Pine Ridge, South Dakota-based Native American Natural Foods, a Native American-owned and operated company that produces the Tanka Bar and a line of meat and fruit products, has announced the closing of a multi-million-dollar equity capital investment. The effort will support NANF’s growth as it seeks to reclaim its position as the original, award-winning, highly popular bison and berry snack bar that replicates a time-honored recipe of their Lakota ancestors.
“I welcome our investors who have the courage and innovation to break the economic isolation of the reservation and move with us into a new economic future,” said Dawn Sherman, CEO of NANF. “We celebrate the vision that will return the bison to the lands, lives and economies of Native communities.”
Strategically investing in businesses in communities of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) is part of the financial activism currently being advocated nationwide. The Candide Group led NANF’s capital raise on behalf of the Libra Social Investment Fund.
“We saw in NANF a business that has all the ingredients needed to be successful: superior products with a loyal customer base and a community of employees, suppliers and partners for whom failure is simply not an option,” said Aner Ben-Ami, founding partner of the Candide Group. “We were excited to partner with the NANF team and structure an investment that will help the company realize its potential while supporting its mission of creating wealth and ownership for Native communities and ranchers, and building a Native-led brand committed to traditional values and regenerative agriculture.”
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for investors to make a big difference in the lives of others by attacking the root cause of generational poverty,” said Sherman. “For our Native communities to see how the business and the mission can regain its original role as the leader in the meat snacking category while we continue to attract like-minded partners and investors is exciting.”
Clearinghouse CDFI has been investing in Tanka since 2011.
“Being involved with Native American Natural Foods has been a privilege and a humbling honor,” said Douglas Bystry, president and CEO of Clearinghouse CDFI. “The DNA of our capital pairs well with the DNA of NANF’s enterprise. The founders, leaders and partners of NANF, at the core, have blended a proud and resilient heritage with a disciplined business culture that is intentional about achieving sustainable profits and mission goals. Wealth building in Indian Country is far reaching, and we want to be there with NANF each step of the way. We are proud to be part of a group of committed lenders, investors, partners, suppliers and customers who have come together because of NANF’s people, purpose and, of course, its awesome products.”
NANF’s Tanka meat and fruit products come in three smoky-sweet varieties including: Slow Smoked Original, Spicy Pepper and Apple Orange Peel, that retail for under $5. The centuries-old traditional recipe is unique to Native Americans and is often referred to as wasna or pemmican. It is made with prairie-fed bison, tart-sweet cranberries and Native American grown wild rice. The products offer seven grams of protein, are minimally processed, with no nitrites or nitrates, antibiotics or added hormones. The bars, bites and sticks are free of gluten, MSG, nuts, trans fats, soy and lactose and rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
To expand NANF’s customer base and geography, Niman Ranch, the nation’s leading sustainable meat brand with more than 750 independent farmers and ranchers, has joined NANF’s growth strategy as a technical advisor and partner with a hands-on approach that includes senior staff working directly with NANF.
“The financial independence of the Native-owned and operated TANKA goes to the heart of our mission to support sustainable agriculture and resilient rural communities,” said Chris Oliviero, general manager of Niman Ranch. “By providing operating, marketing, communication and financial support, we will help ensure added value for this important mission and purpose driven business.”
“Congratulations to the team at Native American Natural Foods. This has been a long time coming. We are excited to officially be a part of Karlene, Mark and Dawn’s vision and look forward to helping introduce TANKA to more consumers nationwide,” said Bob Dineen, CEO of Rocky Mountain Natural Meats, a supporter of the company since its inception.
“NANF is one of those quintessential companies whose success benefits the larger community. NANF’s commitments to Native ownership, to the land and restoration of traditional bison, to healthy foods and sustainable practices, as well as to their Native cultural values, makes NANF an important leader in a resilient, regenerative economy,” said Ann Whittemore, Highlands Associates’ director of impact investments.
Within the last two years, Highlands directly, through its DAF (3:23 Fund) and in partnership with its sister organizations, has consciously directed its efforts to Indigenous, Black and other under-funded communities of color, resulting in investments in more than 30 Black and Native-owned and/or led businesses, CDFIs, equity funds and non-profits.
“They’ve put in the work, weathered some storms and have come out with strong partnerships and leadership, an in-demand product and more financial viability than ever before. Highlands’ 3:23 Fund is proud to partner with NANF and looks forward to the future growth and success of this company,” Whittemore said.
“We created the Tanka Bar and now other products, with a vision of building a reservation-based brand capable of helping to build a new economic future for the Lakota people,” said Mark Tilsen, co-founder of NANF. “This new structure with our investors and partners will help make this shared vision a reality.”
Native American Natural Foods is focused on creating a family of nationally branded buffalo-based food products that promote a Native American way of wellness that feeds mind, body and spirit. The Tanka Bar was responsible for creating the first meat snacking category in retail markets.