Unlike many meal kits, which can take up to an hour to prepare once you factor in cooking times, Palo Alto-based Gobble utilizes pre-prepped ingredients and sauces so users can have a truly convenient meal – with just one pan to wash up - but still feel like they've done some 'home cooking,' founder and CEO Ooshma Garg told FoodNavigator-USA.
“The direct to consumer food delivery industry is going to have many multi-billion dollar winners in the next few years that appeal to different demographics. There won’t just be one winner.”
At Gobble, said Garg, “We’ve been through a lot of iterations to find out exactly what works. We started as a marketplace for home-cooked meals from local chefs, not a ‘meal-kit’ company, but no matter how much TLC was put into the food, when people received it and re-warmed it in the microwave, the feeling and fulfilment of cooking for your family was missing.
“So we hired an executive chef that had worked at Michelin starred and fine dining restaurants across the Bay area and together we came up with this prepped dinner kit idea, which was a bespoke process to make cooking easy for the modern family on a busy week night.
“It’s based on the concept of Mise en place – or everything in place – that you see in restaurants, so sous chefs and prep cooks will chop all the veggies, marinate all the meats, prepare the sauces for the executive chef to come in and cook so they diners can get a meal on the table in 10-15 minutes.”
No one else in the space is doing what we are doing
And this gives Gobble a real point of difference in the market, claimed Garg, who studied biomechanical engineering at Stanford and places “a core emphasis on data science and engineering.”
She added: “It took us many months to crack the code on how to bread and par cook chicken for a Chicken Parmesan in such a way that it maintains its integrity and cooks perfectly in 10-15 minutes. We’re offering dishes that meal kit companies can’t offer because they would just take too long [without the prep work that Gobble does].
Gobble charges $11.95 per meal if you order six or more meals and $13.95 per meal if you order four meals per week. If you order six meals, you'll pay $71.70 total (includes tax and shipping).
“To my knowledge no one else in this space is prepping dinner in the way that we are. They are not sending marinated and cooked meats. You need culinary and food science as a core competency in order to do this and we’ve been working for years to develop our recipes.
“For example, if you put chiles directly in the sauce of a curry dish, the sauce will get spicier in transit, so you might taste it in your kitchen and think you’ve got it right, but by the time the family cooks it, it might be three times as spicy, so you have to factor these things in.”
According to Crunchbase, Palo Alto-based Gobble has raised around $14.82m since its launch in 2010 from five rounds. The latest round, closed in late 2015, was led by Trinity Ventures, says founder Ooshma Garg, who says that an additional financing round would help support the brand as it expands nationally this fall.
“This space is very attractive both to venture capital investors and traditional multi-billion dollar CPG companies. So there are a number of players knocking on our door at the moment and that is extremely exciting.”
It’s not about the art of learning how to cook. It’s about getting dinner on the table
Right now, orders are fulfilled from a central location in Stockton CA coupled with other sites in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Gilroy and elsewhere focused on sauce making, meat preparation, vegetable and grain cooking, enabling Gobble to reach around 30 million households across the west coast.
The core demographic at Gobble is busy professional women aged 35-44 in a dual working couple with children aged 1-10 needing a solution for week nights with minimal prep and clean up (one pan); whereas Blue Apron is appealing more to the 25-34-year old demographic, said Garg.
"It’s a demographic that’s powerful, valuable and growing every year. But it’s exciting to see the comparison data
Deliveries arrive in a secure refrigerated box between 8am - 8pm on the selected delivery day.
[with other meal kit companies], because it shows that different ages and demographics need different solutions and that there is room in this market for many players. At Gobble, it’s not about the art of learning how to cook, though. It’s about getting dinner on the table."
She added:“We recently saw [anonymized credit card] data looking at how many of our customers had also used another meal kit service, and there was less than 1% overlap, so there’s something distinct about the Gobble offering that resonates with a particular kind of person.
"We also have the highest subscription spend of anyone in this market."
Customer acquisition costs
Asked about customer acquisition costs, a key issue in the sector given how much product is currently being given away to woo new users, she said: “More than half of all the people that join Gobble are organic word of mouth users, but we are constantly trying new things to see what works best from a marketing perspective, from videos to quizzes to testimonials.
"It’s all about meticulous monitoring and constant experimentation.”
Customer retention: ‘It just becomes something they depend on, on a weekly basis, as part of their lifestyle’
Asked about retention, said Garg, who claims Gobble is “one of the most lean, capital efficient companies” in the meal kit market today: “Our burn rate is 5-10 times less than many competitors.”
She added: “Once someone is a Gobble member for 60 days, it’s a lifestyle and people come to depend on it. It’s just like someone getting help with their gardening or getting assistance with cleaning, it just becomes something they depend on, on a weekly basis, as part of their lifestyle.”
What's for dinner tonight?
With big CPG firms as well as private equity players now eyeing up meal kit and meal delivery firms, this space is attracting a lot of interest. But what will distinguish the winners from the losers?
Find out at FOOD VISION USA in Chicago November 13-15, which will feature speakers from PeaPod, Chef'd, Terra's Kitchen, Campbell Soup, and Sun Basket (plus the president of Chobani... and scores of other incredible speakers spanning cellular agriculture to hydroponics).
Get more details HERE!