimbo

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

LiveKuna produces a range of snacks and staples made from sustainably-farmed superfood ingredients grown in Ecuador. Pic: LiveKuna
LiveKuna produces a range of snacks and staples made from sustainably-farmed superfood ingredients grown in Ecuador. Pic: LiveKuna

Related tags Grupo bimbo LiveKuna superfood better for you Sustainability Transparency Ecuador

Grupo Bimbo has led a Series A funding round for LiveKuna, a vertically integrated supplier of gluten-free snacks and staples made from sustainably produced quinoa and chia sourced directly from its network of farmers in Ecuador.

Bimbo was the lead investor of the funding round, with participation from SOSV and AMADEO. Financial details, along with Bimbo’s contribution, have not been revealed.

Bimbo and LiveKuna first forged a partnership in summer last year after the Mexican giant selected the Ecuadorian company from a competitive pool of applicants to develop a superfood bread. According to LiveKuna, the bread – made from chia and quinoa – remains a market success in Ecuador.

Apart from the financial boost, the cemented partnership will see the duo working together to develop further products, expand distribution in North America and broaden the network of farmers.

Doubling down

The move is aligned to Grupo Bimbo’s strategy to ‘double down’ in the better-for-you category.

The company has a solid presence throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa as the owner of household name brands like Entenmann’s, Thomas’ English Muffins and Sara Lee (among others), but has been on a quest to invest in companies that have a foothold in trendier categories that resonate with consumers.

Earlier this year, it made a minority investment in Rule Breaker Snacks, a maker of vegan, gluten-free, allergy-friendly, high in protein and fibre treats that feature chickpeas as the first ingredient.

Constantino Matouk, director of Bimbo Ventures at Grupo Bimbo, said, “LiveKuna exceeds the expectations of today’s consumers, delivering clean label snacks and traceable ingredients without sacrificing taste.

“As we double down in the better-for-you category, we know LiveKuna — a purpose-led brand committed to sourcing superfood ingredients from family farms — will push the limits of what's possible in snacking.”

‘Our motivation’

LiveKuna was co-founded by Santiago Stacey and Carlos Gutiérrez in 2014, firmly focused on social responsibility, transparency​, a farm-to-table approach, empowering farmers and producing sustainable flours and superfood snacks that tick the ontrend demands for treats that are wheat-free, gluten-free and organic – and above all, guilt-free and environmentally-friendly.

“Our motivation has always been about creating good-for-you products using superfoods and sharing them worldwide,”​ Stacey told BakeryandSnacks.

The company works directly with a network of almost 500 farmers in Ecuador​ to source chia and quinoa grown under sustainable practices for its portfolio that includes breakfast cereal, pasta, flour, seeds and grains, along with a fast-growing line of puffed superfood snacks called KunaPops. Revenue for KunaPops, said LiveKuna, doubled from 2020 to 2021

“LiveKuna is based on transparency, from the origin of our ingredients, our partnership with small farmers, all the way to the message we communicate to our customers,”​ said Stacey.

The Quito-based company, which also has an office in Toronto, Canada, and a 10,000 sq. ft. processing facility in Ambato, Ecuador, is aiming to grow at double digits year-over-year over the next five years while adding more products to its portfolio. In the first quarter of next year, it plans to launch sweet KunaPops in cereal and snack formats. Its products are sold throughout both South and North America, as well as online and on Amazon.

However, it will undoubtedly benefit from Bimbo’s global heft and far-reaching capabilities.

‘No brainer’

Gutiérrez said his company will be able to tap into Grupo Bimbo's experience working with top CPG brands and its “category know-how [that will] be instrumental in evolving the LiveKuna brand.”

Bimbo is the leader and largest baking company in the world and a relevant participant in snacks, with 208 bakeries and plants and more than 1,600 sales centres strategically located in 33 countries. The company produces over 13,000 products and has one of the largest direct distribution networks in the world, with more than 3.4 million points of sale.

“Both LiveKuna and Grupo Bimbo have exciting advancements on the horizon,”​ added Stacey.

“Joining forces to help push the food category forward was a no brainer. As we look to launch new innovations, we’re positive our synergy will help create even better healthy options for consumers.”

As part of the investment, a Bimbo representative will join LiveKuna’s board.

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