Urban Remedy CEO Paul Coletta said that the proceeds from the Series D fundraising round led by Manna Tree and the Vail, a Colorado-based investment firm, will be used to fuel one particular new fresh food platform for the company: dinner, which will be launching in Q4 2021 with three to five different ready-to-eat noodle and grain-based bowls.
"This is in response to what’s evolved from the pandemic, which is that more consumers are looking for delivery options and most of those delivery options are geared towards the dinner day part," Coletta told FoodNavigator-USA.
Coletta noted how the company has seen less demand for its current fresh lunch offerings coming out of the pandemic as consumers return to work in offices where they have access to restaurants and other foodservice outlets.
"We were very oriented around lunch, and that day part has seen some challenge post COVID... There’s a lot more need for consumers to have products they can order for dinner," he said.
The recent funding will also provide Urban Remedy with opportunities to expand marketing efforts and onboard new talent to its team, noted Coletta.
"Urban Remedy has never done a lot of marketing. Typically, our marketing has been sampling and social media, but we’ve done little to no paid marketing in our history and yet the company has grown tremendously on word of mouth. With this [funding] we’re really going to put a concerted effort into dialing up our marketing," he said.
"We need to broaden the team, there’s a lot of skill sets we believe we need to bring into the team in order to continue to expand our reach and improve our offering."
Direct-to-consumer, retail kiosks, and store-fronts...
Urban Remedy products can be purchased at brick-and-mortar retailers in the state of California in fully-branded kiosks situated at aisle end caps, and online through the company's direct-to-consumer business, UrbanRemedy.com, or through Amazon Prime Now.
The company is also piloting meal delivery through third-party mobile ordering apps (GrubHub, UberEats, DoorDash) on the East Coast using ghost kitchens, said Coletta.
'Good food goes bad, and that's a good thing'
In terms of how Urban Remedy differentiates itself from other packaged fresh products available to consumers, the company is focused on maximizing the nutrition profile of its offerings without employing different processing methods that could extend the shelf life of the products but sacrifice the integrity of the ingredients, he said.
"We are really focused on nutrient density, and not playing around with ways to process and preserve food that could get us a lot more shelf life, but not provide the amount of nutrient density we’re trying to give our consumers," he said.
"Good food, goes bad, and that’s a good thing. I really hope for a time in the future when nutrient density can be something that’s measured and communicated to consumers because there’s so much misinformation and half-truths in food marketing."
Expanding manufacturing footprint
Running a fresh foods business that promises at least a 10-day shelf life for its products is tough, said Coletta, who added that the company operates two production facilities: one in Richmond, California, and the second in New York City in the Bronx.
"We can get as far as the Rocky Mountains [on the West Coast], and we’ve been able to get up and down the eastern seaboard out of our facility in the Bronx," said Coletta.
Despite expanding its footprint 3-4x in the past three years, Coletta acknowledges that the company is still missing out on key regions such as the Midwest where the company's messaging around nutrient-dense, fresh, organic food could reach a whole new pool of consumers.
"Because of the high nutrient density of our food, these products have a short life, and therefore we can’t distribute to locations that are at a certain distance from our manufacturing facilities where we can deliver with enough days off shelf to be viable," said Coletta.
However, the company is investing in specific areas of the business that will eventually close that gap in availability.
"One of the biggest things we did during the pandemic is we really focused on our technology. Specifically, we launched our ERP system, which is really important in a business that has such a short shelf life – Our ability to be a substantially viable company depends on managing waste," he said.