March 8, 2018

Startup Q&A - Just Add Cooking Delivers New England-Made Meal Kits

Jan Leife, Founder and CEO of Just Add Cooking
Jan Leife, Founder and CEO of Just Add Cooking

Going out to dinner is (mostly) a good time, but sometimes it’s just as good to stay at home and cook a meal yourself. For those on the go with work and/or other life-oriented activities, and have trouble buying meals, there are meal kit services where food and cooking instructions are provided.

Just Add Cooking is a FoodTech startup focusing on user-created meal kits, from New England-area food providers, that are directly delivered to the user’s home.

The company's Founder and CEO Jan Leife recently connected with us to talk about his FoodTech platform and how its connecting users with grocers, fishermen, etc. in order to get the best meal possible made from local ingredients.

CB: I’m a big fan of the phrase “origin story.” What are the origins of Just Add Cooking?

JL: I used a similar service with my family back in our native Stockholm for many years and we loved it! It enabled us to serve fresh delicious dinners every night despite the fact all family members had tight time schedules. It was fun to get together in the kitchen to cook and catch up the day. We still love to spend time in the kitchen and my family has developed their cooking skills since then. When I moved to Boston with my wife more than five years ago, we weren’t able to find a meal kit service (the market hadn’t yet started here) and I wanted to bring the service to the US.

CB: What is the ultimate goal of Just Add Cooking?

JL: We’re a mission and data-driven company that’s committed to making positive changes both to the local food economy and to the health and habits of our customers. Our goal is twofold: to bring our customers the freshest food available locally while also contributing to sustainable partnerships with local producers.

Our mission is to build Local Food Systems for the Future. “Local” is key to fresh high-quality ingredients, minimal waste, and few food miles. We’re proud of nourishing the community where we live and to be the market leader in New England.

Our goal is to provide our customers with all the convenience that people have come to love in meal kits while also ensuring they’re able to get local ingredients, support the local food economy, and minimize waste.

Just Add Cooking Meal

We believe that our metrics show that people care about whether their food is local and in getting the convenience of a meal kit in a sustainable way. While most meal kits see between an 8 and 18% retention according to a Morningstar report, Just Add Cooking has a 27% retention rate.

CB: Explain what your company does. If it’s a particular software/platform/service/etc. how does it work? Any use case that stands out to you?

JL: Just Add Cooking started out as a meal kit company, but we have evolved to a local FoodTech platform connecting customers with local farmers, fishermen, and food entrepreneurs by selling meal kits and groceries online and in retail stores. We recently expanded beyond ingredients and meal kits into an Add-On Marketplace, where customers can choose from a curated selection of local products like sides, snacks, and lunch items--a great way to solve for other meals than dinner and an opportunity for our local partners to have another sales channel for their items.

Because we partner with trusted local brands, Just Add Cooking’s business model is scalable. As the product expands in New England and beyond, locally sourced ingredients and partnerships will allow for flexibility, sustainability, and quality superior to national competitors.

We will also be partnering with a local grocery chain in the upcoming months, selling meal kits via retail to help last-minute shoppers who need a quick dinner solution. It’s hush-hush for now but we’ll be announcing more soon!

CB: When it comes to picking out the ingredients/dishes/etc. what does that process look like?

JL: Our culinary team comes up with ideas and creates the recipes. Test cooking is performed in the office test kitchen so the whole team gets to taste and comment. We also listen to the feedback from our customers on which dishes they love and want to see more of. Over the years we’ve developed close relationships with the best suppliers in New England.

We recently partnered with a tech partner that gives us a competitive advantage, flexibility, and speed to build a platform that will allow us to stay in front of our competition.

CB: Has your company participated in any trade shows/meetup events in the Boston area? What about events outside of Boston?

JL: We regularly participate in various trade shows in Boston and suburbs. Our delivery area is Greater Boston. We attend events to learn and share our knowledge and to build on our vast experience. We are always open to relevant partnerships.

CB: Is the company bootstrapped or seeking investments?

JL: Ongoing seed round of $1M. Lead investor of $500K is secured.

CB: I’m always interested in how a startup came up with its name. How did Just Add Cooking get its name?

JL: This was before the term “Meal kit” was a commonly known one, and we wanted a name that described the service. We do the meal planning and shopping and the customers “Just add cooking.”

CB: How big is the team? Looking to hire any particular position in the upcoming months? Anyone on the team has experience working in the restaurant industry and/or cook as a hobby?

JL: We have eight employees who specialize in recipe development, sourcing, logistics, marketing, and finance. All team members love food, though some really don’t like to cook--that’s why they were drawn to meal kits! Many have experience in restaurants and other types of food businesses as well as tech backgrounds.

Colin Barry is a Staff Writer & Editor at VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash
Images courtesy of Just Add Cooking.