Offering a respite from processed foods for the richest 20% of Americans, Simple Feast has landed on U.S. shores with a mission to expand its presence on the back of $45 million in financing from investors.
The European startup is looking to take a page from the shouty LIVEKINDLY Collective playbook and take on the U.S. market with gourmet prepared meals that come with a gourmet price tag and a mission to make Americans eat less meat by proffering more tasty and delicious vegetarian options.
It's a strategy that netted LIVEKINDLY Collective's business $335 million in a recent round of funding, making it one of the most well-capitalized new entrants in the vegetarian food brand category.
"There's a general health problem that's coming mostly from what we put in our mouth," said Jakob Jønck, the company's co-founder and chief executive.
For folks in the U.S. who can afford it, Simple Feast is offering packaged meal kits with menus developed by chefs from some of the world's highest-end restaurants -- places like French Laundry in California or Noma in Norway, where meals can run roughly $350 per person.
A selection of three prepared meals for two-to-three people will run customers around $98 per week; for a family of four or five, that number jumps to $159 per week.
Simple Feast's foray into the U.S. market represents just a small portion of the company's total offerings. In the Nordic region the company offers about 30 products, all targeting people who want to reduce the amount of meat they eat.
Investors certainly love the company's offering, because, as Jønck says, the products probably represent the highest margin in the meal kit category.
Those financiers include firms like the European venture capitalists Balderton Capital and Kinnevik, and New York-based 14W.
As for the company's customers, they're mostly moms with kids whose income puts them in the top 20% of the population. While they may be far more wealthy than the hoi polloi, Jønck said they still suffer from exposure to the worst aspects of America's industrial food machine -- highly processed foods that are causing an explosion in chronic health conditions like diabetes and obesity.
Data from places like the Rand Institute indicate that in America, the burden of insufficient nutrition and the chronic conditions that stem from that are disproportionately affecting low-income and middle-income families.
Health is a problem in the U.S., with $794 billion per year estimated to be lost in productivity between 2016 and 2030. An article from Health Affairs cited research from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies estimates that health inequities and premature death cost the U.S. economy $309.3 billion a year.
However, these costs are primarily borne by the poorest Americans, particularly minorities. "People of color face higher rates of diabetes, obesity, stroke, heart disease, and cancer than whites," the Health Affairs article says.
Simple Feast is working to correct that, says Jønck. The company's European packaged prepared meals available in retail stores cost around $15, he said, and the company will offer salaries far above the minimum wage in the U.S. to do its part in ameliorating some of the wealth disparity in the country.
"This is a general play on an industry that needs to change from the ground up. This system needs to change," Jønck said.