FoodLogiQ Traces Food from Field to Fork
Good timing had a lot to do with the success of FoodLogiQ, the Durham-based software as a service (SaaS) provider of food traceability, safety and supply chain transparency, says co-founder Andrew Kennedy.
FoodLogiQ, which Forbes Magazine named one of the 25 most innovative AgTech startups in 2017, closed a $19.5 million oversubscribed financing round late in March 2018 from a lineup of impressive industry investors.
The strategic investors include Testo Inc., a global provider of the food safety systems known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) solutions and so-called Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Investors also include Tyson Ventures, the corporate venture subsidiary of Tyson Foods; Pontifax AgTech, a growth capital investor in food and agriculture technology; Nicola Wealth Management, a Canada-based asset fund management and private investment counsel firm; and Greenhouse Capital, an investor in emerging businesses that promote health and sustainable living.
"... a leader in technology-enabled traceability"
“Tyson Ventures invests in companies that are developing breakthrough solutions for the food supply chain, and we see FoodLogiQ as a leader in technology-enabled traceability,” said Justin Whitmore, executive vice president of corporate strategy and chief sustainability officer of Tyson Foods at the time of the financing. The round was led by Renewal Funds when the mission-based venture capital firm invested in FoodLogiQ in September 2017.
FoodLogiQ already has 50 high-profile customers with more than 8,000 registered businesses in more than 100 countries. Its customer base includes Buffalo Wild Wings, CAVA, Chipotle Mexican Grill, CKE Restaurants, Compass Group USA, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, IPC/Subway, Panda Restaurant Group, Raising Cane’s and Tropical Smoothy Café.
Reach extends through food supply chain
Its reach extends to the entire food supply chain, including manufacturers such as Hain Celestial and Seal the Seasons, food retailers that include Whole Foods Market, and hundreds of growers, packers, and product marketers.
The company began in 2006, Kennedy said in an interview with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center as a small division with Clarkson-Potomac Group working on cattle tracking, mainly for mad cow disease. "We had a small office in Alberta, Canada. That was our entry point into traceability.”
At the same time, Kennedy said, “I saw the growth of SaaS in companies like salesforce.com, and had the idea of combining it with traceability.” He discussed how to structure it with co-founder Tom Finnegan.
Then, in August and September 2006, “E-coli in spinach happened,” Kennedy said. “The produce industry began working on produce traceability. It was a timing thing. We pivoted from cattle to fresh produce tracking and it led to a long, steady growth curve.”
FoodLogiQ applied to be part of the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) pilot program, part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s food safety modernization act, and was one of 10 selected from among 250 applicants. “That gave us a leg up,” said Kennedy, “and allowed us to see what food traceability looked like at scale.”
Locating HQ in NC was crucial decision
Being in The Research Triangle also helped. “In the early days we worked with North Carolina State University’s Center for Environmental Farming. They were great, introducing us to folks involved in the sustainable foods and local foods movements in North Carolina and the RTP, and helped us with our Whole Foods project.”
FoodLogiQ leaders also honed their skills on how to track and label fresh produce working with Brent Jackson of Jackson Farming Co., a sizeable N.C. organization. Jackson, now an N.C. state senator, “did not spare our feelings,” Kennedy said. “He provided good feedback on what would work in the field and what would work in the shed. It was critical in our working through a lot of that.”
With consumers and the government both showing increasing interest in food traceability and safety, the company continued to grow. Bringing on Dean Wiltse three years ago as CEO helped establish a sales and product team to launch the company’s product, FoodLogiQ Connect, Kennedy said.
“Bringing him on board led to our ability to raise this kind of money.”
Many drivers to company's success
There are many different drivers of the company’s current success, Kennedy noted. They include the big trend of personalized nutrition. Consumers want to know where their food comes from, its ingredients, allergens and how it’s produced. “People want to tailor their food to their personal needs,” Kennedy said.
FoodLogiQ Connect is a data-driven SaaS solution that enables supplier management, food safety compliance, quality incident management, recall management and whole chain traceability – all on a single platform.
The company plans to use the financing to enhance the product and grow its team, currently at 42, in sales, marketing, and customer success. “We’re evolving as our customers’ needs evolve, which they share with us,” Kennedy said, “We try hard to forecast those needs."