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Unilever’s VC Arm Leads Investment in Meal-Kit Startup Sun Basket

With a fresh round of funding, the company plans to accelerate its roadmap and path to profitability.

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BY Jenna Broughton - 12 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Meal-kit company Sun Basket has raised $9.2 million in Series C-2 financing led by Unilever Ventures, with participation from Baseline Ventures and Founders Circle Capital. This new investment increases the company's $15 million Series C raised in January to $24.2 million. In total, it has raised $52 million.

Founded in 2014, the San Francisco-based company is part of the $1.5 billion market that has built an industry around delivering pre-measured ingredients with recipes to customers' doorsteps. For its part, Sun Basket has honed in on the nearly $36 billion organic food market with its healthy meal-kits that cater to special dietary needs like paleo and gluten-free.

With more than 150 players in the United States, Sun Basket is part of an already crowded market. Increasingly, it is also finding itself competing directly with grocery stores like Kroger, Whole Foods and Publix, which are all testing their own meal-kits in stores.

But Sun Basket CEO Adam Zbar doesn't view the $650 billion grocery industry as a threat as much as market to be transformed. "While I've always loved grocery stores, their model is in the process of being massively disrupted by online players since the direct-to-consumer online model is a radically more efficient supply chain," said Zbar.

Considering the way the Internet has upended clothing retail, it could stand to do the same to grocery stores. A report by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Nielsen estimates that online grocery shopping could reach $100 billion in sales by 2025.

The reality is that e-commerce businesses are far more capital efficient than their brick-and-mortar brethren. Consider that Kroger is one of the largest supermarket chains with nearly 2800 stores across 35 states. Each time it opens a store, it is a $19 million investment. "Sun Basket has three distribution facilities that via our online presence reaches 98 percent of U.S. households with less than $10 million in capex spent," said Zbar.

This latest round of funding coincides with the launch of Sun Basket's Midwest Distribution Center. The new funds will allow the company to continue to scale, automate its facilities and increase user acquisition.