Does the idea of transforming vegetables into noodles sound weird but kind of appetizing? Well, that’s what a startup called Hungryroot is offering, and now it’s expanding.
The company launched earlier this year with operations in New York’s Long Island City. Co-founder and CEO Ben McKean told me Hungryroot recently opened a similar facility in San Francisco — so it can deliver meals to customers on both the East and West Coasts. (Here’s a full map of its coverage.) It’s also making meals available through the Amazon Fresh and FreshDirect delivery services.
McKean, who sold his previous startup Savored to Groupon, told me that his goal is “to create interesting alternatives to the frozen food aisle or the canned food aisle.” In other words, it’s meant to be less competitive with an ingredient delivery service like Plated or Blue Apron, and more with the microwave meals or cans of soup that you reach for when you don’t have time to cook something for real.
The key to the Hungryroot approach, McKean said, is to shorten the supply chain — for example, eliminating the distribution warehouse where food often sits for several days before being delivered to grocery stores. That, in turn, means that the company can deliver fresh, healthy food that will still have 14 days of shelf life. At the same time, McKean said he isn’t just interested in selling direct to consumers.
Sure, the company probably can’t sell its food through traditional grocery stores, at least not without sacrificing those supply efficiencies and therefore reduce the shelf life. But it can work with online partners like Amazon Fresh and FreshDirect to reach more consumers. (Hungryroot is currently sold out on FreshDirect.)
“A lot of people confuse us with a meal delivery service, but this is one of the things that shows we’re planning on taking a distributed model,” he said.
Freshness and healthiness are nice, but how does it taste? McKean said the idea is to offer foods that are “quick, easy and craveable” with customers feeling like “they just had an indulgent meal but it was really very healthy.” Florence Fabricant reportedly tried the noodles and described them in The New York Times as “bright, tasty food ready in less than 10 minutes.”
The company is also expanding into other food categories, starting with sweets and desserts. Again, the idea is to create food that tastes good but uses healthier ingredients — for example a cookie dough that’s made out of chickpeas and sweet potatoes.