Food Tech Vets Re-Enter Industry With Chef-Inspired Meal Delivery Service

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Food startup vets Emily and Rob LaFave, co-founders of Foodzie have a new meal delivery service.

By Jake Guidry (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)

forage_bagMeal delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh have been popping up all over the country the last few years. Some of these services tout health and ease, others tout fresh and artisan, and all are vying for space in your belly.

As the industry grows more competitive, food startup vets Emily and Rob LaFave, co-founders of Foodzie, have re-entered the fray with San Francisco-based Forage, a meal delivery service featuring quick recipes created by chefs from notable restaurants.

The LaFaves, along with co-founder John Fraser, officially launched Forage on July 31 after a closed round of testing in select markets in California. The service, whose mission is “to help people connect through good food,” comes more than two years after Foodzie was acquired by Joyus in 2012.

After the acquisition, Emily and Rob, who are married, took time off to travel and recharge, eventually realizing how much they’d gotten away from their passion: “When we started cooking again, we found how much that had been cut out of our lives in running a company,” Emily LaFave said. She said this was the initial spark that led to Forage:

“We were looking at the whole process and thinking about how we would be able to cook when we got really busy again,” LaFave said. “It wasn’t for lack of knowing how, but figuring out what to cook, getting the ingredients and only having left the cooking and the cleanup. It was about creating an experience that would allow us to cook great dishes and learn along the way.”

The team knew they wanted to create a new cooking experience. About a year ago, they got to work figuring out exactly what that experience was. They started testing prototypes a small group of friends and family. The one that ended up working was the concept of recreating restaurant dishes at home.

After LaFave discovered her people loved the idea of recreating tasty restaurant dishes, the next breakthrough came after she learned those same customers wanted to be able to prepare the dishes as quickly as possible. “People kept saying, ‘I have 20 minutes,’” LaFave said. “If they only have 20 minutes, how can we have phenomenal dishes and learn something?”

That's why Forage meals can be prepped in 20 minutes or less. The team does all the behind-the-scenes and time consuming work of prepping the ingredients. So for example, if tonight’s meal is corn pierogies from Yoni Levy of Alta CA, the pierogi dough arrives to your door ready-to-go. All you have to do is the fun part of putting together the meal -- and the even more fun part of eating it.

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Forage listened to its customers and turned their feedback into a business model: Restaurant recipes that can be cooked in a flash. Forage now collaborates with restaurants and chefs to bring their recipes in fresh, quick-to-cook form. Another one of the first recipes is ramen from Hapa Ramen.

Though the startup has only been out in the wild for less than a month, some notable angel investors have bought into Forage’s model. Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, as well as Whole Foods board member Hass Hassan, are among them. While the amounts invested remain undisclosed, these high-profile names indicate the potential Forage has for success, especially given its team’s prior experience in the both the food industry and startups.

Emily and Rob LaFave, who operate as Chief Creative Officer and CEO, respectively, bring the success of Foodzie to the table, while Josh Fraser, who operates as CTO and handles back-end technology, co-founded Torbit. The team, while small, remains that way for a reason, according to LaFave: “We kept saying to ourselves, ‘We can do everything between the three of us,’ which helped us stay really lean and move fast.” Rob LaFave even taught himself to code during his year off and is the back-end developer for the site.

Forage and its small team currently delivers in California and Nevada, with a delivery window of 48-72 hours.


About the author: Jake Guidry is a freelance writer and DJ living in Chicago. His passions are craft beer, baseball and making people dance. Follow him on Twitter at @jakeguidry.