salt-and-straw-co-founders-promo-Leela-Cydross.png Leela Cyd Ross
Salt and Straw co-founders Tyler Malek (left) and Kim Malek (right)

Salt & Straw ice cream wins $4.2 million infusion to expand operations

A business incubator for artisan food startups and more tech advances planned

The Portland, Ore.-based ice cream shop Salt & Straw last week received an infusion of $4.2 million to build on operations.

The 19-unit chain accepted a $2 million investment from Oregon Venture Fund, which will be used in part to seed an artisan food incubator program, as well as improving the chain’s technology. Another $2.2 million came from individual investors in their fund as a sidecar.

Salt & Straw co-founder, president and CEO Kim Malek said the company first got to know Oregon Venture Fund while working on an incubator to support artisans, some of which have ended up bringing new and interesting ingredients to Salt & Straw’s ice creams, such as edible insect purveyor Don Bugito and bean-to-bar chocolate maker Woodblock Chocolate.

Photo: Salt & Straw

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Meeting with the investors as part of that process, Malek said, “They mentioned on the side that if you are ever going to take additional money, we would love to partner with you on that level. And that was interesting because, No. 1, the Portland connection, and they have a portfolio of people … available to consult. And, secondly, they have a tech background, and you know the role technology is playing and [how] the tech food world is changing faster than ever.”

Malek said the company hopes to build on use of technology, both with third-party delivery and to grow its direct-to-consumer business. Currently Salt & Straw offers delivery through Postmates, along with a monthly Pints Club and other online shipping options.

“We’re building out those strategies, as well as some other ideas that are in the early development stage to help the frontline team be able to take care of customers in unique ways and offer ice cream in a variety of ways, other than the traditional coming in to retail stores,” Malek said.

Last year, the chain opened its biggest scoop shop in Downtown Disneyland, which has offered lessons in crowd control.

Photo: Salt & Straw

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Salt & Straw  — known for its exotic flavors like pear blue cheese; Skittles rainbow sherbet; or strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper — was named a Nation’s Restaurant News Breakout Brand in 2017.

Prior investments include Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and the private-equity firm KarpReilly in 2017.

Known mostly for tech-focused investments, Oregon Venture Fund has also moved into consumer products with partners such as Green Zebra Grocery, described as “Whole Foods meets 7-Eleven,” and the probiotic food-and-beverage company Farmhouse Culture.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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