Immi is putting a healthy spin on instant ramen by going plant-based and offering bolder flavors. The company announced Tuesday that it raised $ 3.8 million in seed funding.
Co-founders Kevin Lee and Kevin Chanthasiriphan grew up in food families in Taiwan and Thailand, respectively, and met a decade ago while working at the same tech company. They joined forces to get noodles every day.
Fast forward to today, and you both saw family members affected by diabetes and high blood pressure and started thinking about what a better food and beverage brand would look like for you.
Taking on the love of Asian food that they grew up with, they wanted to develop one of those brands for the US.
“We immediately agreed to the instant ramen,” Chanthasiriphan told TechCrunch. “My dad still eats instant ramen every night, and it’s a huge market – 4 billion packages are sold a year, but it’s also a product that has been dominated by the same three established operators for years.”
the global instant noodle space is projected to be a $ 32 billion industry by 2027, worth $ 7.7 billion in the U.S. However, the ramen that most people buy from the supermarket includes noodles made from refined carbohydrates that they are cooked in oil, while the soup packets are high in sodium and preservatives, he said.
Their version is Immi, which is plant-based, low in carbohydrates and sodium, high in fiber, and has 22 grams of protein on average. The product comes in three flavors: “Chicken” with Black Garlic, “Shrimp” Tom Yum and “Spicy Beef”.
The couple joined the company full time in 2019 and have spent most of the last few years in R&D, but the end product was not easy. In fact, when talking to people in the industry, they were told that creating a healthier version of ramen would be “an impossible thing,” Lee said. They had to start from scratch and do it themselves, formulating the first recipes in their own kitchens.
The funding surge comes as Immi launches a reformulation of its product this year with the goal of replicating traditional instant ramen in broth flavor, mouthfeel, texture and sipping ability.
Siddhi Capital led the round and joined the Palm Tree Crew, Constellation Capital, Animal Capital, Pear Ventures, Collaborative Fund and a group of people including Patrick Schwarzenegger, Kat Cole and Nik Sharma, as well as executives from Thrive Market, Caviar, Daring Foods, Madhappy, Twitch, Kettle & Fire, MUD WTR, Native, Amity Supply, Visionary Music Group, Italic, Tatcha and Casper.
Melissa Facchina, co-founder and general partner of Siddhi Capital, said her firm invests in food and beverage brands and that her investment arm is a mentor to the Immi team.
“We were impressed with them,” he said. “It costs a lot of money to innovate in this industry, and it is exciting for me and my family to have something that we can drink and carry. The release of the second version looks exactly like the traditional brick pack and now has grown-up flavors that stick to a different culinary palette. “
The natural or better-for-you food industry has changed “drastically” in the last decade, Facchina said. Most of it is driven by consumers who want supply chain transparency, cleaner ingredients, and authentic brands.
The consumer packaged goods brands that are reinventing themselves already have successful product lines, but few brands are looking at certain categories that she says are ready to reinvent themselves, such as cereals. Her firm is an investor in Magic Spoon, and sees Immi reinventing ramen and Asian cuisine, saying that “Kevins as a founding group are highly moldable, high-performing, and want to surround themselves with the best people in their class.”
Meanwhile, the new funding will be split between R&D, recruiting and marketing, Lee said. The company is receiving customer feedback to improve flavors and would like to optimize its supply chain, hire for key executive roles, and use spending to test new marketing channels. Immi sells its product through its own online store, but would like to expand to wholesale channels and online grocery stores.
Immi products were launched in January and inventory was sold out in the first month without any marketing. Since then, they have sold over 10,000 orders in the US and are even looking to go international.
In the future, the company will work on two initiatives: the first is to develop an infrastructure to expand its product offering, such as more flavors and types of noodles, so that it can launch a new flavor every few months. Lee and Chanthasiriphan also aim to develop additional Asian food products that have cleaner ingredients, such as snacks and sweets, that they loved to eat as children.
The second is marketing and distribution. The company has amassed a community of 4,000 members who help Immi with quick taste tests.
“We are figuring out how to bring our products to a more general audience, especially those who may not follow a certain diet, but want to bring healthier foods and beverages,” Lee said. “We are also bringing in cultural trendsetters, celebrities, and TikTok influencers to broaden consumer interest and bring Immi into the mainstream.”