Unilever invests in organic meal kit company

by Monica Watrous
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SunBasket meal kit
Sun Basket is an organic meal kit delivery service.

SAN FRANCISCO — Unilever is making a play in the meal kit market. Unilever Ventures, the company’s venture capital and private equity arm, along with Baseline Ventures and Founders Circle Capital, led a $9.2 million Series C-2 funding round for Sun Basket, an organic meal kit delivery service.

Founded in 2014, San Francisco-based Sun Basket grew sales 1,300% in 2016 and added $124 million in new annual revenue run rate since last September. In addition to the $9.2 million, Sun Basket raised $15 million earlier this year, adding to a total of $52 million. The funding will help Sun Basket scale nationally and coincides with the opening of its Midwest facility, which along with its West and East coast facilities, expands its footprint to more zip codes than any grocery store, according to the company.

Olivier Garel, Unilever Ventures
Olivier Garel, head of Unilever Ventures

“Having reviewed a large number of meal kit players in the United States, we have been really impressed by Sun Basket’s extremely fast growth and category leading customer retention rates,” said Olivier Garel, head of Unilever Ventures. “Over a relatively short period of time, Sun Basket has built a clear leadership position as the best healthy, organic meals service platform, addressing consumers’ growing demand for healthy, tasty, diet-specific but convenient solutions. That, coupled with Sun Basket’s values and commitment to sustainability made it a natural fit into the Unilever Ventures family.”

Sun Basket is led by Adam Zbar, chief executive officer and co-founder, who created the company with Justine Kelly, formerly head chef at a James Beard Award-winning restaurant. Celebrity chef Tyler Florence acts as culinary co-founder. Meals feature pre-measured ingredients, including organic and sustainably sourced produce, sustainable seafood and grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free meats, with recipes ranging from spicy chipotle turkey chili with jicama-radish salad to falafel pita pockets with lemon-yogurt sauce.

Adam Zbar, Sun Basket
Adam Zbar, c.e.o. and co-founder of Sun Basket

“We’re proud of the growth Sun Basket has achieved over the last year,” Mr. Zbar said. “This investment further validates that we’re on the right track. Being backed by a global venture firm, like Unilever Ventures, will help accelerate our product and user acquisition roadmap by leveraging their unrivaled expertise in C.P.G. marketing, distribution, and logistics. We’re excited to partner with Unilever Ventures to realize our mission to fundamentally improve people’s health by providing an easier and more delicious way to cook.”

Unilever Ventures, with offices in London, Mumbai and New Jersey, invests in early-stage companies, providing Unilever’s global resources and expertise to accelerate growth for start-ups in the categories of personal care and e-commerce and digital transformation. Existing investments in the food and beverage industry include Instacart, a grocery delivery service, Froosh, a premium smoothie brand in the Nordics, and Snog, a frozen yogurt brand in the United Kingdom.
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