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Claridge Food Group announces $40 million strategic investment in WeCook Meals

·6 min read

Investissement Québec co-invests $13 million
Desjardins Capital reinvests and joins the new financial vehicle

MONTREAL, May 25, 2022 /CNW Telbec/ - Claridge Food Group announces a strategic investment of $40 million in WeCook Meals, the leading ready-to-eat food processor in Quebec and Ontario. As part of this major transaction, that is the first investment of the financial vehicle created to stimulate the development of Quebec's food processing industry, Investissement Québec becomes a co-investor through a $13 million investment, and Desjardins Capital, who had participated in two previous funding rounds of WeCook Meals, in 2020 and 2021, reinvests $3 million in the company in addition to joining the new investment vehicle.

WeCook Meals (CNW Group/Claridge Food Group)
WeCook Meals (CNW Group/Claridge Food Group)

"This major investment marks a new step in WeCook Meals' development plan. We have experienced strong growth over the past few years, and this capital injection combined with Claridge Food Group's industrial expertise will allow us to strengthen our position as the leading ready-to-eat delivery company in Quebec and Ontario and accelerate our growth across Canada. We want to be clearly recognized as the benchmark ready-to-eat meal brand for all Canadians," says Étienne Plourde, founder and CEO of WeCook Meals.

The Canadian food delivery market combined with online commerce is growing at an accelerated pace and was estimated to be worth over $5 billion in 2021. WeCook Meals stands out for its unique offering of fresh, ready-to-eat meals that meet the needs of the growing number of people who want to eat well but don't have time to cook. The company aims to accelerate its annual sales growth (exceeding four million meals in 2021), relying primarily on its extensive food processing expertise, quality meals, menu customization and digital marketing excellence.

"We want to raise awareness of our unique offering to increase our customer base and gross revenue. Our nimble business model allows us to manage the impact of inflation on food prices, as well as adapt the choice of ingredients offered in our weekly menu. This investment will allow us to accelerate the prepared and ready-to-eat meal revolution by offering consumers a wider selection of healthy, tasty, and convenient meals at affordable prices," added Plourde.

"In just a few years, WeCook Meals has become the leading ready-to-eat company in Canada, thanks to the support of financial partners such as Desjardins Capital and Investissement Québec. The new investment we are announcing demonstrates the deep confidence of all our partners in WeCook Meals' vision and business plan. We will work with WeCook Meals' management to provide them with the financial capabilities and management expertise of growing food processing companies, adding value at every stage of their development," said Pierre Boivin, President and CEO of Claridge.

"The agri-food industry is a flagship sector of our economy and one of Investissement Québec's priority industries to ensure sustainable economic development throughout Quebec. We're proud to participate in this round of financing to help a young company like WeCook Meals realize its growth plans and to continue the unifying role we are committed to playing in the financial ecosystem, particularly in facilitating access to development capital," says Guy LeBlanc, President and CEO of Investissement Québec.

"Our $10 million investment in the new financial vehicle of Claridge Food Group allows us to combine Desjardins Capital's credibility, experience and agility with the leading-edge expertise in the food processing sector that this partner offers," says Marie-Hélène Nolet, Chief Operating Officer of Desjardins Capital. "As demonstrated by this joint investment in WeCook Meals, our partnership will help agri-food companies undertake their growth projects and overcome the challenges of inflation and supply, while remaining relevant to changing consumer habits. We're all the more proud to offer additional leverage to this company that we've been supporting since 2019, always in keeping with the founders' vision."

Advisors

Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton and Desjardins Capital Markets acted as financial advisors to WeCook Meals.

About Claridge Food Group

Claridge Food Group is an investment vehicle created by Claridge Inc. with the participation of Investissement Québec, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, and Desjardins Capital. Its mission is to support Quebec food processing companies with significant growth potential by providing them with financial resources, managerial and operational support, knowledge of global trends, and a large network of partners to support and accelerate their growth in Quebec, Canada and North America.

About WeCook Meals

WeCook Meals was founded in 2013 by two young entrepreneurs who wanted to spend less time in the kitchen, without compromising on a high-quality, nutritious diet. Meals are curated by an in-house chef, using only freshest ingredients sourced from local suppliers in a zero-waste facility. Demand for WeCook Meals' read-made meals have increased 300% and the Montreal-based company has successfully created 600 new jobs. The Montreal-based company currently has two production facilities delivering more than 4 million meals a year throughout Ontario and Quebec. For HD images.

About Investissement Québec

Investissement Québec's mission is to play an active role in Quebec's economic development by spurring business innovation, entrepreneurship and business acquisitions, as well as growth in investment and exports. Operating in all the province's administrative regions, the corporation supports the creation and growth of businesses of all sizes with investments and customized financial solutions. It also assists businesses by providing consulting services and other support measures, including technological assistance available from Investissement Québec – CRIQ. In addition, through Investissement Québec International, it also prospects for talent and foreign investment and assists Quebec businesses with export activities.

About Desjardins Capital

Over 45 years strong, Desjardins Capital has a mission to value, support and nurture the best of Quebec entrepreneurship. With assets under management of C$3.0 billion as of December 31, 2021, Desjardins Capital helps contribute to the longevity of more than 670 companies, cooperatives and funds in various sectors from across Quebec. In addition to helping to maintain and create many thousands of jobs, this subsidiary of Desjardins Group offers business owners access to a large business network and supports their business growth. For more information, visit our website.

About Claridge

Claridge is a Montreal-based family office that represents the interests of the Stephen Bronfman family, with a focus on maximizing long-term capital appreciation. Claridge is actively engaged in managing a diversified portfolio of investments in private companies as well as interests in third-party managed funds in a variety of industries across the globe. As a strategic financial investor, our direct equity participations span a range of industry sectors, including holdings in food, technology, entertainment, renewable energy, and real estate. Claridge focuses its investments in small and medium-sized businesses and contributes its expertise in partnership with management to accelerate growth.

WeCook Meals (CNW Group/Claridge Food Group)
WeCook Meals (CNW Group/Claridge Food Group)

SOURCE Claridge Food Group

Cision
Cision

View original content to download multimedia: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/May2022/25/c1095.html

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