A budding food delivery service is branching out to the East Coast and looking to add 100 more employees.
Green Chef, a local startup that delivers prepackaged organic meals to customers’ doorsteps, is quadrupling production space at a new facility in Aurora. And the company is opening a production hub in the mid-Atlantic region to serve the East Coast.
“Our big step now is getting our current products to the whole U.S. market,” said Michael Joseph, Green Chef’s founder and CEO. “We’re going to work on making convenient, healthy eating solutions for our customers. We have a vision that is big enough to take us global if that makes sense for us.”
Green Chef delivers insulated boxes of organic food via FedEx and UPS once a week. The boxes contain three dinners’ worth of ingredients, partially prepared to keep cooking time at 30 minutes or less. For example, the Moroccan sweet potato tacos include diced sweet potatoes and red onions and pre-measured seasonings for preparation.
The contents of a box depend on customer preferences. The company offers meals for meat eaters, vegetarians and those who want some of both. Vegetarian meals cost $12, and meals with meat cost $15 each. The company recently launched a gluten-free line, and Joseph said it will start a paleo line at the end of the month.
The 9-month-old company is financing its expansion with a $15.5 million investment from New Enterprise Associates, a Maryland-based venture capital firm.
Joseph founded the company in September 2014 with six employees. He now employs more than 60, and he said he plans to hire between 65 and 100 more people by year’s end.
The company is looking for people to staff its production facilities in Aurora and on the East Coast. It’s also hiring people to fill marketing, technology, supply chain and research and development positions.
“We’re on our way to becoming a national company,” Joseph said. “I tend to be in awe in all of this.”
Joseph declined to reveal the exact number of customers Green Chef serves, but he said it ships food to tens of thousands of people. The company’s customer base is concentrated mostly in the West and Midwest, and no shipments travel farther east than the Mississippi River, he said.
Joseph, 34, grew up outside of Washington, D.C. His father wrote food policy legislation that affected grocery store labeling requirements, a focus that influenced his perspective on food sourcing, he said.
“As I grew older, I developed a passion around food transparency and people being able to make choices they believe in,” he said.
Joseph moved to Denver about 12 years ago after completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He founded an organic produce delivery service and completed an MBA at CU Boulder before creating a second startup: an online grocery shopping website. It didn’t take root, but it inspired his third attempt to grow a business that brings organic food to people’s homes.
“What’s been different with Green Chef is it helps out with the planning aspect,” Joseph said. “Shopping online and having it delivered to you is one thing, but my wife and I really felt that even though I was running an organic grocery delivery system, it didn’t solve that problem of deciding what we were actually going to eat together.”
Joseph got the business off the ground with the help of friends from Silicon Valley who developed an online video game company and sold it to Disney, he said.
“They were looking for things to do, and when I brought the idea to them, we talked about this idea of putting together our resources,” he said. “They would bring tech and marketing skills, and I would bring organic food distribution and processing know-how.”
Green Chef began distributing in October to about a dozen friends and family members. By the end of the year, the company was on track to rake in about $1 million annually, and Joseph said he expects to reap tens of millions of dollars in revenue this year.
Joseph is also using the VC funding to expand Green Chef’s menu and to find suppliers to fill East Coast orders. The company uses about 150 types of ingredients a week, mostly from suppliers in Colorado and California.
“It’s always challenging to find suppliers because we’re looking for a lot of different types of ingredients that align with our standards,” Joseph said. “We used to be scrambling, but now we have a much longer cycle in terms of planning the menu and knowing seasonality.”