Apeel de Goleta dismisses an undisclosed number of employees

Jorge Mercado and Brooke Holland

Monday, July 11, 2022

Apeel Sciences, based in Goleta, applies plant-based coatings to fruits such as these avocados to increase their shelf life in stores. (file photo)

Goleta-based Apeel Sciences will lay off an unspecified number of workers and scale back its operations after years of continued growth that saw it surpass a $2 billion valuation in its last funding round.

In a statement provided to the Business Times on July 11, an Apeel spokesperson said the company was “working tirelessly to support those affected as they transition.”

“Over the past 30 months of marketing, we have gained valuable insight into how best to offer plant-based protection to suppliers, retailers and consumers and have determined that there are areas of our business where we have the opportunity to operate more efficiently. “, we read in the release of the company. “We made the difficult decision to streamline our operations in these areas to best position ourselves to accomplish our mission of reducing food waste by sustaining our business for the long term.”

The terminated employees were notified on July 11, Apeel said, “and in most cases the changes will take effect immediately.”

The company’s statement said it was not required to notify the state of California of the layoffs through a notice filed under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. The WARN Act requires companies to file a notice if they lay off more than 50 employees in California or close an entire facility.

Apeel had about 450 employees worldwide as of Feb. 25, but did not disclose how many were based in the Goleta office or elsewhere in California.

Apeel said the terminated employees received severance packages, job placement assistance and other benefits.

This appears to be the first problem Apeel has encountered in its 10 year history. The company was founded by researchers at UC Santa Barbara in 2012, with technology that extends the shelf life of fresh produce.

Apeel has raised $635 million in venture capital from investors including Oprah Winfrey and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In its last $250 million funding round, in September 2021, the company was valued at over $2 billion.

Apeel CEO James Rogers (courtesy photo)

In February, CEO and co-founder James Rogers told the Business Times that Apeel had no plans to raise more capital in 2022. Rogers could not be reached for comment on July 11.

Since Apeel’s last funding round, the fund has crashed in the venture capital market. According to CB Insights, a global private equity group that conducts research on venture capital spending, global venture capital funding reached $143.9 billion across 8,835 deals in the first quarter of 2022, down from 19% compared to the previous quarter.

This has forced many companies to rethink their long-term strategies, as capital will likely be harder to come by in the future.

Last year, Apeel was splashing the cash on its first acquisition, when it bought ImpactVision, a San Francisco-based imaging technology company, for an undisclosed sum. Apeel also did not reveal whether he would retain the ImpactVision squad.

ImpactVision’s technology allows food suppliers to see inside the boxes and verify the quality of fresh produce by collecting data on ripeness, freshness, nutrient density and other quality indicators. This helps suppliers know the exact ripening window for each fruit, so they can be sorted and shipped to the locations that will assure retailers of the highest quality products.

Chief Financial Officer Bill Strong did not respond to a Business Times question in September about whether Apeel aims to acquire more businesses in the future.

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