General Mills Inc. thinks there's promise in a startup that combines premium pet food and delivery services. New York-based Pet Plate has raised $9 million in a Series A round co-led by 301 Inc., the venture capital arm of Golden Valley-based General Mills. Other investors included DFE Capital Management, Marco Polo and Fernbrook Capital Management, along with existing investors, The Yard Ventures and Castor Ventures. 

Pet Plate sells freshly cooked pet meals that are flash-frozen before shipping to customers who pay on a subscription basis. The Star Tribune has additional details on the startup, which appeared in a "Shark Tank" episode in 2016.

General Mills already likes the premium pet food business: It spent $8 billion in 2018 to buy Blue Buffalo, and the unit has been one of the company's top performers in recent quarters. Blue Plate is obviously a much more niche category, but the company thinks it has plenty of upside

"The pet food category is one of the largest food categories in the U.S, and it's still growing," John Haugen, managing director of 301 Inc., said in a statement. "Pet owners are driving the humanization and premiumization trends as they look for the same quality meals to feed their pets as they want for themselves, which is why we believe in the customer-centric approach that Pet Plate has taken."

Previously, 301 Inc. has invested in Beyond Meat, the maker of plant-based meat substitutes, as well as Good Culture, a California-based maker of organic cottage cheese and a variety of soup and snack startups.