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Claridge, the private capital investment vehicle of Stephen Bronfman, seen here in 2013, is part of a group investing in Los Angeles-based Califia Farms.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

The Bronfman family is back in the beverage business – of the non-alcoholic variety.

Plant-based milk substitute maker Califia Farms said this week that Stephen Bronfman’s Claridge Inc. is part of a group led by the Qatar Investment Authority that is investing US$225-million for a minority stake in the Los Angeles-based company.

Califia was founded a decade ago by Greg Steltenpohl, whose previous company, juice maker Odwalla, was purchased by Coca-Cola in 2001. With well more than US$100-million in annual sales, Califia is one of the largest plant-based milk manufacturers in the U.S., producing almond, oat, coconut and cashew milk beverages, as well as bottled coffee drinks, yogurts and juices that are sold through large U.S. retailers including Walmart Inc. and Whole Foods Market. It has drawn investment in the past from celebrities including movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jared Leto, supermodel Karlie Kloss and U.S. Olympic snowboard gold medalist Shaun White.

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For Claridge – the private capital investment vehicle of Montreal-based Mr. Bronfman, whose family built the Seagram Co. Ltd liquor empire before its sale to Vivendi in 2000 – the investment is part of a strategy to shift back into the food and beverage sector. Claridge sold its last investment in the sector – Plats du Chef, a Montreal-based maker of frozen snacks, soups and meals – three years ago, and also previously held stakes in specialty food supplier SunOpta and gluten-free food maker Glutino.

Claridge said in an e-mail “this investment corresponds to the strategic orientation of [Claridge’s] investments in food. The participation in this major transaction with an international leader in a rapidly growing segment reflects Claridge’s status and recognized expertise in the food industry.”

Califia products are distributed in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. The growth of plant-based milk sales have been rising in the U.S. in recent years as annual cow milk sales have fallen. Mr. Steltenpohl said in a release the dairy and ready-to-drink coffee industry “is ripe for continued disruption, with individuals all over the world seeking to transform their health and wellness through the adoption of minimally processed and nutrient-rich foods that are better for both the planet and the animals.”

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