Nestlé announced on Tuesday that it would be the lead investor in a $77 million round of new funding for healthy ready-meals group Freshly, Reuters reported.
The announcement comes days after meal-kit company Blue Apron announced it was pricing a much-anticipated initial public offering. Blue Apron is hoping to raise about $500 million to fund its expansion.
Nestlé did not disclose the exact terms of its investment, but the companies said the funds would help Freshly build a new East Coast kitchen and distribution center in 2018. Freshly is planning to open the facility in Savage, Md., to complement its 60,000-square-foot facility in Phoenix. With the two facilities, the company will be able to serve about 93% of the U.S. population, the companies said.
The latest round brings Freshly’s total funding to $107 million. Highland Capital Partners, Insight Venture Partners, and White Star Capital also participated in the investment.
Freshly was founded in 2015. It employs 400 people, and has plans to hire more. It currently operates in 28 states.
“While most food choices are still made in supermarkets, it’s clear that consumers are responding to a growing universe of direct-to-consumer options, made possible through innovation,” said Nestlé USA chairman Paul Grimwood in statement. He added that Nestlé would get access to Freshly’s “advanced analytics” and distribution, while Freshly would benefit from Nestle’s sourcing, nutrition, and research and development.
Freshly bills itself as the healthy option in the ready-made space. It has a menu of 30 dishes, created with the help of nutritionists.
The companies said the online prepared meals market is already $10 billion in the United States and is “expected to grow at very attractive rates.”
The president of Nestle USA’s Food Division, Jeff Hamilton, will join Freshly’s board of directors under the terms of the agreement.