When moringa-based food and beverage brand Kuli Kuli launched onto the market in 2014, its founder and CEO Lisa Curtis claims “virtually no one” had heard of the superfood plant. Today, Kuli Kuli launched in 2,500 Walmart locations, a significant gain in its ongoing efforts to make this lesser known ingredient appeal to the mainstream consumer.
The brand will roll out two products in Walmart: its flagship Pure Moringa Vegetable Powder and its Moringa Green Smoothie Mix in Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor. This smoothie SKU, which launched last year, has proven to be one of the brand’s most popular, according to Curtis, and has served as a more accessible option to those unfamiliar with the superfood.
The path to Walmart was slightly serendipitous. Earlier this year the brand announced it had raised $5 million in funding, which ultimately grew to a $6.34 million round before close. Originally slated to close in December, the funding round was stretched longer when the brand realized that one of its investors “just wasn’t the right fit,” according to Curtis.
“They weren’t mission-aligned, they weren’t value-added, so we kicked them out of the round and decided to continue fundraising, which felt like a really hard thing to do,” she said. “It’s hard to turn down capital, but we did it anyway.”
Ultimately that capital was replaced by the addition of Authentic Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in female and minority founders. After joining, the firm helped Kuli Kuli get its foot in the door at Walmart through a connection with its chief marketing officer. Had Curtis gone with her original investor, the Walmart placement might not have happened so soon, she said.
“It’s really important to make sure you’re aligned with the people you take capital from and they’re not just writing a check, but in it for the long term,” she said.