Boston-based food launchpad expands to R.I.

Updated at 11:25 a.m. on Sept. 23

SARON MECHALE, founder of Providence-based food development company goTeff, shares her product at a Branchfood event held with ACG Boston. / COURTESY BRANCHFOOD

PROVIDENCE — A Boston-based food launchpad is expanding its network of industry connections and capital into the Ocean State.

Founded in 2015 by CEO Lauren Abda, Branchfood brings food companies and entrepreneurs together through events, shared workspaces, advisory support and financial backing from the organization’s sister company, Branch Network Group, which Abda also co-founded.

The venture group has so far invested more than $3.5 million in 15 early-stage food startups, Abda said, and Branchfood has facilitated more than 480 connections between entrepreneurs and stakeholders, with an established network of more than 16,000 contacts in the food supply chain. 

These organizations range from local startups to global food corporations, and include consumer products, agricultural, and tech companies, as well as the higher education and government sectors.

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The organization already has ties with Rhode Island due to its proximity to Boston, Abda said, and was also attracted to the Ocean State for its wealth of opportunities for food startups, including early-stage support resources from organizations 

“Rhode Island has an incredibly rich food ecosystem, and really contains so many of the ingredients we recognize as supporting the food industry,” Abda said, including entrepreneurship hubs such as Hope & Main, RIHub and Social Enterprise Greenhouse. 

Branchfood will focus on stage-two companies and their unique needs as they scale, Abda said.  

“As companies grow, they need increasingly specialized support on terms of manufacturing products, partnerships, managing broker networks, working with buyers and retailers,” Abda said. “They also need capital, and that’s more than just coming up with a pitch deck.”

When making the decision to expand to Rhode Island, Abda was also impressed with the state’s Food Policy Council, and Rhode Island’s goal to reach 50% local food production by 2050.

Branchfood has also had a longstanding relationship with the CIC, which has a location in Providence and said that this partnership will help Rhode Island entrepreneurs expand nationally and globally through the Cambridge-based group’s international network.

The company’s expansion has received support from R.I. Commerce Corp., which awarded Branchfood a network matching grant of up to $99,600 in late 2021.

Branchfood will hold a launch party Thursday evening at the CIC Providence, with R.I. Secretary of Commerce Elizabeth Tanner; Todd Blount, CEO of Blount Foods; Lisa Raiola, founder of Hope & Main; Nicholas Warren, an angel investor with Branch Venture Group; and Tara Levine, strategic advisor for Branchfood; and additional Rhode Island food businesses.

(Update: Corrects the venture group invested more than $3.5 million in startups and has network of over 16,000 contacts in 3rd paragraph.)

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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