Muniq, a Black-owned, food-as-medicine brand, has raised $8.2 million in a Series A round to expand sales of its nutritional shakes that help lower blood sugar by improving gut health.
Muniq is the creation of Marc Washington, the founder and CEO of Uplifting Results Labs. The new funds will help the Los Angeles-based company further its mission to address underlying health conditions such as diabetes, which disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities, Washington said.
The Series A round was led by Alpha Edison, Acre Venture Partners and strategic investors including Baron Davis, a former NBA All-Star, and Cathy Richards, founder of Simply Protein. These investors join The Production Board, a San Francisco-based venture foundry that led the seed round.
Washington, who earned his MBA at Harvard Business School, said he was motivated to start his own business a year and a half ago by both “head and heart.” After a long career in the food and nutrition industries—he last served as the CEO of Irwin Naturals, a supplement company—he could see a market need for products that addressed underlying health conditions.
But he was also motivated by personal sorrow. Muniq is a tribute to his late sister, Monica, who suffered from diabetes, obesity and hypertension and died five years ago. (Muniq is an amalgam of Monica and the word “unique,” which, he said, describes her outsized personality.)
“I always wished she had better solutions to regain control of her health,” Washington said. “I want to honor her legacy with solutions that could have changed the trajectory of her life
Muniq’s first product, which launched online in May 2020, is a meal replacement drink that targets the microbiome, that huge, teeming community of microbes inhabiting the human digestive tract. It helps manage blood sugar levels through the use of a proprietary blend of prebiotic resistant starches including green bananas and maize. Resistant starch can’t be digested by humans, but it provides a veritable smorgasbord for the “good bugs” in the large intestine.
”Resistant starch effectively feeds the bacteria in your gut that are responsible for keeping you healthy,” Washington said.
The idea is to drink Muniq at least once a day, instead of a meal. While the main goal is to attain healthy blood sugar levels, many customers also report weight loss, said Washington.
The powdered shake mixes up quickly in the blender with ice and water or unsweetened milk, It comes in five flavors, including two that are vegan. Mocha Latte, for instance, has 170 calories, 15 grams of protein and 15 grams of dietary fiber —and also packs 100 milligrams of caffeine, making it a nice substitute for morning coffee. It also contains 26 vitamins and minerals and 4.5 grams of healthy fats, according to the packaging.
Washington is well aware of the health disparities that plague minority communities—which became all too evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We want our products and brand to help close some of the health disparity gap,” he said. “We make sure our products are as appealing and accessible as possible.”
The website’s Ambassadors section features a diverse collection of customers who say they have benefited from Muniq shakes. The goal, said Washington, is to “not just put the product out there, but really connect with individuals.”
One challenge is making the products affordable to everyone, particularly in low-income communities where the need may be greatest. A monthly subscription currently costs $99 on the website, but the team is looking into ways to making it more accessible, Washington said.
The funding round will help expand Muniq’s distribution and brand awareness, conduct more clinical studies and develop new products, Washington said. The funds will also go toward expanding the company’s 12-member team.
New products under development will focus initially on gut health and blood sugar management, but Washington wouldn’t say more.
Would he consider some sort of bar? “Bars are one of the things our customers have asked for,” he said. “It’s a crowded space, but bars are easy and convenient.”
Sounds like a yes to me.