Chicago-based startup subscription service and steam oven creator Tovala has received new funding from Tyson Ventures, the investment arm of food giant Tyson Foods, according to a Tuesday (Feb. 6) TechCrunch report.
The exact amount of the funding was not disclosed, but Tyson’s investment appears to have been earmarked to finance collaborations on Tyson-branded meals through the Tovala meal prep subscription service offering.
Tovala is the brainchild of Chief Executive Officer David Rabie, who has a background in the food business, and Co-Founder Bryan Wilcox, the engineer behind the company’s steam oven offering. Wilcox’s modern design and Rabie’s idea for the subscription meal service previously earned the company $9.2 million in venture capital funding from real estate investment firm, restaurant and real estate entrepreneur Larry Levy, Morningstar Founder Joe Mansueto, Origin Ventures, Pritzker Group Capital Venture and Y Combinator.
Rabie envisions Tovala as the “Netflix of food.”
“Food is our content — and we’d like to offer the variety, convenience and quality of Netflix one day — with the scale and ubiquity (e.g. catering to all different demos/people) they’ve built,” he said in an email.
Tovala’s oven offering is not alone in the market, with competitors like the Anova Precision Cooker and Electrolux also providing similar services. Tovala’s oven has a set price of $399, but the price decreases as consumers buy its prearranged meal kits.
“Our customers use the oven for two purposes — one is our meals and the other part of the value is the oven itself,” Rabie said. “Through the app, you can cook meals and ingredients at the touch of a button.”
Meal kit delivery services have hit a rough patch of late, as the market has become inundated with competitors offering similar or niche-specific, subscription-based meals to make meal prep easier for consumers.
Approximately 150 meal kit delivery companies came to life in the last five years, and consumers churn frequently across the board in the segment. High competition and turnover have pushed some companies out of business and others into acquisition deals, like the one struck by Albertsons and Plated. This has forced some firms to focus on differentiators that make their offerings more sticky with consumers and boost retention rates.