Chicago startup Tovala has cooked up some new funding for its smart oven and meal delivery service, this time from Tyson Foods.
Tyson announced Tuesday that it has invested an undisclosed amount in Tovala through its corporate venture arm Tyson Ventures, which is based in Chicago. In 2016 Tyson announced the launch of its $150 million fund, which aims to back innovative food tech companies. Tyson is the latest big-name investor to get behind Tovala, which has previously raised more than $13 million from investors including Origin Ventures, the Pritzker Group, Y Combinator, Morningstar Founder Joe Mansueto, Levy Restaurants Co-Founder Larry Levy and the University of Chicago.
Founded in 2015, Tovala makes a countertop smart oven that uses a combination of steam, baking and broiling to create restaurant-quality meals right from your home. The oven scans the barcode of a Tovala-delivered meal, and pulls data from the cloud to know how exactly to cook the meal, switching between the three cooking methods. Tovala retails for $399, but customers can also buy it for $199 if they commit to 24 meal deliveries over 12 months. Tovala’s prepared meals cost $12 each.
Tovala CEO and co-founder David Rabie said that the Tyson deal is the first step toward the startup’s goal of expanding its variety of meals and food brands.
“At a high level, this partnership marks the beginning of us finding ways to give our customers more meal variety,” Rabie said. “Tyson products will be the first wave of this variety, with more on the horizon.”
“We do think (the Tyson investment) validates our long-term vision of making it easier for people to eat better, through not only Tovala meals, but other brands that consumers know and love,” Rabie added.
“Our venture capital fund was created to invest in promising entrepreneurs who are on the cutting edge of innovation in the food industry,” Justin Whitmore, executive vice president of corporate strategy and chief sustainability officer of Tyson Foods, said in a statement. “Our investment in Tovala gives us another opportunity to explore new ways of meeting consumer demand and shape the future of food.”
Tyson has also backed Beyond Meat, a plant-based protein producer, and Memphis Meats, a startup that grows meat in a lab. Tovala appears to be just the third startup Tyson has publicly backed.