Kuli Kuli, which makes moringa “superfood” nutrition bars, recently raised $350,000 in a seed round of funding.
The campaign through investor sourcing site AgFunder brought in several notable investors, including Brad Feld of the Foundry Group, five-time CEO and former venture capitalist Derek Proudian, and Mary Waldner of the recently-acquired food company Mary’s Gone Crackers.
Following the passage of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act in 2012, companies such as Kuli Kuli now have been able to publicly advertise fundraising and accept investment from accredited investors through sites like AgFunder. While the latest round of funding comes from accredited investors, Kuli Kuli has previously leaned heavily on the crowd to finance its growth.
In May 2013, Kuli Kuli raised more than $50,000 on Indiegogo, which became one of the highest-grossing crowdfunding food campaigns of all time. Since then, the company also has received a $25,000 grant from online votes and a $5,000 loan from Kiva lenders.
Consumers have found Kuli Kuli’s “superfood” bars intriguing due to the uniqueness of the primary ingredient — moringa oleifera — a multipurpose tree native to the Himalayan foothills in northwestern India. The somewhat tattered-looking tree grows quickly, is resistant to drought, and almost all of its parts are edible, tasty and highly nutritious — everything from its leaves and pods to its seeds, flowers, roots and bark offers a complement of protein, calcium, minerals, iron and several important vitamins.
The irony lies in the fact that moringa grows in subtropical areas where malnutrition is most prevalent — such as West Africa. Despite moringa’s abundance, many people living in these areas are unaware of the plant’s potential.
Kuli Kuli claims to be the first to retail moringa food products in the U.S., sourcing it from women’s cooperatives in West Africa in an effort to help those communities move away from dependency on food aid and towards nutritional self-sufficiency.
Since initially launching its line of moringa bars at 10 Whole Foods locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, the company already has expanded to more than 100 stores. In addition to Whole Foods, the moringa bars now can be found in Krogers, Fred Meyers, and other natural foods stores across Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Kuli Kuli says it intends to use its newfound capital to expand beyond the West Coast.
Image credit: Kuli Kuli
Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a writer, thinker and strategic communicator that revels in driving the conversation at the intersection of sustainability, social entrepreneurship, tech, politics and law. He has cultivated diverse experience working for the United States Congress in Washington, D.C., helping Silicon Valley startups with strategic communications and teaching in South America. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter (@mikehower)