Whole Foods Former Co-CEO Invests Big in Oversupplied Food Startup0
Colorado Springs startup FoodMaven is getting a boost – financially and otherwise – from a big name in the food industry.
Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, has joined the board of directors of FoodMaven, a business based on “oversupplied” food. Robb is also investing in the company; Patrick Bultema, FoodMaven CEO and co-founder, declined to detail the size of that investment but called it “significant” and “sizeable.”
Robb’s connections and credibility in the industry, meanwhile, are extremely valuable to FoodMaven, Bultema said. “Obviously, there’s some degree of validation to what we are doing to have someone of his stature joining. He has great insights that he brings to us in terms of the food system.”
Robb stepped down as co-CEO of Whole Foods at the end of last year in a management shift that left co-founder John Mackey as sole chief executive. Once news of the change broke, Robb was presented with a wealth of opportunities, Bultema said. “We were humbled and honored that we were the first thing he said yes to.”
Through an online marketplace, FoodMaven buys surplus food from grocery stores and distributors and sells it to restaurants, institutional kitchens and commercial food preparation businesses. (FoodMaven does not normally reveal its suppliers, but Whole Foods was disclosed as one in a Wall Street Journal article; that relationship is separate from FoodMaven’s ties with Robb, Bultema said.) For the suppliers, the marketplace represents revenue rescue for food that otherwise would have been lost,” Bultema said. The buyers, meanwhile, get quality food at a significant discount from wholesale, he said. Food that doesn’t rapidly sell in the marketplace is donated to charity.
FoodMaven is an agriculture-tech startup, founded in August 2015 by Dan Lewis, president/chief innovator, and Patrick Bultema, CEO/chairman. Its stated goal: keep food out of landfills. Food companies at every point between the dirt and the dinner table sign contracts with FoodMaven. When extra food shows up at their loading docks — most often produce, meat and dairy, which can’t sit in a warehouse for an indefinite amount of time — FoodMaven takes it off their hands, stores it and sells it to commercial and institutional kitchens across Colorado Springs and Denver. In the Springs alone, FoodMaven sells to 120 restaurants, plus school districts, senior living centers, caterers and even the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.