SONOMA, Calif. – Jon Sebastiani, a food industry entrepreneur, has announced the launch of Sonoma Brands, a consumer products incubator and venture fund targeted at products that will be innovative and disruptive of existing brands.
Sonoma Brands will be led by Sebastiani and backed by VMG Partners, a California-based private equity firm focused on small to mid-sized consumer product companies. VMG investments, past and present, in the food space include Kind Snacks, Bare Snacks, Justin’s, Mighty Leaf Tea, Kernel Season’s, Snack Factory LLC and Pirate Brands.
Michael Mauzé, managing director of VMG, suggested Sebastiani will help nurture earlier stage businesses.
“Jon is a thought leader who brings a wealth of experience as both an entrepreneur and as a seasoned business manager,” Mauzé said. “His unique skillset and expertise in innovative strategy will position Sonoma Brands as a leader in developing and growing emerging CPG brands that deeply resonate with consumers. Brands with a passionate, yet small customer base in the early stages of growth will benefit immensely from his mentorship and counsel.”
The launch of Sonoma Brands was announced just shy of a year after The Hershey Co. announced it would acquire Sebastiani’s last venture — Krave Pure Foods, Inc., a Sonoma-based specialty maker of meat jerky products. He established Krave in 2009, and the company had $35 million in sales in the year leading up to the transaction.
Sebastiani, whose family established Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery in the late 19th century, tied his vision for Sonoma Brands to his roots in the wine business and one of the nation’s culinary centers.
“The vision of Sonoma Brands stems from my passion for this region that yields extraordinary culinary expertise and an immense network of esteemed chefs and entrepreneurs,” he said. “Our goal is to partner with strong, imaginative leaders to push boundaries, invigorate industry categories and differentiate ourselves through our agility in adapting to ever-changing consumer needs.”
The company aims to develop companies with “a proven concept of success, an authentic story and a passion for originality,” said Sonoma Brands. Sebastiani emphasized the importance of developing products that are both better for you and “absolutely delicious.”