Want to know the biggest trend in the diet and nutrition space this year? Direct-to-consumer. 2019 saw an onslaught of DTC nutrition startups launch new brands or experience breakout growth. Some newly familiar names now include Noom and Ritual, both of whom raised boatloads of venture capital to bring nutritional services directly to consumers (albeit for weight-loss advice and vitamins, respectively). But those definitely aren’t the only two making waves. Thousands of DTC brands are disrupting nutrition from every angle imaginable. From personalized nutrient subscriptions to organic produce boxes to fresh dog food delivery, it’s an exciting time to be a DTC nutrition startup.
Read on to discover the fastest-growing direct to consumer brands in nutrition and better understand what’s driving their growth.
So what exactly is driving the proliferation of DTC nutrition startups?
Social media influence
The role of social media and the rise of influencers has helped mint many DTC nutrition startups. Rather than focus on moving inventory at grocery stores or increasing sales through a third-party site like Amazon, nutrition startups have figured out how to engage consumers directly through social media. Since influencers play such an outsized role in both beauty and personal nutrition, it’s a prerequisite for DTC nutrition startups to have a strong social media game. Social media has allowed DTC brands to emerge from nothing and amass loyal followings across the globe in months, rather than years.
A wave of personalization
The one-size-fits-all model has been officially dispelled from nutrition. Modern science has shown repeatedly that best practice for one human’s diet is unlikely to be applicable to another. Food charts seem old-fashioned now and all nutritional advice is heavily caveated and qualified based on personal needs. A number of direct to consumer companies focus on personalized nutrition explicitly — think of the example mentioned before, like Ritual and Noom — while others essentially tap into the demand for more convenience, which is a more personally-catered approach in general. A side effect of (or perhaps a direct response to?) the increased demand for personalized nutrition has been the growth of DTC nutrition startups.
Top Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Nutrition Startups
These DTC nutrition brands offer a wide range of products and services aimed at promoting better nutrition. Not just better nutrition for you, but for your entire family inclusive of pets. While that may be a broad definition of ‘nutrition’, one common thread is they’ve all attracted a substantial amount of venture capital funding and traction. Don’t see your favorite on our list? Drop us a note to let us know who you think ought to be included.
Top DTC Nutrition Brands
|Aloha produces healthy plant-based foods and snacks with lots of protein.|| $4.5m|| 10x Group|
Angel Capital Management
|Blue Apron offers a weekly meal kit service with delicious raw ingredients shipped to your door with suggested recipes.|| $200m|
| Bessemer Venture Partners|
|Drizly offers beer, wine and liquor delivery in under 60 minutes.|| $69.6m|
| Polaris Partners|
Tiger Global Management
|Graze ships deliciously nutritious snack boxed personalized to your taste.|| £2m||Acquired by Unilever|
|Grove Collaborative delivers eco-friendly home essentials, including household cleaning, personal care, baby, kid, and pet products.|| $210m|
| Lone Pine Capital|
|Hint offers fruit-infused water delivered straight to your door.|| $6.8m||VerlinVest SA|
|Home Chef makes meal prep easy with customizable boxes of fresh, pre-portioned ingredients and easy-to-follow recipe cards.|| $57m||Acquired by Kroger|
|Hungryroot handpicks a thoughtful lineup of trusted grocery products and recipes to help you eat well throughout the week.|| $35.4m|
| Brooklyn Bridge Ventures|
Great Oaks Venture Capital
|Imperfect Produce ships you a fresh produce box that helps reduce food waste—delivered for up to 30% less than national supermarket chains.|| $47.1m|
| Norwest Venture Partners|
|Natural Force offers a robust catalog of whole food nutrition products designed to boost your metabolism, improve digestion, increase energy, enhance beauty, and support joints.||Unknown||-|
|Noble Brewer is a unique beer club that ships you a monthly case of the best local homebrews.||Unknown||-|
|Noom is a health app designed by behavioral psychologists to help you lose weight for the long run|| $114m|
| Sequoia Capital|
|HVMN, previously known as Nootrobox, sells nootropic supplements and products supporting a ketogenic diet.|| $2m|| Andreessen Horowitz|
|Ollie offers healthy meals for your dog using human-grade ingredients.|| $17m|
| Blue Ivy Ventures|
Total Access Fund
|Ora creates the cleanest, organic and plant-based nutritional supplements, that are better for you and for the planet.||Unknown||-|
|Pact Coffee brings fresh coffee from around the world to your door as a subscription.|| $2.3m|| MMC Ventures|
|Paleo Treats claims to bake the best paleo desserts in the world.||unknown||-|
|Pet Plate ships freshly cooked meals for dogs, made from real healthy food.|| $4m|| Dane Creek Capital|
The Yard Ventures
|Ritual reimagined daily and prenatal vitamins with only the essential nutrients women need.|| $197m|
| Greylock Partners|
|Thrive Market is a membership-based online store for natural and organic food products at reduced costs.|| $161.9m|
|Freshly delivers healthy chef-cooked meals that just need to be heated.|| $107m|
| Insight Partners|
|Farm Fresh to You is a fresh produce subscription services that delivers farmer's market veggies and fruits on a regularly scheduled cadence.|| $176.1m|
|Misfits Market helps reduce food waste by partnering with local farmers and packing their surplus produce into a healthy grocery susbscription box.|| $16.5m|
If you want to learn more about these DTC startups, we’d love to hear from you! We cover the telemedicine startups closely with many in-depth reviews comparing one brand’s offering to another. For instance, I recommend our comparison of Hers vs. Nurx vs. The Pill Club to get a feel for online birth control providers, or check out our review of Hims, Roman and Keeps for mens hair loss. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay ahead of the telemedicine trend and learn more about popular direct-to-consumer brands.
