Rapid growth of Japanese barbecue sauce brand attracts $13 million buyout from major investment firm

by Bachan​, a maker of several variations of Japanese barbecue sauce, announced the fundraiser this morning. The round was led by investment firm Sonoma Brands Capital.

The company was founded by its CEO, Justin Gill, who named the company after his grandmother, whose parents had moved to California from Japan (“Bachan” is an English translation of a Japanese term for affection for a grandmother).

Connection with customers

Gill said the sauce was born out of a communal connection with customers, and that feeling carries over to the modern, industrial take on the product.

“Our sauce is truly a family heirloom, a tangible and tasty legacy of my Japanese ancestry. The recipe was brought here by my great-grandparents when they immigrated from Japan. We used to make it together every year as a family and distribute it to customers of our family landscaping business. That’s why it’s personally special to me,” Gil said FoodNavigator-USA​.

To maintain both that feeling and those flavors, Gill said no expense was spared in sourcing the best ingredients. The sauces are based on mirin (rice wine) from Japan and traditionally brewed soy sauce. And the sauces are not pasteurized, a step that soaks up the flavors in the bottle.

“We also use real ginger, garlic and green onion. No powdered ingredients”, he said.

Bold flavors for evolving palates

Gill said the evolution of the American palate has brought a certain freedom to making products like his. Gone are the days when a formulator had to scratch their heads to figure out how closely their products could match their “true” flavor profiles without scaring off timorous American consumers. Americans may not be quite citizens of the world yet, but their taste buds are leaning more and more in that direction.

“The American consumer is generally much more familiar with authentic Asian flavors – whether on personal travels; experiences in local and authentic restaurants; exposure by friends and family; or a desire to be more adventurous in the market due to the many international food programs, the national trend is towards more exciting flavors. More and more millennials also grew up with immigrant parents and grew up eating ethnic foods, which is also at stake,”Gil said.

“The pandemic has also really contributed to that. We’ve seen many people start experimenting with cooking at home and looking for new ways to add flavor to bland or basic dishes, helping Bachan’s find its way into American kitchens nationwide. »he added.

Rapid growth in distribution

Bachan’s, which was founded in 2019 and is based in Sebastopol, Calif., was already widely distributed before the cash injection announced today. The company says its products are sold at more than 11,000 outlets, including Costco, Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Target, Kroger and others. Publix and Albertsons are expected to be added to this list in the fourth quarter of this year. The sauces are also sold on Amazon.

Bachan’s is available in four flavors: Original, Hot and Spicy, Yuzu and Gluten Free.

The fundraiser included investments from Asian American celebrities Pat Tenore, founder and chairman of clothing brand RVCA, and filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton. Existing investors Prelude Growth Partners and New Fare Partners also participated in the round.

Searching for passion in the Sonoma County household

As part of the transaction, Sonoma Capital founder and managing partner Jon Sebastiani will join the company’s board of directors. Sebastiani, who helped create brands such as KRAVE jerky (a brand he is now striving to revive​), said Bachan’s is the fastest growing condiment brand in the country.

“We are very proud to partner with a founder from Sonoma County. Justin’s mission to bring his family recipe to life at Bachan’s has been nothing short of visionary so far, and I look forward to continuing to build on the tremendous retail momentum that he and his team have built”, Sebastiani said.

When Sebastiani founded Sonoma Capital in 2016, he said he and his partners were looking for “passionate entrepreneurs”. In the years that followed, the company invested in companies like Guayaki, True Botanicals, Hum Nutrition, Vintage Wine Estates and Beekeepers Naturals.

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