In August 2014, Mercury made its initial investment in Label Insight, formerly known as Food Essentials. We led Label Insight’s Series A round of financing, with co-investment from Label’s Insight’s seed investor, Cultivation Capital, as well as our friends from Serra Ventures and dunnhumby Ventures (strategic joint venture fund between Kroger and Tesco). Headquartered in St. Louis, with offices in Chicago and Cincinnati, Label Insight provides a cloud-based, big data platform for inputting, tracking and understanding consumer product ingredient, health and marketing claims. Label Insight recently changed its name from Food Essentials due to the demand by their retail partners for the company to provide insights on data beyond food and beverages (such as apparel, electronics, etc.).
Mercury first met Anton Xavier, the co-founder and CEO of Label Insight, after he gave a presentation at a startup pitch event in St. Louis. The company was founded by Anton and his brother Dagan, a nutritionist with a background in food science, in Australia. Anton and Dagan’s father had become ill, and after recovery, had a very restricted diet. Dagan Xavier set out to obtain food ingredient data at the local supermarket, only to find that it was difficult than he imagined. Over time, Dagan’s food science and nutrition background allowed for him to amass a large database of information, and supermarkets – at least in Australia, were eager to buy the information. Anton and Dagan then set out to build a website that would provide consumers with the information they needed to make more informed food purchase decisions. They then teamed up with Anton’s childhood friend, Dheeraj Patri (a developer with Deloitte), and the idea took off. Fast forward a few years later, and the team moved to the US in order to further develop their startup, won a St. Louis Arch Grant, and later received seed funding from Cultivation Capital.
Label Insight went on to win an RFP with the FDA to help develop the industry’s first scientifically accurate database of food ingredients, attributes and health claims. This was important to the FDA as they needed a tool for users of their website to understand what was in commonly sold food products. They also needed a way to better govern the industry around what food products can and can’t claim for nutritional or general market information. The experience and credibility that comes with working with the FDA allowed the company to close numerous grocers – especially those that wanted a faster way to research new food products around trending consumers tastes and health preferences. Label Insight had also attracted the attention of groups like eBay (via RedLaser) and the Wall Street Journal, who found other novel ways to leverage the insights from their database.
Mercury had immediate interest in helping Label Insight transfer their taxonomy and database into a platform that would transform the retail and CPG industries. The ability for sales, marketing, merchandising and R&D teams to research and compare product offerings by ingredient, formulation and marketing claim, could never be done before a Label Insight. Existing legacy data businesses, who batch process their ingredient and attribute data periodically, never took the time to build the algorithms needed to perform complex queries and searches. We believe Label Insight can truly disrupt the CPG data industry, as well as adjacent software industries in product information management (PIM, which interfaces with Ecommerce software), and master data management (MDM – which interfaces with ERP and supply chain software.
A number of us at Mercury have first-hand experience in dealing with industrial taxonomies, data cleansing, and the difficulties in gleaning insights from manufacturing and product data. I dealt with the various challenges of enterprise PIM within the MRO industry (manufacturing, repair and operations) during my time at Intermat (acquired by IHS, Inc.), while Aziz Gilani worked on MDM (master data management) issues within F500 companies while he was a consultant at E&Y and Infosys. Both Aziz and I have reviewed numerous startups within the PIM space, and we believe that Label Insight has the opportunity to be the Industry Cloud Company for retailers and CPGs around consumer product data.
We are excited about the prospects for Label Insight, and look forward to working with Anton and the team to build a big data platform to transform how consumers, manufacturers, and retailers utilize product data.