Launched in 2016 by KRAVE Jerky founder Jon Sebastiani, Sonoma Brands has thus far invested in brands including Dang Foods, Hu chocolate, Guayaki, True Botanicals, and Vintage Wine Estates; and developed three ‘incubated’ concepts of its own: SMASHMALLOW ZÜPA NOMA and PECKISH.
It’s most recent investment in Yumble – a New York-based meal delivery service targeting kids - reflects its belief that busy Millennial parents want fresh prepared foods, and are increasingly comfortable ordering food online, but don’t have time to cook, especially if household members are eating at different times, Sebastiani told FoodNavigator-USA at the Winter Fancy Food Show.
Meal kits don’t solve the ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’ problem for everyone
Fun though it is to create inspiring new dishes from scratch, meal kits can be expensive and time-consuming (you’re still spending 30-40 minutes cooking and then there’s the washing up) for parents, said Sebastiani, who said Yumble’s manufacturing was ramping up for a nationwide launch in Q1/Q2.
“At Sonoma we have a pretty strong thesis that consumers are moving digitally and they are more and more comfortable ordering meals online... What I think the industry has largely missed is that ordering a meal kit still requires a significant amount of preparation time, and that is not solving Mom and Dad’s problem.
“Millennial parents who are busy and career minded want to feed their kids interesting meals that are nutritious and creative but they want it more convenient. Yumble solves that problem by delivering prepared meals that are fresh, never frozen, and only require Mon to pop it in the microwave, and these are lunches, snacks and dinners.”
Yumble is creating a very sticky relationship directly with its target consumers: children
While several start-ups now operate in this space, the quality of Yumble’s team, and what it had been able to achieve on a limited budget, made it stand out in the crowd, said Sebastiani.
(Launched by David and Joanna Parker and former HelloFresh USA COO Daniel Treiman in 2017, Yumble has also recruited the former head of digital marketing, customer relationship management and retention at prepared meals delivery brand Freshly and the former head of R&D at meal kit brand GreenChef.)
While many brands in the meal kit space have spent dizzying sums trying to attract and retain loyal shoppers, Yumble’s customer acquisition costs are low while its average order volumes and retention rates are high, making for more attractive customer lifetime value numbers, he said.
“Yumble is creating a very sticky relationship actually with the consumer, the child, so what accompanies the meals are games and toys and coins, very fun marketing driven ways to engage the kids into the brand so they are always looking forward to the next Yumble box to arrive.”
‘We’re already getting early phone calls from national retailers’
Further down the line, the data and insights accrued from the online operation could help inform a targeted retail launch, added Sebastiani.
“One of the things Yumble is going to begin thinking about as it continues to build its digital infrastructure, is when is the right time to enter retail?
“We’re already getting early phone calls from national retailers that understand that there is a wide open gap in the marketplace for a premium [kids’ food] brand being offered on shelf, so we’re navigating those questions right now. Danone is a partner in the business so we have some of the best minds there in helping us think through that.”
*Other participants in the latest $7m funding round led by Sonoma Brands include Danone Manifesto Ventures, Professor Martin Lautman, RiverPark Ventures, Launch Capital, and Apple Core.
Interested in food for children?
A weekly subscription service delivering pre-prepared ready-to-heat lunches, dinners, and snacks aimed at children aged one to 10 years, with gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and vegetarian options, Yumble (strapline: 'Meals your kids will actually eat!') is most popular with dual income dual working families, said co-founder David Parker.
But it's not just attracting affluent urbanites, he added: “We were surprised to see a variety of different income levels and people outside major cities using the service.”
Cofounder Joanna Parker added: “Our retention figures are way higher than they are for meal kits. Also, as a parent, if you find something your kids like, you’re not going to just switch to another service you don’t know if your kids will like just because they’re running a promotion.”