BENTON HARBOR — Appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. has finalized the sale of its Vessi Fermentor brand to 80West Labs, a Chicago-based venture capital firm.
Vessi, a homebrew beer fermentation system, was launched by Whirlpool’s W Labs “innovation incubator” using the crowdfunding portal IndieGoGo in May 2016, as MiBiz previously reported.
Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR), a Benton Harbor-based company that generated more than $20 billion in sales last year, used the crowdfunding portal Indiegogo to test the market for its fermenting system and raised more than $270,000 in one month, quickly selling out and surpassing its funding goal with early backers of the product.
The project was unique from the outset as the company’s first test of the homebrewing market. The appliance — a single tank that is sealed, pressurized, and temperature-controlled — allows homebrewers to ferment their beer with a lower risk of contamination, experiment with flavors and ingredients and simplify the fermentation process.
80West Labs, a partnership between Prota Ventures LLC, an operator-investor group based in Chicago, Ill., and KZCO Inc., a family-owned engineering and manufacturing business located near Omaha, Neb. The partners will continue to support consumers who have bought Vessi since its launch, according to a statement.
“We have assembled an experienced and passionate team at 80West Labs focused on taking Vessi to the next level,” Kyle Buzzard of Prota Ventures said in a statement. “We are excited for the opportunity to continue to evolve Vessi in collaboration with the brewing community, and to create products that make brewing a more fun, accessible and social experience.”