- Thistle, a “plant-forward” meal delivery startup based in San Francisco, has raised $10.3 million in a Series B funding round, the company announced in a press release Wednesday.
- The company plans to use the latest financing to expand geographically and expects to add a production facility on the East Coast in 2021. Over the last year, the service has expanded shipping to markets including the Seattle metropolitan area; Portland, Oregon; and Las Vegas.
- Growth equity fund PowerPlant Ventures, which also invests in Beyond Meat and several other plant-based food companies, led Thistle’s latest funding push after having led its $5.65 million Series A round last January.
This latest funding round allows Thistle to extend beyond the Bay Area's particularly crowded meal kit and prepared foods space — a move the company doesn't take lightly. Ashwin Cheriyan, CEO of Thistle, told TechCrunch last January that premature geographic expansion is one of the top two reasons why food delivery companies fail.
Thistle will face competition from entrenched grocery competitors that are scaling up their online operations. And many East Coast markets already have existing meal delivery options such as Healthy Fresh Meals and Dinners At Your Door, so convincing consumers to get on board with a new choice could be a hard sell for Thistle.
Thistle, which launched back in 2013, has positioned itself toward affluent, health-conscious consumers, with its ready-to-eat, dairy- and gluten-free meals starting at $11.50 and averaging about $14, with varying discounts built into subscription options. It has an environmentally-minded approach to operations, having opened a new California facility in 2020, which runs entirely on wind and solar.
As an increasing number of people in the U.S. follow a plant-based diet for environmental reasons, such an approach makes sense. And so far, Thistle has documented steady growth and consumer retention: it has averaged a 100%+ annual growth rate since its founding and a 50% increase in its customer base since 2019.
Other meal delivery companies are scaling up while meal kit companies like Blue Apron and HelloFresh are turning toward prepared options. CPG giant Nestlé acquired Freshly in October in a deal that valued the meal delivery company at $950 million, while HelloFresh acquired ready-to-eat meal company Factor75 in November.