Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Elly Truesdell was recorded in March 2020.
Elly Truesdell is Partner at Almanac Insights, a fund focused on food-related investments. We have a fascinating conversation.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s introduce you to our audience. Tell us a bit about Almanac Insights as well as yourself. Let’s get acquainted.
Elly Truesdell: This is a completely unprecedented time. Anxiety is high. We’re all working on this in real-time. The questions will be especially interesting today. We are a venture fund out of New York City founded by David Barber who is also the co-founder of the Blue Hill restaurant.
They’re one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Every year, they’ve been considered as thought leaders in sustainable agriculture, soil health, and gastronomy. David founded the fund and created this amazing ecosystem in and around those restaurants and the working farm and agriculture center.
I feel lucky to have known David for many years. I was with Whole Foods Market for almost 10 years. I was dedicated to finding the next biggest brand and the most interesting new food and beverage products. I was there from 2008 to 2017.
As you can imagine, my timing was perfect in terms of what I consider to be the golden age of natural foods consumer goods. A lot of the most exciting challenger brands were coming on at that time. After years of being in the role, I became the person you came to if you wanted to launch your product at Whole Foods.
By the time I left, I was the Global Director of Local Brands and Product Innovation. I worked with hundreds of companies to help them grow and scale their product lines. It’s pretty non-traditional in terms of investors.
Along the way, I had known David. He and his brother at Blue Hill launched the yogurt brand with me. He was really excited about launching this fund with the same food philosophy that we shared at Whole Foods. We are focused strictly on food and agriculture as a fund. We are a $30 million venture fund.
We’re looking to make transformative, positive change in and across the food system. It doesn’t have to be the ideal food business that is only touching a very small portion. We’re trying to make more available cleaner ingredients, better supply chains, and higher-quality standards to more people.
Sramana Mitra: Very interesting. Can you synthesize what it is that you look for in your investments? How do you decide what is investment-worthy in your ecosystem?
Elly Truesdell: I really think about investments as what are we seeing that has true value and long-term sustainable. We look strictly at food, beverage, and agriculture in consumer goods but we also look at technologies, hospitality, retail formats that support that system.
What we really care about is if it’s offering something new, differentiated, and really has a perspective that is bringing cleaner, higher-integrity products or production methods to more people. That’s a huge part of the thesis and approach. This moment is forcing everyone to think what’s really necessary, what’s enriching, what’s moving us forward, and what’s bringing a higher value to life even if it’s non-critical essential. Organic products, cleaner supply chain, and where you can gain a sense of trust and value is going to become more important.