Start-up Karma Kebab raises one million in growth money for catering concept

Boudewijn Poelmann will hand over the chairman’s gavel to Sigrid van Aken with effect from March 2020. This will make her the new CEO of the social enterprise Novamedia/Postcode Lotteries.

Karma Kebab, the fast-growing start-up that produces vegetable kebabs from Dutch celeriac, has attracted a €1 million investment from Phase2.earth, an impact investment fund, set up by Boudewijn Poelmann, former CEO of Novamedia and the Dutch Charity Lotteries.

Karma Kebab, the Amsterdam-based company of entrepreneurs Marcel van der Heijden (38), Pascal Labrie (39) and Hidde Stolwijk (32), wants to use this investment to grow further in the Netherlands and roll out its plans for its own catering concept.

A sustainable festival snack
Karma Kebab began in 2018 when founder and chef Pascal Labrie (39) was asked by the Lowlands music festival to develop the world’s most sustainable snack. It was a success and after Lowlands, many other festivals came forward. The kebabs produced by Karma Kebab are completely plant-based and made of celeriac and cereals grown in the Netherlands.

Founder Labrie says: “Our mission is to become the largest and most sustainable kebab brand in the world. We are doing this by developing an awesomely tasty product and letting people experience how incredibly delicious plant-based street food can be, while at the same time doing something good for our planet. It’s still fantastic to see that avid carnivores sometimes just can’t believe they’re not eating meat.”

The coronavirus makes you creative
Despite the rough ride that the young start-up had to endure due to the coronavirus, Karma Kebab has continued to grow at a tremendous rate over the past 18 months. Co-founder Van der Heijden explains: “The restrictions that the coronavirus pandemic imposed on us, both financially and practically, have made us extremely creative. We have been able to further develop our product, branding and sales channels and test many new concepts."

As a result, Karma Kebab is now on the menus of more than 150 restaurants and are on the shelves of food wholesalers, such as Sligro and Bidfood, as well as various Dutch supermarkets, such as DekaMarkt and Coop. "We also work with partners such as UberEats, Gorillas and HelloFresh. Last year, this earned us a Horecava Innovation Award and the title of Marketing Start-up of the Year 2021. It feels like a wonderful rollercoaster and now it is time to move on.”

Catering innovation
The money from the investment will be used for further growth in the Netherlands. An important role in this has been reserved for the brand’s own catering plans. Stolwijk explains “Our story started with our own food trucks at festivals. Kebabs, beer, friends, fun, music and that wonderful carefree festival feeling are all in our brand’s DNA. All these things are reflected in our own catering concepts, which we have been developing for a couple of months. The first branch will open in Utrecht in early 2022 and new branches will soon follow. We can’t wait to get started on this.”

Investment with impact
The growth money comes from the impact investment fund Phase2.earth. This fund was set up in early 2021 by Boudewijn Poelmann, who stepped down from the post of chairman of the Executive Board of Novamedia and the Dutch Charity Lotteries after more than 31 years, of which the Postcode Lottery is now active in five countries.

Poelmann has this to say about the recent investment: “Phase2.earth invests in start-ups and scale-ups that want to make an impact for a better world. We provide capital and expertise to help them develop, so that they can make a difference to our world. We believe in the founders’ vision and we are going to help them build the biggest and most sustainable kebab brand in the world.”