True Food Innovations has purchased the assets of meal kit company Chef’d, which ceased operations in mid-July after running out of money.
Robert Jones, president of True Food Innovations, worked for two years as the senior vice president of business development for Chef’d.
The company had made significant inroads in retail, with customers including Costco, Tops Markets, Food Lion, Gelson’s and Hy-Vee. A pilot with Walgreens was also planned.
True Food Innovations also has meal kits at retail — with launches in Bashas’ and Costco announced in January — under the True Chef brand.
The company uses high pressure processing to deliver shelf life of 45 days for its kits and is considering bringing that technology to Chef’d products as well.
“(For) current recipes and future recipes we will look at various types of shelf life-extension, including packaging, HPP and other natural, clean-label options,” Jones said. “To have a national presence with natural distribution, shelf life is paramount.”
Right now, the plan is for the Chef’d and True Chef brands to coexist under the True Food Innovations umbrella.
“The brands are different and will be offered to retailers based upon their demographics, their geography, their sales throughput, to have a product type that works on a retailer-by-retailer basis,” Jones said. “We potentially could offer exclusivity ... to certain retailers as well.”
True Food Innovations plans to focus on the retail segment of the Chef’d business rather than delivering to individual shoppers.
“It is e-commerce 2.0 in that we will support the retailers’ e-commerce offerings,” Jones said. “We believe that is our best foot forward versus the direct-to-the-consumer model that doesn’t include the retailer.”
True Food Innovations already works with numerous retailers but will look at reengaging with others that carried Chef’d kits.
“We’re going to have to reestablish the relationships directly with the retailers,” Jones said. “There were some intricacies in the Chef’d business model that we need to overcome.”
As far as retailers with which True Food Innovations is already working, the conversation will be about simply adding a new brand and products to the portfolio.
The company has gotten strong feedback on its True Chef brand, and expansion is coming.
“We have new products coming into the market in September (that are) launching in approximately 20 retailers nationwide,” Jones said.
Meal kits remain a new category for retail, but grocers continue to invest in that area.
“As in anything new, there are growing pains and learnings that the industry is figuring out in conjunction with retailers,” Jones said. “But obviously retailers are making very large bets on the meal kit category — that’s seen in the various acquisitions that have taken place to date, and we are no different that we are making a bet and believe that our product and brands will be superior and will have a good percentage of the marketplace.”