Food & Drink

Protein bar maker Aloha gets $68M from venture fund

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Aloha, which manufactures better-for-you protein bars, is taking the next step to become a bigger presence in the snacking category, receiving $68 million from growth-stage investor Semcap Food & Nutrition, whose portfolio consists of food and beverage brands focused on sustainability and wellness.

As part of the deal, Semcap will take a significant minority investment in the company. The fund has also invested in Purely Elizabeth and Good Culture cottage cheese.

Brad Charron, Aloha’s CEO, “re-formed” the company in 2017 after it was launched by three longtime Hawaii-based business partners in 2013. Its products contain 14 grams of protein per bar in a variety of flavors — from Peanut Butter Cup to Peppermint White Chocolate to Lemon Cashew.

Charron said in an interview the investment comes at an inflection point for the brand, which has seen most of its success in the e-commerce sector, while also gaining traction at Whole Foods.

“Two-thirds of our company is digital, so it’s like the iceberg sitting under the water, no one can really see how big we are or how much momentum we have, but it’s there,” Charron said.

Aloha’s scale-up also includes the appointment of three new board members: Paul Kenney, who previously served in the role of chief commercial officer at Kind Snacks and Yasso; along with Semcap’s John Haugen and Ryan Newcom, both of whom came from General Mills where they created and managed the cereal giant’s venture capital arm 301 Inc.

According to Charron, Aloha has received soft inquiries from potential investors in recent years, raising money for the brand was not something he felt compelled to do, given the 500% growth the company has seen over the past four years. The partnership with Semcap, the executive said, grew organically after Haugen and Newcom expressed an interest in the company.

“I’ve never been fascinated by who can raise the most money over the shortest period of time to the highest valuation, because at the end of the day, that doesn’t mean anything about your business,” Charron said. “It just felt like a really nice match to bring John and Ryan into the company and to redeem out some angel investors who have supported me and not changed the company’s trajectory or operating philosophy.”

brad charron aloha

Aloha CEO Brad Charron.

Courtesy of Aloha


Newcom said in an interview Semcap is a growth-stage fund that typically makes $10 to $30 million investments in companies that are above $25 million in sales. Charron predicts Aloha will hit $100 million in sales this year.

“We’re seeking remarkable products, brands, founders and we’re really looking for that loyal and growing consumer following,” Newcom said. “Brad and the team are capturing an opportunity in the market that consumers are looking for, on-the-go portability.”

Newcom said he and Haugen are focused on building out a rapport with a brand before investing in order to integrate themselves into the company’s mission and ethos.

“Given how long we have spent in the industry and the work that started at General Mills with 301 Inc., we put ourselves in a place where we have really strong relationships with founders,” Newcom said. “We take a company-first approach, where we want to bring both capital and deep expertise to these investments.”

Building out a better-for-you brand

Aloha’s bars sit at the intersection of protein-heavy and better-for-you offerings, which continue to grow in popularity as people seek health-focused snacks. The company has also leaned into sustainable ingredients and preparation methods for its products to boost its sustainability credentials.

Last year, the brand launched the Kona bar, made with Ponova oil, an emulsifier from pongamia trees on the island of O’ahu, the first time the oil appeared in a food brand. The trees can help restore degraded land and boost biodiversity in soil.

And in March, the brand debuted the Pa’akai Bar, made with macadamia nuts sourced from Hamuka Macadamia Nut Company by the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii — which the company said are dried by burning nut shells and converting the energy into steam, generating electricity — along with ponova oil.

Charron said Aloha is currently focused on its presence protein bars, based on the rapid acceleration it has seen and its path toward being a more dominant player in the category.

“We could logically expand in the future outside of our existing product categories, but we’re really focused on driving a creative growht in these categories,” Charron said. “We’re doing great digitally, we’re doing great in retail, I think Semcap’s investment will help us accelerate our presence in traditional retail and big box chains.”

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