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Published in Food/Agribusiness

West Michigan startup selected for Gordon Food Service-backed accelerator program

BY Tuesday, January 24, 2023 12:09pm

A new venture from West Michigan serial entrepreneur Garrick Pohl has been selected to join a Chicago-based accelerator program launched by Wyoming-based Gordon Food Service and its innovation and investment arm Relish Works

Pohl’s FreshPost LLC is among the five early stage startups selected from more than 500 global applicants to join the Food Foundry accelerator program’s newest cohort. 

Garrick Pohl, founder of FreshPost LLC. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Founded in West Michigan in mid 2022, FreshPost aims to work with retailers of all sizes to create a network of temperature-controlled and secure pickup stations for out-of-home delivery of food and beverages. The partners could range from grocers and meal kit providers to ghost kitchens, food banks and other types of companies. 

“We offer consumers the ability to pick up their orders when and where it’s convenient for them at a fraction of the cost of home delivery,” Pohl said in an email to MiBiz. “For retailers, we connect them to consumers who live and/or work in areas of aggregated demand (multifamily properties, work campuses, universities, etc.).”

Pohl, who is based in the Holland area, is working on the company with a team of people throughout Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Acceptance into the Food Foundry accelerator program also comes with an initial $75,000 investment for FreshPost and each of the startups, as well as a deep immersion into the food and foodservice industry. The program pairs the early stage companies with industry experts from Gordon Food Service and other firms. 

“The Food Foundry community is a perfect resource for our young company as we look to network with others in the food space and collect feedback from site hosts, retailers and consumers,” Pohl said. 

Other ventures in the new cohort include: 

  • The Crop Project, an New York-based agricultural processing and wholesale company marketing regenerative crops such as Atlantic sugar kelp; 
  • CZero Foods, a North Carolina-based startup offering carbon-neutral fulfillment for food consumer packaged goods brands;
  • FlexSea, a London, U.K.-based firm developing a seaweed-derived material to replace single-use plastic packaging; and 
  • SupplyNow, a Cleveland, Ohio-based digital purchasing and logistics company that provides on-demand supplies to restaurants grappling with supply chain failures.

The closely held Gordon Food Service has been active in the venture capital industry in recent years. The company created Relish Works in 2017 as its corporate venture capital fund to invest in companies that modernize the foodservice industry. 

Gordon Foods Service also participated with Starbucks Corp. and Nestlé S.A. in Valor Equity Partners’ recent $595 million fundraising round for Valor Siren Ventures II L.P., a Chicago-based early stage venture capital fund, as MiBiz previously reported

“For 125 years, Gordon Food Service has encouraged our teams to impact the future of foodservice,” Rich Wolowski, president and CEO of Gordon Food Service, said in a statement. “We’re excited to continue that legacy by supporting our fifth cohort of emerging companies pioneering fresh approaches to various challenges in our industry.”

The Food Foundry accelerator program, based in Chicago, is designed to “support, connect, and propel” early stage companies that are “disrupting and rethinking the food industry,” according to its website. Over the last four years, startups that have completed a cohort at Food Foundry have gone on to raise more than $65 million in venture capital funding. 

“Innovation is at the heart of everything we do at Relish Works and Gordon Food Service,” Mandy Tahvonen, vice president and managing director of Relish Works, said in a statement. “We are committed to supporting and growing early-stage food and foodservice businesses through funding and growth opportunities and are excited to welcome our fifth cohort to our community.”

Food Foundry also named three entrepreneurs in residence — Tiny Organics and Natives Rising co-founder Betsy Fore, HourWork co-founder Robert Snyder and ReSourceful founder Kyra Atekwana — to serve as mentors for the cohort. 

FreshPost follows in the footsteps of 86 Repairs Inc., which participated in an earlier cohort at Food Foundry. The company, founded in Grand Rapids by Joe Gallagher and Daniel Estrada, streamlines the end-to-end repair and maintenance process for restaurants. 

As well, Pohl has prior experience in starting and growing venture capital-backed companies. He founded Zipments Corp., a mobile delivery service provider that sold in 2015 to rival Silicon Valley-based Deliv. 

At Zipments, Pohl secured investments from the likes of Wakestream Ventures, Windquest Group, Grand Angels, Huron River Ventures, New York-based FirstMark Capital, and the New York City Economic Development Corp., as MiBiz reported at the time.

Most recently, Pohl was involved in Cubi Markets, a curbside marketplace that formed during the pandemic for local food producers. 

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