One of the most basic human needs is the need for food. We all need to eat and drink to survive. And so it is not surprising that substantial parts of our lives, economies and societies are devoted to growing, distributing and preparing food.
Food is also a cultural touchstone. We associate certain foods and flavors with geographic regions. We speak of “comfort food.” And there is ample evidence that eating meals together is a crucial bonding experience among friends, colleagues and even strangers. There is even a saying “Families that eat together, stay together.”
It should therefore not be surprising that food is an important area for innovation. And there is a ton of that happening at the moment, from fundamental research on plant biology to synthetic meats to indoor farming. Another area for innovation is the food supply chain, which at present is incredibly wasteful. Between restaurants, grocery stores and fridges in peoples homes, up to 50% of all food grown on farms goes to waste.
As we think about a planet that is headed for 11 Billion people, it is crucial that we work on making quality food and shared meal experiences accessible to as many people as possible. That is not just a challenge for developing nations but right here in the US healthy meals at an affordable cost are hard to come by for many.
Meal kits are one of several innovations that will broaden access. By knowing their customers’ tastes and having pre-orders, meal kit companies can dramatically reduce food waste. Some people will be quick to point to packaging waste but even that can be reduced by meal kits compared to most grocery stores through compostable materials and by circulating packaging (where boxes are re-used).
The meal kit sector has taken a beating because some companies struggled against outsized growth expectations. But that doesn’t change the fundamentals. Meal kits are not for everyone, but they work well for families that are time constrained yet want to eat a home cooked meal.
We are excited to be backing Fabian and the team at Marley Spoon, who are pioneers in the sector. They have led a number of important innovations, including a big expansion of the available menu choices — now 20 recipes per week and growing — and the introduction of a more affordable option with Dinnerly, which costs only $5 per portion. Still it is early days and much remains to be done to unlock the potential of this new food supply chain.