When Vitabowl launched its food-as-medicine meal delivery business three years ago out of the Twitter building in San Francisco, its founding team of four had a bold vision in mind: weaving together medically tailored meals and health insurance providers to better service people suffering from chronic illnesses.
Initially, Vitabowl’s superfood meals were designed by nutritionist Sarah Brandow and Michelin-star chef Dominique Crenn, who are both co-founders of the company, in addition to Charles Yim and Mike Lorenzo. Vitabowl partners with contract manufacturers, including Territory Foods, to offer a variety of dietary options — low carb, pescatarian, etc., while recently branching out into vegetarian burgers and juices.
After serving countless B2B customers across government, K-12 schools, hospitals and corporations, generating $1 million in annual sales, Vitabowl’s team reconfirmed their belief that health care presents a significant white-space opportunity for the meal prep industry.
“Our goal is to essentially collaborate with the health insurance companies, so that these meals and programs are medically tailored and reimbursable, which is, quite frankly, very different than some other meal prep services,” said Yim, who also serves as executive chair of Vitabowl.
“If you think about the top 10 chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, these are all conditions that can be treated or mitigated in a positive manner by applying a very regimented, medically tailored program.”
Yim notes how a lack of patients-focused players in the saturated meal prep industry has given their company a unique competitive advantage, coupled with the fact that both U.S. public and private sectors are increasingly aware of the importance of accessing nutrition to prevent chronic illness. Last year, White House pledged more than $8 billion in commitments to fight malnourishment with Kaiser Permanent joining with $50 million.
To better penetrate the health care market, Vitabowl raised a $3 million seed funding at $10 million in valuation with participation’s from investors, including Ann Metzger, Tanner Holmes, Matt Mackowiak, Tiarne Hawkins, and Denis Lam, who was recently appointed as the company’s new CEO and VP of Product and Engineering.
Medically tailored meals Via Insurance Providers
There are essentially two health care programs Vitabowl is targeting: supplemental and prescribed, according to Yim. “Supplemental is essentially medicare, healthcare aid as it relates to the elderly population. Supplemental reimbursement from insurance is applicable to the top 10 diseases, whether it’s cancer or Alzheimer’s — that’s already available on the federal level.”
“But what we’re aiming for in the long term is the prescription side,” he explained.
Vitabowl is now inching closer to the goal of having its plant-forward superfood meals reimbursed for patients involved in certain health care plans, potentially with Blue Cross Blue Shield, especially after the provider introduced an insurance code in 2022 to help Californian clients subsidize their medically tailored meals.
“We’re also engaging with Aetna
Vitabowl’s personalized nutrition program online has helped the company garner a growing number of business contracts. Boosted by its ambitious expansion plan across retail in 2023, Vitabowl is on track to be profitable, achieving $10 million in revenue by year end.
“We’re able to maximize our margin through our own supply chain, production process, and our R&D kitchen — so you’re looking at 50% margins easily across our portfolio,” Yim told me.
Commenting on Vitabowl’s future developments, Yim said the company is actively formulating several new SKUs, including frozen meals through a partnership with Golden West, while perfecting its ingredients and flavors.
“Our main strategy and focus is B2B for the next phase of the company’s growth as we are high margin, near zero marketing spend, and scalable which is poised to make a real impact on the food system,” he said. “We have already been approached twice for acquisition. We’ve declined them so far, but we are open to it in the future.”