Positive Food Co., providing freshly packaged salads, heat-and-eat prepared meals and vegan overnight oats, raised $7 million in funding as it goes after the $34 billion fresh prepared foods market.
In 2018, co-founders Schuyler Deerman and James Chan started selling healthy meals at WeWork offices around Los Angeles out of giant Yeti coolers, standing around the kitchens during lunch time.
“At the time, we were in 15 locations, many where you couldn’t walk to get lunch, so you had to either order food in or drive off campus,” Deerman told TechCrunch. “On days when we did the ‘Positive Popups,’ people loved it. We gained sort of a cult following because we had healthy meals at an accessible price point.”
The pair eventually did motr than 100 popups before setting up wholesale accounts with local coffee shops where it was selling meals, which include the Vegan Kale Hemp Caesar; the Roasted Beet, Chicken and Goat Cheese Salad; and the Vegan Peanut Butter Overnight Oats. Then the COVID pandemic hit.
At the time, Positive Food had its meals in 70 coffee shops around Los Angeles. Deerman had watched other meal delivery companies, like Munchery and Sprig, close years earlier and had gotten creative with the company’s business model as a result. Now he was watching Positive Food’s own orders dwindle to zero in a matter of two days.
“It was devastating, and it was like we were standing there helpless,” he added.
He and Chan had to make some tough decisions, including streamlining a lot of the business and costs, and unfortunately letting staff go.
However, there was a silver lining for Positive Food. In January 2020, the company was in discussions with Whole Foods about launching a pilot of its meals in a few stores. It also was in the midst of moving to a new, larger facility to manage that new business.
In March, Positive Food was just a few weeks shy of launching that pilot before the whole world went into lockdown. The pilot didn’t happen, and even though the company had to wait another nine months, it eventually entered Whole Foods.