Naomi Osaka, Usher, Apolo Ohno back Immi’s next phase of instant ramen domination
Consumer tastes are ever changing, but one thing’s for sure: People are looking for healthier food options, including their favorite comfort foods.
Ramen is often a pantry staple, known jokingly for being the food of choice for college students and young entrepreneurs, but the market potential is huge: The market value of the global instant noodle sector in 2020 was nearly $46 billion and is projected to be about $66 billion by the end of 2027.
That’s where immi comes in. Two years ago, we profiled the company when it secured $3.8 million in seed funding. Kevin Lee and Kevin Chanthasiriphan started the company to carve out a niche in this big market and introduce a plant-based version of instant ramen that also has lower carbohydrates and increased protein.
“We’ve still been heads down, really focused on the ramen space,” Lee said in an interview. “We have seen some new folks entering the ramen space, but there still aren’t any competitors in that low-carb, high-protein, plant-based value prop area. We continue to maintain that lead and have an evergreen opportunity to tackle, especially in retail.”
Online demand of immi’s products hasn’t slowed down either, which is partly why Lee and Chanthasiriphan are eager to begin the next phase of their business.
Today, immi still has its three initial plant-based flavors of Spicy “Beef,” Tom Yum “Shrimp” and Black Garlic “Chicken.” However, a new round of $10 million in Series A funding puts the company on a path of unveiling nine additional flavors, rounding out its executive team and expanding its reach into nationwide retailers.
Touch Capital led the recently closed round and was joined by a bevy of celebrity investors, including Naomi Osaka, Usher, Apolo Ohno, David Grutman, Kygo’s Palm Tree Crew and Gryffin. Immi has now raised about $15 million in total funding, with Lee disclosing the valuation increased “by a good amount” over the seed round.
Other investors participating in the Series A include Siddhi Capital, Gold House Ventures, Anti VC, Harizury, Lab Capital Advisors, CAA’s Co-Head of Basketball, Lynja, Lauren Kleinman (Dreamday, The Quality Edit), Theresa Kang (Blue Marble Pictures), and the CEOs or co-founders of Fly By Jing, Bokksu, Boba Guys, LMNT, OWYN, Hero Cosmetics, Supply, Rumble Boxing, Worlds, Venice Music, Adgile Media Group and Hyphen Capital.
Immi grew over six times year over year in revenue and sold out seven times since 2021, and in 2022, the company launched in retailers, including Whole Foods, Wegmans and The Fresh Market. Additional locations are on tap to open this year, the founders said.
In 2021, the company had a private tasting community of about 4,000 people and that number has grown to 6,000. In addition to taste, the community gives the founders direct feedback on which retailers they would like to see immi launch in next. Lee said this was valuable information that often helps the company better market itself to retailers by being able to prove the size of a future customer base.
Following that rapid growth, the company began to get some inbound investor attention, from both existing and new investors, in the third quarter of 2022, Lee said.
“We wanted to raise this $10 million because there was just so much opportunity on the horizon with building out our team, improving the product and then launching in more retail, especially after seeing some of the early Whole Foods data,” Lee added. “We had excellent velocity right out the gate because of our direct-to-consumer audience, and the demand in retail of people coming across our bright yellow packaging.”
As mentioned, some of the new capital will be invested in product development research. Though Chanthasiriphan didn’t give a hint on what any of the nine new flavors would be — immi specializes in less commonly available flavors — he did say that it will be a combination of permanent, limited-time and co-branded partnership flavors with influencers, celebrities and movie studios.
On top of that are another 12 flavors that the company is just now “batting around” in efforts to see which ones immi should prioritize. It is also exploring other products outside of ramen.
“There are a lot of unique partnership opportunities to launch those,” Chanthasiriphan said in an interview. “We also have noodle improvements coming down the pipeline related to texture, cook times for the noodles and formats, like cups.”