USA – General Mills’ venture arm, 301 Inc. has invested in NextFoods, the parent company of US probiotics firm GoodBelly in a US$12 million funding.

NextFoods is raising the funding led by 301 Inc., with additional capital coming from existing investors, including Emil Capital Partners.

The deal is significant for General Mills and its venture arm as it strengthens its position in the probiotics category while providing its expertise from its leading brands Nature Valley Bars and Annie’s Homegrown snacks.

For GoodBelly’s NextFoods, the investment looks to expand its national sales team, support capital improvements and drive product innovation.

NextFoods, founded in 2007 by Todd Beckman and Steve Demos, who founded WhiteWave Foods, makes GoodBelly probiotic juices and shots since 2008.

“We are excited to partner with 301 Inc to help take GoodBelly Probiotics to the next level.

This investment is a testament to GoodBelly’s leadership in the category and the continued growth of probiotic food and beverages.

“With this partnership, we look forward to driving new product innovation as well as expanding our team to reach new consumers,” said NextFoods CEO Alan Murray.

The investment further builds on a partnership that started in 2016, between NextFoods and General Mills.

The companies recently partnered to launch GoodBelly Crunchy Probiotic Bars, which debuted at Natural Products Expo East last fall and began rolling out nationwide earlier this year.

301 Inc general manager John Haugen said: “We’re thrilled that GoodBelly is joining the 301 Inc investment portfolio.

The digestive health space is emerging quickly, and we look forward to helping GoodBelly reach more consumers through its remarkable products and brand.”

GoodBelly is one of the leaders in probiotic juice brands with a vision to combine natural foods and science to meet consumer needs.

The company said it only uses the most well researched strains to ensure efficacy in promoting healthy digestion.

With the market projected to reach $64 billion by 2023, gut health is a growing trend among food consumers.