2022 is another banner year for the consumer sector, with coffee, noodle and cosmetics brands sparking a venture capital boom. More and more niche market players are in the spotlight, and own beauty brand Dewy Lab and handmade lemon tea brand Ningji are just a few examples.
According to incomplete statistics, domestic venture capital-backed companies raised more than 15 billion yuan in 112 deals in the first quarter of 2022, of which more than 50% were Series A or earlier stages of fundraising. Beauty retailer Harmay raised the biggest investment of $200 million.
For new retail, at EqualOcean, we’ve identified 20 companies to watch in Q1. The main criterion is to receive venture capital investments of more than USD 30 million on average or the equivalent value in CNY in a single round. When compiling the list, we also considered factors such as growth prospects, brand influences and reputation, and planned expansions.
From SMEs on the verge of making their mark in the market to well-established companies that have already raised significant funds and are always looking for new injections of capital, here is a list you won’t want to miss.
Founded in 2019, Harmay (Chinese: 話梅), a new warehouse-style retail brand, raised $200 million in a Series D funding round from top investors including General Atlantic, Hillhouse Capital Group and BA Capital. The Chinese beauty retailer, which competes with Sephora, has attracted significant investors given the architectural design of stores and offerings from niche brands.
Miracle Miles Technology
Three-year-old startup Miracle Miles Tech (MMT) closed its Series A funding round for $100 million on March 21; IDG Capital and Sequoia Capital China are the investors in this round. Founded in 2019, MMT is a footwear and apparel technology company with five independent brands, of which Dream Pairs was once the top-ranked footwear brand on Amazon.
Chinese plant-based meat company Starfield (Chinese: 星期零) made history with a $100 million Series B investment in January – the country’s largest ever funding round for a protein brand vegan. Primavera Capital Group led this round and was followed by well-known investor Zeng Ming; four existing investors also joined this funding round. Previously, it had received four rounds of funding since Starfield’s inception in 2019.
Shuyi Grass Jelly Tea
Shuyi (Chinese: 书亦烧仙草), one of the most popular domestic new-style tea brands, received 600 million yuan in February from food retail leaders including Juewei Food (603571: SH), QiaQia Food (002557:SZ) and Kemen (002661:SZ). Its valuation was raised to 10 billion yuan. With over 15 years in the industry, it had over 7,000 outlets by the end of 2021, second only to Mixue Ice City (Chinese: 蜜雪冰城) – a huge Chinese ice cream and tea chain.
Founded in 2013, Chinese premium smart door lock brand Kaadas (Chinese: 凯迪仕) raised CNY 600 million in its Series C funding round on March 21. This round was led by Asia Investment Fund, with Morgan Stanley (China), CoStone Capital, Cowin Capital, Ejam Investment also participating. The proceeds will be used to boost its global branding going forward.
In January, YL Swan (Chinese: 黄天鹅) – a domestic premium raw egg brand – completed its Series C funding round worth CNY 600 million. The four-year-old startup has set a record for the largest amount of funding for egg brands in the commodity ingredients space to date. According to public sources, YL Swan dominated the domestic mid- to high-end branded egg market in 2021, with a penetration rate of over 70% among consumers.
On Jan. 28, well-known instant noodle maker Jinmailang (Chinese: 今麦郎) pocketed 600 million yuan from consumer-focused Harvest Capital in a bid to boost its nationwide network. With 28 years in the market, industry practitioners believe the company is about to begin its IPO journey, with stockbroker CSC Financial submitting the first two pre-listing tutoring reports on behalf of the company in 2021.
Unstaffed retail brand Feng1.com (Chinese: 丰e足食) secured 300 million yuan in February from CICC, Softbank Ventures Asia and Shenzhen Capital Group. The procedures have been used to accelerate scale growth, improve operational efficiency and improve service quality. Founded in 2017, the SF Express-backed company provides AI smart cabinets, vending machines and other offline smart retail services through big data technology and supply chain support. Currently, it operates in 28 major cities in China with more than 50,000 offline terminals.
EZ House Technology
Founded in 2018, smart home solutions provider EZ House Tech (Chinese: 奕至科技) received approximately CNY 200 million from its Series B funding round in February; Mingdao Investment and Winreal VC led this round. Its smart home lighting appliance brand, EZVALO Technology, launched on major e-commerce platforms and began its global rollout in 2020.
