The funding round was led by Swedish investment company Nicoya (whose investment portfolio includes N!cks, El Taco Truck, Oatlaws, and Inika Superfoods) with participation from Danone Manifesto Ventures (Forager Project, Harmless Harvest, Farmer’s Fridge), Torch Capital, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Rent the Runway co-founder Jennifer Fleiss and Ashok and Meera Vasudevan, founders of Tasty Bite, which was recently acquired by Mars, among others.
Splendid Spoon was founded in 2013 by Centeno who was pregnant at the time and stressed out from working a full-time job while trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Motivated to find a solution in which she and others like her could have access to easy and healthy meals, Centeno began attending culinary school at night. From there she created a line of vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free organic soups that required no meal prep or cooking from the end consumer.
Centeno began selling her wares at farmer's markets and pop-ups in Brooklyn and delivering the product to colleagues on her lunch break. Demand skyrocketed, hitting on its first big break when Fresh Direct put in a large-scale order in 2013 and rolled Splendid Spoon products out nationally in 2015.
“Splendid Spoon has emerged as an innovator in the healthy eating category by efficiently streamlining the business model and connecting with its avid customer base,” commented Christopher Slim, CEO at Nicoya.
“Nicole’s vision a decade ago, to simplify plant-based eating for everyday Americans, is as important as ever, and we’re excited to take an active role in Splendid Spoon’s growth.”
The new round of funding will be used to scale Splendid Spoon's core product line, launch new products, categories, and meal programs, while continuing to grow the team with a priority on hiring and amplifying more diverse voices in the food industry, said the company.
Nailing convenience and health
Over the past several years, Centeno has led the Splendid Spoon adoption of a direct-to-consumer subscription-based model and in 2018, Centeno hired co-CEO Elise Densborn to help grow its online business and lead an emerging category of no-prep fresh and healthy meals.
"Convenience is nothing new – fast food is a way of life in the US. Convenience that actually tastes like homemade and is designed for your health – that’s the special space that we sit in, and not many have figured it out," Centeno told FoodNavigator-USA, adding that the company works with a registered dietician to create each of its ready-to-eat plant-based products.
Together the two have expanded Splendid Spoon's menu to over 50 plant-based no-prep products including noodles, soup, grain bowls, functional shots, juices, and smoothies.
Subscribing Splendid Spoon customers can choose between the type of meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) and delivery frequency (weekly, every other week, or once a month). In addition to its multi-day meal plans Splendid Spoon also launched an On-Demand shop, which allows customers to try the meals without a subscription.
"You can pick whatever entry point works best for you, and then we can help you fill out your day as you experience the benefits of our meals. This is pretty common – consumers might start with smoothies for breakfast and then start to add in other meal times," said Centeno.
Growth of DTC meal delivery services
Consumers have turned to subscription meal services more frequently since the start of the pandemic as desire to stay out of retail stores climbed combined with restricted options for dining fueling growth in the once-struggling subscription-based meal service category.
According to PYMNTS research, companies that deliver ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook subscription meal kits are expected to grow at a CAGR of 13% reaching $27bn in market size by 2028.
Consumer enthusiasm for meal delivery services remains high as PYMNTS research also showed that over half (56%) of consumers surveyed in May 2021 said they are “very” or “extremely” interested in using D2C food or grocery subscriptions, up from 50% in February 2021.
Splendid Spoon, for instance, doubled its growth rate in 2020 and continues to attract and maintain a loyal subscriber base, said Centeno, who did not disclose specific revenue numbers, but did note that Splendid Spoon is currently available in every state in the US and has served over 210,000 subscribers to date.
"We have an incredibly loyal core of subscribers who inform our innovation strategy – we are taking care of retention by building for their future eating habits," she said.