Credit: Rosenheim Advisors

Lighter fare with a hint of international flavor.

No, that’s not what’s on the menu today, but instead a summary of the latest funding, M&A and partnership report from Rosenheim Partners, a strategic and financial consulting firm focused on the food-related tech and media sectors. Led by consultant Brita Rosenheim (also a Smart Kitchen Summit 2016 speaker), the roundup looks at the sector overall and dives deep into a variety of deals.

We combed the last roundup in the latest report, published at FoodTech Connect, and found interesting pieces to highlight. As Rosenheim notes, the deals for the past few months have been pretty light, with a decent amount of activity abroad. Meal kit delivery and grocery delivery continue to pop up in the U.S. food tech sector, including recent funding announcements:

  • Home Chef, a Chicago-based meal kit delivery startup picks up $40 million in a Series B round. The investment brings Home Chef’s total to $50 million in 2016 alone, and the startup argues their big differentiator is its focus on home-cooking, friendly menu items (think: stuff your kids might actually eat) and the ability to customize your box from a deeper variety. The startup is growing rapidly, with 600 employees and a reported 1.5 million meal boxes delivered each month.
  • Fresh Direct, amidst rumors of an IPO or sale, announced an investment of $189 million to add to its manufacturing capabilities and move into new geographies. The company is currently focused on the east coast (NY, NJ, PA, CT) but has been cash positive since 2010 and runs FoodKick, its on-demand service that brings food in an hour to customers. Operating since 2002, the company has fought hard to stay alive alongside big competitors like AmazonFresh and more recently, the rise of meal kit delivery startups.
  • NYC home meal delivery startup Umi Kitchen raised its seed round, bringing in $1.4 million to grow its mobile app that connects home chefs in Brooklyn and Manhattan with hungry customers. The idea of making prepared food delivery easier and more ubiquitous isn’t new, but Umi’s differentiator comes in the kind of food they’re offering – home cooking, straight from someone’s actual home. Umi’s also not trying to reinvent or invest in a delivery infrastructure – they’re taking advantage of Postmates presence in NYC to bring meals to their customers.
  • We recently wrote a piece about Brava, the stealth smart kitchen startup led by former media execs at Disney and the former hardware lead at smart home company August. What exactly they’re working on remains a bit of a mystery, but it will be a smart kitchen appliance – maybe even a smart oven. They’ve just picked up $12 million A round investment led by True Ventures and plan to launch their product sometime in 2017.
  • The last interesting one comes in the form of a partnership rather than an investment – one that has implications not just for consumers but food brands as well. Hershey’s has announced its intention to partner with Chef’d, an online meal kit store, to create branded dessert meal kits. The idea of a meal kit with chocolate dessert recipes and ingredients sounds pretty yummy, but what Chef’d is doing is even more intriguing. Partnering with content companies like Allrecipes and Good Housekeeping and now food brands like Hershey’s, Chef’d is not just delivering meal kits. They’re taking recipes from familiar consumer brands, recipes that home cooks are likely to be preparing in their homes, and bringing them to life using the convenient form factor of a meal kit. And for brands, Chef’d meal kits are in many ways branded content – a less sales-y way to build awareness and cultivate loyalty.

While the food tech investment roundups continue to demonstrate the popularity of meal kits and food delivery, we’re starting to see the connected kitchen emerge regularly as well. Startups like June and Juicero have picked up sizable investments in within the past few years and we believe 2017 is where we’ll start to see even more break throughs in the space.

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