, the cook at home delivery service founded in 2012, has announced an additional $35M in Series B funding from Greycroft Partners and Formation 8. The company now has 4 regional fulfillment centers and more than 400 employees. This most recent funding will allow Plated to continue executing on the company’s vision of making the aspiration of cooking and eating sustainable food a reality for busy Americans.
Today we sit down with Nick Taranto, cofounder and co-CEO of Plated to discuss the most recent funding, the company, and its future.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise? Was it seed, Series A, B, etc?
We’ve announced $35 million in Series B funding with participation from existing investors including Greycroft Partners and Formation 8.
Tell us about your product or service.
Plated is a flexible weekly subscription that delivers everything you need in exact portions to cook a chef-designed meal from scratch. You customize your box from a wide menu of options for all tastes and diets, we deliver all of the ethically sourced, farm-fresh ingredients and step-by-step recipe cards straight to your doorstep, and you cook and enjoy a delicious and sustainable home-cooked meal.
What inspired you to start the company?
Plated was born out of a personal need. Josh (Hix; cofounder) and I were both working long hours on Wall Street, eating poorly, ordering take-out most nights and gaining weight. We wanted to cook and eat better, but getting a home-cooked meal on the table during busy weeknights wasn’t happening – it was expensive, time-consuming and boring. We realized this was a big issue for a lot of people. 79% of Americans say they want to cook more, but 2/3 of all meals are consumed away from home. We believe that eating well should be easy, and we wanted to bridge the gap between the aspirational and reality.
How is it different?
We’re establishing the first and only ethical standards when it comes to sustainability within our emerging category, spearheading the Food With Thought initiative that raises the standards of food consumption. The meats we source from local farms are antibiotic-free with no added hormones, and our seafood is domestic and sustainably sourced. We put a lot of thought into carefully choosing our food partners based on their individual practices and values. We’re also leading the charge when it comes to packaging waste. When we couldn’t find a solution for an environmentally-friendly insulation for our boxes, we went out a built one. We’ve just piloted a new earth-friendly, 100% recycled and compostable insulation in our boxes called Jute, working as a developmental partner with a new start-up called TemperPack.
Another big differentiator is our focus on choice and personalization for our customers. We’ve got 11 new recipes each week including desserts and there are no restrictions on the combinations of meals. If you want all steak this week, you can do that. If you want steak and lamb, you can do that too. If you want to go vegetarian for a week, no problem. Customers can mix and match whatever recipes they want and they can order as many plates as they’d like (in multiples of 2), which works well if you’re hosting a dinner.
We’re helping folks cook more together and waste less, and that’s something that’s extremely important to us, as is being a good community partner. We’re creating local jobs throughout the country to help make a local impact and regardless of location, wage band, job title or FLSA employment classification, we believe every person is an integral part of the Plated team and all employees — not just those at HQ — are offered equity and full healthcare benefits; we are all one team and all primary stakeholders.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We ship to 95% of the country; the majority of our customer base is in urban cities although more than 10% of our deliveries are to food deserts, where people don’t have access to farmer’s markets or Whole Foods. We’re shipping premium, sustainable, and local ingredients to these areas.
What’s your business model?
We’re building the intersection between shopping and eating. Plated sources, curates, and delivers everything you need to cook at home for $12 a serving. We have four regional fulfillment centers spread throughout the country, where we pack and ship all of our ingredients through third party carriers and local couriers.
What was the funding process like?
It’s always a joyous and very life affirming process akin to medieval torture or walking on hot coals. In all seriousness, though it can be a long haul and you have to be patient and laser-focused, we’re fortunate to have the support and vision of our investors.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Even at this stage and level of success, most venture capitalists say no. The biggest challenge is staying optimistic and hustling even when there are many more no’s than yes’s. That’s true whether you’re raising you’re first $100K or tens of millions.
What impact did participating in Techstars NYC have in the process?
We participated in TechStars NYC. It was a fantastic program, and introduced us to many investors and mentors with whom we still work closely to this day.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We’ve proven over the last three years that this is a huge opportunity. The food industry is ripe for innovation — online only accounts for 1% of sales. It may not be one winner takes all in this space specifically but it will come down ultimately to quality of food and choice, and that’s what we’re providing to our customers. And our customers are sticking around and ordering more from us because of that: 80% of our customers are repeat customers.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’re investing in food sustainability and the technology that will further the development of a low-waste supply chain. Our customers demand quality food and that means it’s got to be healthy for you and your family but also good the environment.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
You’ve got to stay really focused on what you’re trying to achieve and you’ve got to know who your customer is. We’ve grown our business by listening closely to what Evolved Eaters want and providing that for them.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Plated is going to have a big impact on food in the US. As we thoughtfully scale, we’re extending our leadership position in food sustainability, investing in technology that will further the development of a low-waste supply chain, and building new, regional fulfillment centers that connect customers to quality food at honest prices.
Where is your favorite place to grab a drink in NYC on a nice summer night?
Well, I recently moved from Manhattan to Jersey City with my wife and 14-month-old daughter, so my new favorite spot there would have to be the rooftop at Porta.