According to a 2020 health survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41.9% of Americans aged 20 and over are obese. It’s a frustrating statistic for public health officials whose advocacy for exercising more frequently and making better eating decisions can often fall on deaf ears.
Those issues, however, are linked to the accessibility and affordability of healthy food and beverages. Yes, there are better-for-you options, but are they readily available at a reasonable cost to most consumers? That was a persistent question during Manna Tree’s second annual Global Health Forum, hosted earlier this month at the firm’s home base of Vail, Colorado.
Founded on the belief that “the future of health, well-being and longevity is attainable through innovation in food,” Manna Tree invests in and actively partners with growth-stage companies, including Health-Ade, The New Primal, Urban Remedy, Gotham Greens, Verde Farms and Good Culture.
Prior to attending the Global Health Forum, which featured presentations on metabolic health and how consumer behavior has shifted around the better-for-you segment, Taste Radio editor Ray Latif sat down with Manna Tree leaders Ross Iverson, Brent Drever and Steve Young for a trio conversations about the firm’s investment strategy and how it relates to getting healthy and affordable food into the shopping carts of more consumers.
We also discussed how entrepreneurs are faced with shifting expectations for bottom line and top line growth, their assessment of consumer confidence and spending, emerging food trends and ways that public institutions and private companies can align on common goals to positively impact global health.
In this Episode
2:33: Ross Iverson, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Manna Tree – The episode opens with Iverson, who briefly discussed how Manna Tree planned for the Global Health Forum before he spoke about how investors are assessing the strength of the U.S. economy amidst concerns of a recession, how the firm evaluates short- and long-term paths to profitability and why the firm is looking to make investments in food manufacturing. He also explained why Manna Tree is “super active” in the operations of its portfolio companies and how aligned groups of food and beverage brands might benefit by having a unified operating structure.
27:01: Brent Drever, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Manna Tree – Drever spoke about the firm’s work with state governors and federal legislators to improve public health, their assessment of companies’ efforts to reduce sugar in their products, taking into account a range of consumer views on taste and health concerns and how they evaluate kids’ packaged food and beverage brands. He also discussed Health-Ade’s discontinued Pop line and the company’s efforts to create new products for mainstream consumers and how he plans to navigate the show floor at Expo West 2023.
46:28: Steve Young, Managing Director, Manna Tree – Young discussed his long career in the food industry, including his work with General Mills where he helped shepherd the acquisition of Annie’s, why he believes that during a time of uncertainty “investors are not going to invest in the top line at the sake of the bottom line” and whether the era of billion-dollar food brands might be coming to an end. He also discussed the tailwind for local and artisanal brands, the duality of creating highly nutritious and affordable products and how vertically integrated companies factor into Manna Tree’s investment thesis.