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As with so many other sectors within the tech industry – from streaming platforms to workout equipment – meal kit companies thrived during the pandemic and now find themselves at something of a crossroads. It’s fairly straight-forward to piece together how this happened. People and families were locked inside for a while, grocery shopping became anywhere from significantly less convenient to downright unsafe and most other delivery options lack the variation and the options for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free folks and anyone else with a specialized diet.
But now that “regular life” (for lack of a better term) has somewhat resumed, growth has slowed down for meal kit consumers. On top of that, a crush of new competitors have entered the field, more conventional delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats have started expanding their reach, and even some legacy companies–like Kroger–have started to experiment with their own takes on pre-packaged or even pre-cooked meal kits.
Still, some companies are finding success with quality products and innovative approaches. In 2018, co-founders Schuyler Deerman and James Chan founded Los Angeles’ Positive Food Company with just a collection of Yeti coolers and a dream. The pair started out by selling healthy meals–mostly salads, veggie-forward heat-and-eat options, and vegan overnight oats–at WeWork offices around town during lunchtime hours. These “Positive Popups” soon expanded to over 70 local coffee shops and other gathering spaces.
Though their model–which was focused on in-person purchases at brick-and-mortar locations–stalled out during the pandemic, things are moving forward again, and this week, Positive announced $7 million in new funding from a string of investors. Rather than returning to their prior model of selling meals through local businesses, however, Positive is now thinking bigger, and will offer its products through chains such as Bristol Farms and Amazon’s Whole Foods.
Positive’s approach brings with it some advantages over the more famous “meal kit” brands, some of which likely advertise on your favorite podcasts. Kits with pre-prepared meals–as opposed to boxes full of ingredients that must then be cooked at home–have become so popular, even some of the old-school meal kit companies like Blue Apron have started to adopt their approach.
Delivering fresh, healthy meals to set locations rather than shipping them to consumers spread out across the country and beyond keeps costs in check and allows for more quality control. Though some consumers are still willing to take a risk on viral food trends they first viewed on TikTok, or upstart companies sending them boxes full of customized ingredients, for many, there’s innate appeal in shopping for recognizable, clean meals at the local supermarket. Positive has vertically integrated most of their process in-house, from kitchen to store. Point-of-sale data also allows them to manage inventory efficiently and cut down on food waste.
Though it’s clear by now that a lot of Americans don’t want to do their cooking the old fashioned way–getting a recipe from Julia Child, say, and then making a shopping list and getting started–it remains to be seen where the meal kit industry will land once the dust has settled and every family has determined their personal preferences. As the biggest names in the business face
rising costs and even occasional health scares, Positive Food provides another possible vision for the future. -- Lon Harris
Here’s What Happened in LA’s Entertainment Tech World This Week 🍿
Streaming has been disruptive in the worst way for many sports fans, who can’t keep track of where to watch their favorite teams.
Netflix has yet to see much success in its mobile gaming efforts.
National Lampoon taking its intellectual property to the blockchain.
Wanda Sykes will host “Ring Nation”—a show built on Ring camera footage.
Warner Brothers' viral 'Multiverse' game lets users play as Arya Stark, Harley Quinn and other characters from across its vast IP holdings.
Social Media 📱
TikTok's algorithm is accused of promoting misogynistic content to some users.
California’s social media addiction bill dies in committee in the state Senate.
L.A.-area VCs are investing less and striking fewer deals with L.A. startups lately, but the slowdown isn't as severe as many had thought.
Internet-focused animation studio Invisible Universe raised $12M.
“Selling Sunset” star Christine Quinn helped co-launch a crypto credit score product to make it easier to buy real estate using cryptocurrency.
L.A.-area startups raised over $103 million this week. We have the breakdown.
The Inflation Reduction Act passed the House and Senate — here’s what it means for electric vehicle pricing.
The expected flood of new EVs coming to California roads may change how we conceive of the humble freeway rest stop—and open up new commercial opportunities.
Rivian’s second quarter earnings were delightfully drama-free.
🎧 Listen Up
On the Office Hours podcast: Syndio CEO Maria Colacurcio talks about how pivoted from a “people analytics” company to focus on workplace #equity.
On the LA Venture podcast: Concrete Rose Capital Partner Will Bumpus discusses how tech can help create a virtuous cycle of wealth and opportunity for underrepresented communities of color.
Join us! Our 3rd annual dot.LA Summit is coming to the Petersen Museum on October 20th & 21st.
Salon booking app Boulevard secured $70M in funding.
West Hollywood-based Pearline Health, a salon-style dental studio, is taking a streamlined, tech-enabled approach to teeth cleanings.
Fintech startup ProducePay, which operates a marketplace connecting farmers to distributors and sellers is getting into the carbon-credit game.
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