This week Just Add Cooking launched a WeFunder campaign with a $300,000 goal to raise money for their super-local meal kit delivery service.
Founded in 2013, Boston-based Just Add Cooking (JAC) focuses specifically on providing local food, which they believe will help them succeed in the cutthroat meal kit market. All meat and produce are sourced from the New England area, and all meal kits are packed and assembled in the region.
From their WeFunder page:
Just Add Cooking is different. We’re local and don’t intend to go national – by keeping our operations focused in the Northeast, we’re building a truly local food economy between our customers, farmers, and distributors.
They also hope to distinguish themselves from competitors by letting customers add local produce (eggs, lettuce, etc.) a la carte to their orders. Sort of like meal kit meets grocery fulfillment meets a local farmers market.
JAC is following the path of other meal kits, however, by diversifying from delivery-only into retail channels. To combat low customer retention and razor-thin margins, companies like Blue Apron, Home Chef, and others have shifted from a home delivery model and onto supermarket shelves. In May of this year, JAC started selling through retail channels; as of now, kits are available at 13 Roche Bros. grocery stores in the New England area.
Prices range from $9.50 to $14.25 per serving, depending on the number of people you’re feeding. That’s on the pricier end for meal kits. However, considering that the company uses organic, locally-sourced ingredients, the price isn’t too bad.
Previous to the WeFunder page, JAC had raised $850,000 from investors. If they meet their new goal, JAC plans to use the funds to develop a personalizable meal kit using “AI-driven technology.” We at the Spoon have referred to the fully customizable meal kit as the Holy Grail. In other words, by allowing customers to choose exactly what meals they want and when, a lot of the issues around meal kits (rigidity, dietary constraints, etc.) melt away.
Though JAC didn’t give many details on how they hope to achieve this elusive personalized meal kit, they will have an easier time of it than some of their competitors because of their size. By consolidating their ingredients, clients, and operations in the Northeast, JAC has room to be more flexible with logistics.
Of course, their emphasis on local is a double-edged sword: it also limits them. While the JAC website doesn’t state what percentage of the meal kit will actually come from local farms and fisheries, presumably they’re more of a slave to the seasons than other kits which source from far-reaching areas. Which means JAC customers probably won’t be able to get a juicy Caprese salad or Zucchini in the dead of winter.
The WeFunder page states that JAC will use the funds to expand their delivery beyond Boston to more cities in the Northeast. If they’re smart, however, they will stay relatively local and focus on securing loyalty and return purchases from their customer base. Down the road, though, they could potentially set up regional wings in other areas: JAC Southern California or Pacific Northwest, anyone?
JAC will also launch more meal plans crowdsourced from dietitians, chefs and food bloggers, ready-made options, and even kids’ lunches. It will be especially interesting to see how that last category plays out. Kids meal kits have been seeing a lot of churn lately, with quite a few companies folding around the same time Yummly raised $7 million.
It’s no secret that many independent meal kit services are struggling, especially those which rely heavily on delivery. Despite all the challenges they have to overcome — razor-thin margins, competition from food delivery, etc. — I think JAC may be one of the few meal kit services that actually makes it. By leveraging the popularity of local foods and targeting a regional customer base, they’ve got a sustainable approach in place. And if they can create a customizable meal kit that can scale appropriately and profitably (admittedly a tall order), they just might survive.