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How are direct to consumer nutrition startups growing so quickly?
Besides the high demand for convenience and lower prices, there are several key factors driving the rapid growth of direct to consumer telemedicine startups. Here are three:
The majority of DTC nutrition startups have merely repackaged common concepts into more convenient and accessible offerings. As an example, all healthy meal prep delivery companies simply make home cooking a couple steps simpler, while online organic markets like Thrive or Grove Collaborative simply remove a bit of guess work around shopping sustainably online. Neither offers a radically transformative service or product that’s changing what people eat.
Similarly, a lot of DTC nutrition startups have rejiggered existing supply chains to improve customer experience for existing goods. Imperfect produce, for instance, saves food from the trash by delivering it directly to your door, while alcohol delivery firms Drizly and Saucey sell all the traditional hooch brands you’ve come to love, merely saving you a buzzed jaunt to the corner store. Overall, DTC startups are growing a ton despite a lack of technological breakthroughs in nutrition. Many claim their products are well supported by science and academic research, but direct to consumerism in nutrition has been–in our humble opinion–mostly driven by innovations in the customer experience than anything else.
Heavy online ad investment
What’s proved true for new direct to consumer brands in general is also true of DTC nutrition startups: heavy investment in paid media is an effective way to grow brand awareness and acquire new customers. These startups are deploying large ad budgets to stay ahead of the competition, and show a high willingness to pay to acquire new customers. Investor’s dollars are shelled out for social ads, search engine optimization and SEM, as well as robust affiliate programs, and offline channels such as radio and TV.
Attractive introductory offers
Whether it’s a first free month from Noom, free shipping for life, or a week of free meals from Blue Apron, DTC startups in the nutrition space are using eye-catching intro offers to entice consumers. The idea is that once you try their product or service, it’ll be too convenient to give up, kind of like Uber or Lyft. For many in the ecosystem, it’s unclear how sticky their offerings really are, and whether the economics of heavily subsidizing early adoption will pan out in the long-run. But for those in ultra-competitive niches like meal delivery or online vitamin subscriptions, offering health-conscious consumers something for free may be the only way to get noticed.
What kind of markets are top nutrition brands disrupting?
While nutrition is a broad term and encompasses a lot of product categories from food to vitamins to weight-loss and more. Here are a few of the hottest markets that DTC nutrition startups are disrupting:
- Organic health foods
- At-home meal prep
- Weight loss coaching
- Specialty pet food
- Vitamins and supplements
- Alcohol delivery
….And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Like most industries, nutrition startups are going direct to consumer, and it’s an incredibly exciting time to be following the space. There’s so much changing that we couldn’t have possibly covered it all — what did we miss? Comment below or drop us a line via email. Let us know if you think we ought to add your favorite DTC nutrition startup to our list. And to discover more amazing startups changing the world as we know it, check out this.
It's an exciting time to be a telemedicine startup!
Who knows what’s next, and which companies will take off. Hopefully direct-to-consumer telemedicine startups will be able to fix some of the major problems in our healthcare system, and help patients live happier, healthier lives.
If you work in telemedicine or at a direct-to-consumer company, we’d love to hear from you. Don’t hesitate to reach out anytime, or subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about top telemedicine brands and the Direct to Consumer space!