On Tuesday, Tyson Foods announced its investment in Tovala, a Chicago-based startup that produces countertop ovens for at-home use with the ability to simultaneously switch between cooking methods such as baking, broiling, convention heating and steaming . Tyson completed the investment through the company’s corporate venture subsidiary, Tyson Ventures.
According to a company press release, Tyson Ventures invested in Tovala along with Origin Ventures, the Pritzker Group, startup incubator Y Combinator, Morningstar Inc. founder Joe Mansueto and restaurant entrepreneur Larry Levy. The Series A funding round raised enough funds to support the growth of Tovala which includes geographic expansion, additional staff and further investments in the Tovala oven, operations, technology and marketing.
“Our venture capital fund was created to invest in promising entrepreneurs who are on the cutting edge of innovation in the food industry,” said Justin Whitmore, executive vice president corporate strategy and chief sustainability officer of Tyson Foods. “Our investment in Tovala gives us another opportunity to explore new ways of meeting consumer demand and shape the future of food. We look forward to our collaboration.”
Tovala’s countertop oven is designed to work hand-in-hand with Tovala’s food delivery service. Customers can select the recipes they want to order online and have them delivered directly to their doors. All of Tovala’s deliveries include pre-measured and pre-marinated ingredients in oven-safe containers. The recipes come with a barcode that can be scanned by the Tovala machine to prepare meals to perfection. Consumers can also use the oven to develop their own recipes with a connected application on their phone . With the global kitchen appliance market expected to jump from $150 billion in 2015 to $250 billion by 2023, Tovala is entering a promising segment.
“Our mission is to make it easier for busy people to eat better at home. By controlling the experience end-to-end including the hardware, software, and food, our customers benefit by not having to sacrifice convenience, health, or taste,” said David Rabie, co-founder and CEO at Tovala. “We’re excited to work with Tyson Foods to explore bringing a wider variety of meals to our customers’ homes.”
Although Amazon is one of the leading meal delivery services in North America, the prominence of e-commerce food delivery can be used to Tovala’s advantage. The startup may provide stiff competition to meal delivery services because their Tovala oven incorporates meal delivery with the additional step of fully cooking meals with the press of a button.
Tyson Foods has been participating in a variety of investments and acquisitions in the past year. In December, the company participated in a $55 million funding round for Beyond Meat, a vegan meat-alternatives manufacturer. Just last month the meat-industry giant’s venture capital arm purchased a minority stake in Memphis Meats, a startup that develops animal-free meat products through culturing meat cells in laboratories.
Tyson’s recent ventures allow the company to have a hand in a variety growing markets. Their investment in Tovala might lead to a future partnership between the companies in producing ingredients for the Tovala oven.