Tovala and Beyond Meat partnership: 'People love the idea of a home-cooked meal, the reality is not all of us have the time to do so'

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Tovala
Photo: Tovala

Related tags: Tovala, Beyond meat

Tovala, a company combining the technology of smart countertop ovens with chef-made meals delivered to the home, has entered its first branded food partnership with Beyond Meat, incorporating the plant-based meat alternatives into its meal recipes.

Beginning June 3rd, Tovala​ will feature Beyond Meat products in its delivered meals (prepped and ready to be cooked in Tovala ovens). Tovala will also add eight recipes featuring Beyond Meat to its mobile app's recipe library, which allows customers to prep the recipes at home with groceries they purchase themselves, and cook them in their Tovala oven.

Tovala Meals featuring Beyond Meat offered in June:

● Week of June 3rd:
○ Coconut Kale Curry with Beyond Beef Beefy Crumbles & Roasted Vegetables
● Week of June 10th:
○ Green Chili with Beyond Beef Beefy Crumbles & Freshly Baked Cornbread
○ Italian Sausage & Eggplant Pasta with Beyond Beef Italian Sausage Crumbles 


● Week of June 17th:
○ Beef & Fajita Veggie Tacos with Beyond Beef Feisty Crumbles and Beans &
● Week of June 24th:
○ Sweet Soy Stir-Fry with Beyond Beef Beefy Crumbles, Brown Rice & Chow
Mein Noodles
○ Baked Penne

According to Tovala VP of marketing, Lauren Funk, Tovala saw the trend of 'flexitarianism' show up strongly in its customers' ordering behaviors, and wanted to meet the demand with a leader in the plant-based meat alternative category.

"For us, Beyond Meat has the brand recognition and our chefs really enjoyed working with products as a substitute for meat,"​ Funk told FoodNavigator-USA. 

'Meal kits solve some of the problem but not all'

Similar to meal kits' value proposition, Tovala is also trying to solve the mealtime dilemma and make it easier for consumers (mainly working single professionals and couples) to eat well.

"People love the idea of a home-cooked meal, that’s the gold standard, the reality is not all of us have the time to do so," ​Funk said. 

"Meal kits solve some of the problem but not all,"​ Funk said. 

Funk and her husband had been Blue Apron subscribers for two years before switching to Tovala. And while the meal kit service cut out the grocery and recipe planning steps of cooking meals at home, the busy working couple was still spending up to 1 hour prepping and cooking the food. And they weren't alone, according to Tovala's consumer survey of its current customers, 73% had tried a meal kit before switching to Tovala. 

"Our founders, David Rabie and Bryan Wilcox, really saw this opportunity to fill this gap end to end, which is why he started working on Tovala,"​ Funk said. 

As a small, cloud-connected appliance that also ships out pre-prepped meals to customers throughout the continental US, Funk describes the company as a hardware, software, and food business wrapped into one. Tovala won the New Venture Challenge at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business the same year it launched in 2015 and has raised $13.14m to date including investment from Tyson Foods' venture arm. 

How does it work? 

Tovala Oven users can select a weekly order frequency of receiving three to 12 meals per week (a weekly rotating menu developed by Tovala's team of chefs and prepped at its 25,000-square-foot facility in Chicago). Meals reach customers in chilled containers with partially-cooked vegetables and grains while meats are kept raw. Users scan the barcode of its each meal container that connects to a recipe from the cloud, at which point the oven cooks the meal able to steam, bake, and broil, depending on what the recipe calls for. Each recipe is ready in less than 20 minutes, according to the company. 

Users aren't limited to ordering Tovala meals, according to Funk, who said the company has been stepping up efforts to promote its 'chef's recipes', which are developed by the company's chefs but allow users to purchase their own ingredients from the store, potentially saving some money, as Tovala meals cost $12 each (for one serving).

"Tovala has never been a closed system,"​ Funk said. 

Driven by consumer feedback, Tovala has made tweaks to its ovens and launched its second generation last year -- a smaller and lighter appliance with an easier-to-use control panel featured directly on the front of the oven. 

The target consumer

Due to the size constraints of the small appliance, Tovala isn't able to cater to families and can accommodate two one-serving meals. Its target audience, according to Funk, is a the working professional male between 35- to 45-years-old who is either single or married.

"It’s basically the gentleman who’s savvy, values his time, and leads a very full life and for him he doesn’t want to make any sacrifices when it comes to eating well. He’s not someone who wants to do takeout every day, but he’s also not somebody who cooks five days a week,"​ she explained.

Tovala has also been attracting two-person households as well as empty nesters who want to break from cooking after years of meal prep for their kids. 

Growth and scale mode

According to Funk, the company is in "growth and scale mode" and its looking to open up its platform in terms of added features and food industry partnerships.

"We’re looking to address more dietary concerns and preferences, that’ll be a big focus for us as we scale up this year."

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