Tyson Foods buys stake in ‘smart’ steam oven and subscription service

By Oscar Rousseau contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tovala wants to redefine home dining by controlling the end-to-end experience
Tovala wants to redefine home dining by controlling the end-to-end experience

Related tags: Tyson foods, Food

Tyson Foods has acquired a stake in Tovala, a steam oven and gourmet food subscription service that delivers chef-prepped meals to customers, with the internet telling the oven how to cook them.

Chicago-based start-up Tovala believes its concept will feed consumers’ appetite for healthy, sustainable, traceable, quick-to-cook, restaurant-quality cuisine. Tyson Foods agrees.

Through its subsidiary Tyson Ventures, Tyson has backed the “promising entrepreneurs​” at Tovala, whom it said were at the “cutting edge​” of food innovation.

Why? Because the start-up is rethinking how food is cooked at home. The concept goes thus: customers buy Tovala’s steam oven for as little as $199, then order meals, such as chilli-glazed salmon or buffalo chicken pasta, on their phone each week. These arrive at the customer’s door pre-prepped and ready to be cooked. The customer pops the meals in the steam oven and scans a barcode, which pulls cooking instructions from the cloud, telling the oven how to cook the meal. The shopper does no cooking.

Ingredients come pre-measured so no food is wasted
Ingredients come pre-measured so no food is wasted

Relax - the internet can tell your oven how to cook your food

For Tyson, which has already invested in clean meat start-ups Beyond Meat​ and Memphis Meats​, the opportunity to back Tovala made sense. It has duly pumped cash into the company to beef up recruitment, marketing and geographic expansion.

Our venture capital fund was created to invest in promising entrepreneurs who are at the cutting edge of innovation in the food industry,​” said Justin Whitmore, 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.​”

Tyson was among the first major players to commit funds in Tovala’s first round of venture capital financing. Venture capital firms Origin Ventures and the Pritzker Group, as well as start-up incubator Y Combinator and restaurant entrepreneur Larry Levy have also invested in Tovala.

On the first round of major investment, Tovala’s co-founder and CEO David Rabie said: “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.
We’re excited to work with Tyson Foods to explore bringing a wider variety of meals to our customers’ homes.​”

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