“What’s for dinner?” An often-frustrating question that has plagued generations. But for busy individuals, it really is hard to find an effective way to meal plan without getting bored, especially if you have dietary restrictions.
Pinterest boards gather dust with meal ideas you were hoping to make, but forgot about. Index cards with ingredient lists litter your car as you try to get everything for your next few meals. How can you maintain a healthy lifestyle when streamlining your grocery list can seem like a complex equation?
“We focus a lot on the user experience of simplifying decision-making. In theory, I like to call Menud a conflict resolution tool,” says Neil Whitney, CEO of celebrity-curated meal planning startup Menud.
What makes Menud stand out from dozens of available meal planning platforms are the celebrity, brand and athlete partnerships that help curate recipes through the app. With Menud, you can align your dietary restrictions with an influencers, such as celebrity fitness trainer Erin Opera (who counts Carrie Underwood as a client).
Each week, Menud works with the influencer to build out a meal plan. The user adds that plan to their profile, and the app builds out a grocery list with 1-day, 4-day, and 7-day options.
Once ready, the user can push that grocery list to an Amazon Fresh cart and easily check out — no need to figure out how many onions or stalks of broccoli needed.
Originally founded in San Francisco, Menud moved its headquarters to Nashville, TN in early 2017 to validate their market. “We’re big believers that we will be able to find just as good talent for the things we need to do in Menud here in the Southeast,” Whitney says.
During a four-year stint at Apple running global programs, the U.S. Army veteran “fell in love with solving consumer problems and delivering solutions to consumers.” Once Amazon purchased Whole Foods, he realized the question of connecting that transaction for the consumer — and answering ‘what’s for dinner?’ — remained unanswered.
“We had to solve removing the friction of how you’re going to get groceries to your house for the next generation,” says Whitney. “The percentage of people buying groceries online is still very low.”
“It comes down to something very simple — you know how you like your bananas, but I may like my bananas another color. I’m not yet ready to have somebody else pick out my bananas. That is a big friction point. Another factor? It takes a long time to build a grocery cart online.”
Whitney shares that e-commerce sites like Amazon are best-designed for consumers to add one item and be done. Grocery shopping is not so simple. “Those familiar with e-commerce will know that the longer it takes to fill up [the cart], the higher the chance of cart abandonment.”
“We’ve been able to partner with brands to put them to work them on recipes, to work them into meal plans in a meaningful way that introduces products to the consumer at the right time and the right place,” says Whitney. “We curate who we work with to make sure they align not only with our interests, but the interests of the influencer building the recipe.”
For example, if a trainer is working on a cauliflower pizza recipe, Menud can connect with a cauliflower product provider to expose those customers to new brands in a way that’s more authentic than a traditional ad. It’s akin to the social media influencer trend that brands are increasingly allocating budget towards.
Menud is currently free for the user. Their income stream comes through those strategic partnerships with influencers and brands.
“It’s not a booming industry… we see other meal kit companies tanking because ultimately the customer can’t afford the offering,” says Whitney. “We needed to figure out how to deconstruct the experience they were providing in terms of getting the groceries to the house while being able to accomplish offloading the decision of ‘what’s for dinner?'”
The team remained bootstrapped for their first year of operation and has since added a combo of venture and angel funds, including Nashville-based Jumpstart Foundry. They’re currently raising an almost fully-committed $1.5 million seed round, which they plan to use to scale.
“We have the best product in the market and a phenomenal team. We have experienced a lot of growth and acquired partnerships that are aligning in a really neat and exciting way,” says Whitney.
“It’s time to scale and that’s a fun time for an entrepreneur.”