Apeel, a California-based company tackling global food waste, said Wednesday it raised $250 million in a Series E funding round that values the company at more than $2 billion. That’s nearly double its last reported valuation of $1.1 billion from April 2020, according to PitchBook data.
The company is known for its edible substance that, when applied to the outside of harvested produce, creates an invisible shield that can double its lifespan without refrigeration. The product has been tested on dozens of different types of fruit and vegetables but is commercially available for avocados, organic apples, citrus fruits (like mandarins, lemons, and limes), and most recently, English cucumbers. In September, the company announced a partnership with Walmart to introduce “plastic-free” cucumbers in more than 100 retail locations throughout the U.S.
Apeel’s coating is extracted from lipids that come from the same produce to which the coating is ultimately applied. The water-based solution extends shelf life by preventing oxidation and water loss from the grocery store to the consumer’s home. Though, due to the proprietary nature of its science, Apeel does not disclose extensive details on the formula.
The idea has attracted a number of high-profile investors, including Singapore-based global investment firm Temasek, which led this round, as well as Katy Perry, Oprah Winfrey, the World Bank Group, Andreessen Horowitz, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and new investors, including Anne and Susan Wojcicki of 23andMe and YouTube, respectively, and ex-powerhouse agent Michael Ovitz, co-founder of Creative Artists Agency (CAA).
“The pandemic has completely shaken up food retail: people are increasingly buying their fresh produce online, while simultaneously expecting the best in terms of quality and sustainability,” Apeel co-founder and CEO James Rogers said in a press release announcing the financing round. “We’ll use our latest funding to help our supplier and retailer partners offer a differentiated experience to their shoppers.”
Apeel’s produce is available in the U.S. at Costco, Kroger and Harps Foods grocery stores, as well as Wakefern brand stores, including ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market.
A growing problem on a global scale
New challenges brought on by the pandemic make the $2.6 trillion issue of food waste a more pressing priority for the agriculture and food sectors. Nearly 25% of fruits and vegetables are lost globally, and North America has some of the highest levels of food waste among global regions. Food waste costs the United States an estimated $218 billion annually, while costing the globe nearly $940 billion, according to the EPA and UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Apeel claims to have prevented 42 million pieces of fruit from going to waste, helping eliminate 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere and conserve nearly 4.7 billion liters of water.
Earlier this year, the company made its first acquisition: a software start-up named ImpactVision, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to track the chemical composition of food throughout its shelf life. Apeel says its newest funding will also be used to double down on technology through similar acquisitions.