We are thrilled to announce our recent investment in Territory Foods, a nutritionist designed, chef-crafted meal delivery platform that makes it simple to eat healthy. By partnering with a network of local chefs and health-forward restaurants across the country, Territory cooks up responsibly sourced, nutrient-rich meals from scratch and delivers to over 20 major US markets with minimal to zero environmental impact. We love that Territory is women-led, diversity-driven, and dedicated to giving back to local communities across the country.
A Passion for Health-giving Food
For CEO Ellis McCue, Territory’s mission is not just good business practice-- it’s personal. “I have an extensive family history of cancer-related illnesses and in my early twenties I felt an impending sense of dread - I couldn't control or change my future,” shares McCue. “I felt like I had no path forward. When I began researching the preventative steps I could take, I found very little information or reliable data. Instead, I realized that traditional medicine was hyper-focused on treating cancer and cancer-like illnesses, and there wasn't much discussion about prevention.”
Before joining Territory Foods, Ellis led business strategies for major global companies such as Deloitte, Gap and ZX Ventures (a growth and innovation group within AB InBev). But armed with this new understanding and appreciation of the link between food and health outcomes, she knew she needed to find a way to enter the conversation and arm people with the knowledge and tools to make necessary lifestyle changes to manage their health.
“I wanted to make an impact - to create a way for healthy food to be accessible, convenient and easy to understand. My background in technology means I've always approached problems from a standpoint of systems, data, and process. Considering that the market for healthy eating and personalized food is roughly $702 billion, I saw an opportunity for the food sector to employ new technologies that can leverage the power of the direct to consumer relationship and machine learning to drive better health for customers while delivering a product they love. This is what drove me to make a move to Territory.”
- Ellis McCue, CEO of Territory Foods
McCue was named CEO of the company in 2019 after being with Territory for less than 2 years, and has since led the company through multiple phases of rapid growth.
Personalized Nutrition for More People
Territory delivers personalized, healthy, delicious, and environmentally responsible meals through their unique mission-driven business-model and technology platform. The company collects 90,000 points of data per week and works with nutritionists and dietitians to provide better recommendations based on health and diet preferences, trends, and culinary style. Each week Territory curates an assortment of over 300 meals on the platform and customers can order across a variety of chefs and restaurants. In selecting meals, customers can filter by a range of diets such as keto, plant based, whole30, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, mixitarian, mediterranean, low carb, and low fat.
“We focus on creating a place of bounty and good choices, not restriction. We are always improving, experimenting and collecting customer feedback so we can evolve as health, wellness and culinary trends change.”
- Ellis McCue
Supporting Local Chefs, Regional Farmers and Communities
Territory’s platform is powered by a decentralized back-end marketplace that partners with local chefs, thereby enabling consumers to support local culinary businesses. Unlike other services that produce meals in massive central commissaries, Territory partners with independent chefs who work in their own fully certified commercial kitchens and bring their unique culinary skills and creativity to every meal. And because orders are placed in advance, chefs produce the meals to match exact demand and benefit from Territory taking care of last mile delivery to the consumer.
Territory chefs are vetted based on their alignment with the company’s ethos to ensure they have a similar food philosophy and ingredient standards as well as a high quality standard for their food. The chefs design their own meal concepts from scratch, creating the incredibly diverse, creative and innovative selection that makes up Territory’s menu. Territory’s dietitians then make sure that meals are compliant with the company’s nutrition standards.
Some of the chefs Territory has partnered with hail from restaurants such as LA-based Gracias Madre and Cafe Gratitude and Founding Farmers in the Northeast. To date the company has partnered with over 40 independent chefs across the country. Additionally, 42% of the businesses Territory works with are women owned and 38% are BIPOC-Latinx led. This network approach is core to Territory’s mission to not just cater to buyers in a particular area but to support surrounding communities.
In addition to supporting local culinary talent, Territory Foods is expanding what it means to be community-oriented through an on-going partnership with Feeding America. The organization was a natural partner for the company because of its commitment to feeding underserved communities and working on a local level. Last year the company launched TerritorySERVES, a platform for customers to donate meals in their community, matched by Territory. For every meal order placed, the company donates a monetary equivalent of 1.2 pounds of food. Territory is currently donating 100,000+ meals a year.
Responsibly sourced, nutrient dense ingredients make up the final piece of Territory’s health and environmentally driven mission. Animal proteins are raised without antibiotics or hormones and seafood is fished or farmed in a way that doesn’t harm the ocean environment. Partnering with local chefs and focusing on small batch meals enables Territory to tap into sustainable farms throughout the country for ingredient sourcing. The company also utilizes 100% compostable packaging that breaks down in 3-6 months to make nutrient rich soil. From a health standpoint, meals are gluten, dairy and refined sugar free as those food categories are at the top of the inflammatory foods list. Meals will also never include highly processed oils like canola or rapeseed, or chemical preservatives. Additionally, there are calorie, sodium and macro targets for each dietary filter.
Territory’s comprehensive approach to health, community growth, and inclusion has not gone unnoticed. McCue was selected as a top 25 Consumer Health Tech Executive for her work in the Food as Medicine space, and named among the top 15 CEOs of startups and small/midsize businesses. Territory was also rated as one of the best workplaces for women in the US in 2020.
The American Diet at a Crossroads
Territory’s mission of empowering customers to take control of their health through conscientious food choices is more relevant today than ever before. Obesity rates are at an all time high in the US at 42.4%, a number which has increased by 26% since 2008 with Covid only exacerbating these trends. According to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” report, more than two in five of the surveyed adults (42%) revealed that they gained more weight than they intended over the past 12 months and they put on 29 pounds, on average. A recent WebMD poll of more than 1,000 readers also revealed that more than half of respondents said that they’d gained weight “due to COVID restrictions” disrupting their health routines. People who put on more than 11 pounds are at higher risk of developing coronary heart disease and Type II diabetes, and those who gain more than 25 pounds are at higher risk of stroke.
At the same time, Americans are more interested than ever before in understanding how their food choices affect health outcomes as well as the environment. Around 20% of people who took part in the International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food and Health Survey reported eating healthier than usual and eating more pre-made meals. In addition, 43% of consumers in this survey reported following a specific diet or eating pattern in the last year, up from 38% in 2019. The environmental footprint of food has also risen in importance for consumers with 39% of respondents saying it impacts their food purchasing decisions.
A Market Ripe for Growth
With consumers becoming more informed and food delivery services growing rapidly, Territory is well positioned to capture a significant market opportunity. The global meal kit delivery services market was valued at $7.6 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.8% through 2027.
Last year was a big year for Territory, with the company growing at 250% year over year and increasing its customer base by more than 50%. Customers went from using the service for five lunches per week to lunches and dinners and for feeding their families over the weekend, which prompted Territory to launch four new business lines. Territory's recent Series B funding will enable the company to expand to new cities and invest in technology as well as food as medicine projects. The company plans to continue building a depth of chefs and cuisines to cater to evolving food trends and to be fully national by the end of the year.
S2G participated in Territory Food’s recent $22 million funding round alongside U.S. Venture Partners, Upfront Ventures, Lewis & Clark Ventures, DF Enterprises, Gaingels, Middleland Capital, Finistere Ventures, and Rethink Food Capital as well as celebrities Abby Wambach, Questlove and Vernon Davis. The round brings Territory’s to-date total to $44 million--the most raised through venture funds by a female-led company in the ready-to-eat food category.