This is a rate of Starting year one, on special series of interviews with Founders on key lessons learned immediately after their company’s first year of operation.
Nydia Shipman and Sarah Renahan started the worthy company As new mothers, they were looking for a better eating experience that delivered plant-based nutrition in a portable format and at a reasonable price.
Her solution: the worthy bowl, a vegetable, fruity, travel-friendly bowl with superfood ingredients. And the Chicago resident B Corp certified The company just completed the launch of the reformulated flavors last month.
capital recently spoke to co-founders Shipman and Renahan to learn more about their insights and predictions for their company and the plant-based food industry after a year of food shopping turned upside down.
For the sake of clarity, the following interview has been condensed and edited slightly.
capital: Could you tell us something about your background? What did you do for a living before you founded the Worthy Company?
Renahan: Before introducing Worthy, I spent 15 years in luxury brand management and merchandising for Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and Frette in New York City and Milan. As a lifelong athlete, current marathon runner, and yoga student, a performance-supporting, yet delicious, plant-based diet was a personal obsession. Ever since I became the mother of two young, very active boys, a deeper endeavor to promote self-esteem for everyone, Children in particular have become an equal obsession with a social grocery store. Worthy was born to please both of them.
Shipman: Before starting Worthy, I was a litigator capital 500 companies in NYC. I am an obsessive home cook and come from a family of Latinx restaurateurs and foodies. I love my family and create delicious and nutritious recipes that use natural, plant-based ingredients that pay homage to my Caribbean roots. This passion for combining uncomplicated, nutritious and satisfying ingredients with flair and a shared effort to promote self-esteem for everyone prompted me to create Worthy with Sarah.
The plant-based diet and industry have skyrocketed in recent years, but from a consumer perspective, there may be so many new options that they are overwhelming. What inspired the creation of the Worthy Company? What went into the recipe development process?
Renahan: Despite the boom in herbal offerings, we as consumers saw a glaring white area in the market. And so the Worthy Company was born to solve a problem for us and many others looking for a balanced, plant-based, ready-to-eat option that is inexpensive and never spoils the taste. Without cleaning! Who has time for another mess? We made the bowls for ourselves in our kitchen first because we wanted to eat something that was comfortable, made with real fruits and vegetables, had protein and fiber for gut health, and was ready to be devoured – with a spoon. The taste is queen and we made sure these tasted great.
Shipman: Each Worthy Bowl is inspired by our favorite childhood treats and the ingredients our mothers and grandmothers used to cook with on a regular basis. Dark Cocoa Cherry was inspired by a chocolate cherry cake that Sarah ate as a child. Strawberry & Greens was inspired by a strawberry and rhubarb cake from Sarah’s childhood. Vanilla Orange was inspired by our love for creamsicles and a drink that is very popular in the Caribbean where I am from. Mango & Greens was inspired by my childhood when I ate fresh mangoes with my family.
Renahan: What began as a recipe in our kitchens that has seen many changes and changes has now evolved into a movement that ensures that plant-based nutrition is accessible to all and promotes a global wave of self-esteem. We are all worthy.
It should be noted that the Worthy Company bowls are travel-friendly. Who is the target group and what distinguishes these bowls in the grocery aisle?
Shipman: We are obsessed with our customers, how they make plants a part of their diet and where they shop. And that’s what we’re here for. We are determined to be part of where and how our customers eat and have designed our Worthy Bowls to be travel-friendly. We know 66% of adults 24 to 35 say health and wellbeing are important when eating on the go, and we want Worthy Bowls to be part of the solution. We know that our clients are 65% to 75% female, 25% to 35% male, and cover a wide variety of age groups, from young millennials to middle-aged adults. They are socially conscious, focus on increased plant consumption, and lead an active life.
Part of our obsession is to deliver the best possible customer experience. In 2020 we redesigned our packaging and communication with the Hatch brand in San Francisco. We love the bright, modern colors, and we nod our redesign to old-school earthy ingredients. We hope you agree that our new containers will stand out on the shelf and on the screen.
Grocery shopping has gotten complicated during the pandemic to say the least. How was it working in grocery retail last year? How did ecommerce sales offset with wholesale partners?
Renahan: When COVID hit, we focused and invested in profits knowing that retail and food service would be lagging behind in the short to medium term. With our strong direct customer business Amazon We only grew stronger during the pandemic and were confident of investing in the launch of our direct customer e-commerce website in July. It has paid off: regular e-commerce customers average between 32% and 40% per month; Almost 40% of new customers trade up to larger pack sizes. and our subscription business is growing at double digits from month to month.
As the grocery retail market re-calibrated, channels like Costco and QVC were exciting opportunities for Worthy, and we’re excited to announce our launch in Costco in February 2021. We also have a very successful debut at QVC. We have other similar product launches in development.
COVID also offered opportunities for international expansion in Japan and Asia. Plant-based is exploding in the region and we have plans in development to bring Worthy to market within the year. We have some key strategic partners in the region and Worthy will be attending two major shows: the OEM / PB Development Exhibition and Foodex.
Domestic retail opportunities are back in full swing for Worthy and we are excited to announce the launch of Strategic Natural Accounts soon.
Economic downturns often prove to be a fertile time for startups that can fill a void. What was it like securing funding for the Worthy Company? Is it privately funded or backed by venture capital?
Renahan: Right from the start, we’ve attracted incredible talent from across the industry who were inspired by our Worthy movement: making sure plant-based foods are accessible to all and changing the world with a spoon. We are honored to have highly dedicated strategic advisors like Uber. Unilever, PepsiCo and Coke. This has continued with our investors. We used our networks during our growth phases to attract private investors from various industries to Worthy. We haven’t raised any venture capital yet and don’t intend to do so until we reach our Serie A.
Shipman: As a women and BIPOC-led company, we launched the Worthy GRACE Community Fund, a women-led organization that brings investment opportunity and community together and focuses on inclusivity and action. With a minimum investment threshold of $ 5,000, accredited investors have a unique opportunity to invest early in a motion-based company that is rapidly becoming a global brand. In turn, the GRACE Fund gives Worthy the opportunity to leverage best practices from a wide variety of companies and industries by expanding our investor base to be inclusive and representative of the voices we all need to hear. Worthy will reserve portions of any subsequent raises for similar initiatives. We pride ourselves on the fact that the previous network includes a multinational group of high-performing executives from various industries.
After the pandemic and five years later, where do you see the Worthy Company?
Shipman: Our vision is for the Worthy Company to lead a movement to ensure that plant-based nutrition is accessible to all. We want to continue to spark a global wave of self-esteem with nonprofits like the amazing One Simple Wish and Graham Windham. We are very excited to highlight both organizations right on our packaging for Costco.
Renahan: Our plant-based, worthy nutritional offerings will span multiple product lines for the whole family, with omnichannel distribution geared towards delivering the best possible customer experience. We want the words “We are all worthy” to mean a plant-based diet and self-esteem for all.
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