Brother-and-sister duo Christopher and Jennifer Jane, best known for their waggish Victorian era outfits and wigs when pitching on Shark Tank in 2021, has raised a fresh capital to bring their healthy prepared meals to more than 2,000 Walmart
Investors participating in their latest $3.5 million seed round includes YETI Capital; The Artisan Group; and the founder of Halo Top and Gatsby Chocolate, Doug Bouton. Drew Zang, managing partner at The Artisan Group and Maxx Karr, managing director of YETI Capital are joining Proper Good’s board, alongside Bouton.
Bouton notes how the investment in Proper Good was the largest angel check he’s ever written, and feels he’s already gained returns from the amount of time its meals helped save him from cooking and cleaning. “Proper Good has created something truly innovative: ready-to-eat, healthy meals that taste incredibly great and are unbelievably convenient to eat,” he said.
“What excited us from our first conversation with Chris was his experience and charisma, we invest in people first and Chris is the ultimate team player,” Zang commented. “Proper Good is a brand grounded in quality and innovation that is ready to disrupt. The combination of a talented team with a brand and product offering that has mass appeal has positioned the business to scale quickly across multiple channels. We are excited to have him as a partner and we look forward to unlocking the potential based on the foundation the team has built.”
Karr added: “We are excited to invest in Proper Good, not only because Chris and Jennifer have created a new category of premium shelf-stable meals, but they’ve custom built a proprietary data platform with continuous feedback, ensuring consumers’ ever-changing demands are met.”
Tackling The Middle Market Of Ready Meals
Proper Good was launched about two years ago after cofounders identified a middle market for active, on-the-go consumers, according to Mr. Jane, since the instant meals category was filled either with $2-3 shelf-stable items made with unhealthy ingredients, or high quality frozen delivery services that weren’t widely accessible from a pricing standpoint.
“We decided to focus on shelf-stable because we found a lot of people want to stock up their pantries at home, or bring a quick, easy meal to work and during commute,” Jane said. “So shelf stability enables that transportation wherever you go.”
To date, frozen products and canned foods still account for a majority stake in the $150 billion global ready meal market, Thomas Index Report showed, while consumer preference towards shelf-stable meals made with few preservatives is growing simultaneously, driving manufacturers to increasingly adopt high pressure processing (HPP) that uses water pressure to eliminate pathogens.
The R&D for Proper Good’s wide range of keto, vegan and gluten-free products, from soup, chili, to oatmeal and overnight oats recently developed based on consumer feedback, is more of a combination of “quality ingredients and gentle processing,” Jane explained. “Similar to baby food, what we’re essentially doing is to have the meal fully cooked in a pouch, to a point where the temperature sterilizes it,” he said. “Our sealed, sterilized products can last for a year from production, which is enough to enable retail distribution without being frozen or refrigerated.”
Retailing for $6-7 per pouch, all Proper Good’s products are ready to eat within 90 seconds, and the company plans to further accelerate its innovation with the newly raised money. “We never want to polarize ourself to one category,” Jane stressed, while recalling how the brand name was initially created to not only reflect founders’ British heritage in a humorous way, but allow them to build a scalable business. Currently, Proper Good covers all breakfast, lunch, and dinner occasions.
Flexibility Of Cross-Channel Retailing
Proper Good’s appearance on Shark Tank and its fast e-commerce growth — 400% year-over-year — are what caught retailers’ initial attention, and eventually led to the company’s discussion with Walmart, according to Jane.
“We’re DTC first, but not DTC only,” he said. “About 90% of the U.S. populations live within 10 miles of a Walmart store. With our middle market positioning that better resonates with conventional shoppers, we believe Proper Good is a perfect fit [for Walmart customers].”
In the meantime, Proper Good doesn’t rule out the opportunity to expand into the specialty channel since, among its more than 30 offerings, the company also provides high-protein products that are low in sodium and sugar. “We have the ability to differentiate for the consumer type, which allows us to partner with the natural channel,” Jane added.
“We have just as many 18-year-old students using our products at school as we do with 80-year-old men trying to lower their sodium intake — that broad ends of the spectrum literally is our entire customer base. So for us, we are really aiming to be a household name as a premium, shelf-stable brand.”