On January 29, Ponhu Luxury (Chinese: 胖虎) secured $45 million in a Series C financing round from INCE Capital, JHF Investment and Hedgestone Capital to further improve its supply chain and marketing techniques. ‘data analysis. Founded in 2015, Ponhu is the first national e-commerce and service platform for unused luxury goods operating under the C2B2C model. This unique platform offers consumers various professional services such as assessment, maintenance, recovery and recycling.
New mother-and-child homeware retail platform MAKUKU (Chinese: 麦酷酷) raised $30 million in pre-Series A funding round, led by ATM Capital and EDA Capital, with participation from Ausnutria Dairy, Taihe Capital and other investors. This financing round was mainly used for its development in the Southeast Asian markets as well as for digital construction. Founded in 2020, MAKUKU is a direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce platform with membership at its core.
With IDG Capital and three other investors backing it, WOW COLOR received hundreds of millions of yuan in Series A+ in March; Tencent and Hillhouse Capital Group were its angel investors. The Guangzhou-based one-stop beauty and personal care retailer started operations in 2019. It opened 600 physical stores nationwide with more than 300 renowned brands within six months of its establishment, and the company is stepping up also its efforts in its overall business layout.
On February 28, local specialty coffee brand Seesaw Coffee completed its Series A++ funding round, raising hundreds of millions of yuan from BA Capital and CoStone Capital. Launched in Shanghai in 2012, Seesaw is the first coffee brand HeyTea has invested in. Its management team is relatively diverse, including both senior practitioners from top restaurant platforms as well as young post-90s talent.
China’s leading clean beauty brand Dewy Lab (Chinese: 淂意) completed a tens of millions of dollars pre-Series A funding round in February, led by China Growth Capital, RED or Xiaohongshu, the leading platform Chinese lifestyle and e-commerce also took part. It is incorporated by a group of top scientists, who aim to use clean formulations and minimize harm to people and the planet.
Chen Xiang Gui
Lanzhou beef noodle brand Chen Xiang Gui (Chinese: 陈香贵) closed its Series B funding round worth hundreds of millions of yuan on Feb. 15, led by Loyal Valley Capital. Previously, the company disclosed three rounds of funding. At present, it has 74 stores and another 104 stores ready for operation.
Ningji lemon tea
The handmade lemon tea brand Ningji (Chinese: 柠季) started operations in 2021, and five months later secured tens of millions of yuan from ByteDance and Shunwei Capital. On January 21, the company again received its Series A+ funding from ByteDance, with Tencent being a new investor. As of press time, it has more than 400 stores across China.
Launched in 2013, Chinese brand of Lego-like building blocks Sembo Block (Chinese: 森宝积木) received hundreds of millions of yuan from e-commerce giant Alibaba and two other investors on Feb. 10. Keeping Chinese culture in mind, this Guangzhou-headquartered block brand focuses on military and aerospace series, with several licensed intellectual property (IP) blocks in sale.
After-sales service platform cug2313.com (Chinese: 中国联保) completed Series B financing worth more than $10 million in February, exclusively backed by U.S.-based E-Home Household Service Holdings (EJH: NASDAQ). Founded in 2012, cug2313.com is one of the first integrated platforms targeting home appliances in China. To date, the platform has served more than 100 million customers in total, with Siemens, Panasonic, Vatti, Xiaomi and other Tier 1 brands all being its long-term partners.
The six-year-old restaurant and bar chain completed its Series A+ funding round for an undisclosed amount in January, led by Dayone Capital and with participation from Hillhouse Capital Group and industry-focused investor Fanqie Capital restoration. It is positioning itself as a bar-restaurant for Gen Z and new middle-class consumers with longer opening hours, and it has about 100 outlets across China and 3 million members now.
E-commerce platform Tianyigou (Chinese: 天异购) received several hundred million yuan in Series A funding on March 14, with Sequoia Seed Fund, Shunwei Capital and Oriza as backers. Launched in 2020, Tianyigou has attracted more than 100 million users in one year and plans to enter the cross-border e-commerce industry, logistics industry and community group purchasing.