Golden Valley-based General Mills has a new growth equity fund, Gold Medal Ventures, that on Thursday announced its first acquisition of a pet supplement business.

Gold Medal Ventures is meant to acquire promising companies before they strike it rich.

The fund's first target, California-based Fera Pets Inc., will continue to be run by its veterinarian founders with the expectation it will grow to join the General Mills roster eventually.

"This is going to allow us to partner with founders early on," John Parrish, vice president of disruptive growth at General Mills, said in an interview. "They'll still run the business, but we'll partner with them on the right projects so they have a better probability of success."

The fund is the latest evolution of General Mills' investment strategy.

Unlike 301 Inc., General Mills' venture capital fund that now focuses on companies it does not intend to fully acquire, and its internal accelerator G-Works, the goal of the new growth equity fund is to scale up acquired businesses that General Mills intends to eventually incorporate into its broader portfolio.

Prospective investments will include early-stage packaged goods companies that have up to $100 million in annual revenue — an area where many food companies get stuck and have trouble breaking through to a national or even regional scale.

"We want to participate more in that space, versus waiting for something to get scale then buying it," Parrish said. "They get to de-risk their position right now, then they get our support. We'll have equal incentive to grow this."

General Mills did not disclose an acquisition price for Fera. Parrish said the pet supplement business is $2 billion and rising in the U.S. with growth expected as the pets adopted during the pandemic boom grow older and have new health needs.